Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
A silver denarius forged in antiquity by a complete incompetent was found by a metal detector enthusiast near Brighton, England. Since its errors make it unique, the coin is worth a great deal more than a genuine silver denarius from the period would have been. Experts from the British Museum have examined it and estimate it is worth at least £3,000 ($4,800), while the real deal would be worth only £100 ($160) today because they are fairly common.
It was meant to be a commemorative coin struck in honor of Octavian’s victory again Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. The forger made it a few years after the battle, but unfortunately seems to have been working from memory. Big mistake.
On one side is a crocodile but it is facing the wrong way and on the other side is the head of Emperor Caesar when it should have been Augustus. The forger made a further mistake by mis-spelling Egypt. He inscribed Aegipto instead of the common spelling of the time, Aegypto or Aegvpto.
Also, the inscription D[I]VO IMP on Caesar’s side was never used.
On top of those wee oversights, our enterprising friend also struck the coin from solid silver, which kind of defeats the entire point of forging it. I mean, why not just buy some actual coins with your silver? There’s obviously no profit to be made if you use currency to make fake currency of the same value. That’s like a counterfeiter today grinding up a real hundred dollar bill to make a fake hundred dollar bill, with Jefferson’s face on the front and “In God We Thrust” on the back, no less.
Our forging friend’s loss is Rob Clements’ gain, however. Clements is the metal detector enthusiast who found the coin just two inches under a grass path near Brighton. He had only purchased the metal detector a few months before that, lucky sumbitch. He brought the coin to the University of Brighton where he works as a janitor, and had it scanned by the university’s new advanced electron microscope. That’s how he found out it was solid silver.
Now that the British Museum has declared it a one-off and worth thousands, Clements is thinking of selling it to finance an education in ancient history at the University of Brighton, which I think is just totally awesome.
Mr Clements, who lives in Brighton, said: “I never thought I’d find anything so interesting and valuable and so soon after getting a detector. I would have been thrilled finding a genuine coin but this fake could mean a big difference to my life. I’ve always loved history but never bothered much at school.
“Now I’m seriously looking into the idea of selling the coin and putting it towards a degree here at the university. I hope to study more about the Romans. It’s fascinating that there were forgers at the time, some, it seems, who were not very bright.”
Go for it, brother.