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Russian Counterfeits, Imitations, Fantasy, Replicas and Fakes
"Collection of coin images that were reported as having no relation to official mints..."
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Facing a problem that never grows old...

The history of counterfeiting is as old as the history of minting coins. The countermeasures which governments used in order to prevent counterfeiting range from radical and even cruel (for example, pouring melted metal into counterfeiter's throat, if caught),and to preventative actions (increasing coins weight or employing hard to replicate technologies) which would make counterfeiting less cost-effective and very difficult.

Unfortunately, for modern collectors, the problem of counterfeiting collection items is as wide-spread in recent years as it ever was, adding another layer to the already large massif of the old counterfeited materials. Identifying fake coins remains the never ending battle for collectors and a profitable business for counterfeiters. Many times I watched, on eBay and at other auctions, modern fake silver and gold coins sold for high price. Many times I reported them, but than I realized, that if I was wedging a war on fake coins being sold around the globe, it would become my new full time job that I am not paid for. So, I thought that providing education to collectors would be a much more useful thing.

This project is a free tool that is aimed at serving collectors of Russian Imperial coins all over the globe as a warning. In case a collector have little experience in a particular field it may be difficult for them to determine if the coin is real or not. In fact many real coins, due to the state they are in, may be deemed as fakes, while some fakes as real coins. That may easily happen when a judgment is past according to visual examination by a collector, particularly if that judgment is made over the image of the coin of a low grade. Images can be deceptive. Believe it or not, but even very esteemed and experienced collectors at times are fooled by a skillfully created fake coin and at times fakes find their way into the prestige collection and actions, without being recognized, or being encapsulated into plastic slabs with authentication certificate. Of course, buying a coin from a prestige numismatic auction or in a plastic slab with confirmed certificate (can be checked at the grading company's site) lowers the chance of getting a fake coin, because someone has already given it an appraisal, but it is not a foul-proof method and does not guaranty that coin is original. The only things that can counter this problem to a higher degree than that are the knowledge, experience, careful study of coins in the area of interest and an expert opinion (technological and critical approach to judging artistic value of the object) in combination. Only you can decide how far you want to go at authenticating the coin and at increasing your knowledge and experience.

Some of the fakes are of a low quality and directed at naive, inexperienced collectors and are relatively easy to identify.

Some look nothing like real coins at all and can be categorized as imitation or fantasy coins, so called modest replicas that are not directed at fooling anyone, unless they are already as fool as fools can get.



However, the sheer number of these coins emerging in recent years is amazing, and their quality getting better every year as counterfeiters employ new technologies and become more skillful at designing coin dies...

Here is a group of modern fake coins made with redesigned dies and ready to be sold as "copies", at least to start with. They are not dangerous until their look is not altered to look old, like this fake 1858 5 kopecks BM that can fool some collectors who are unaware of these coins being replicated like this.

fake coins 1858 5 k fake

Things that you need to pay attention to are: the image (a little different from real coins), the edge of the coin (not as sharp), metal surface and a quality of the stamping strike. Furthermore, one may employ technological methods: taking into consideration weight, measure the coin and compare findings against the same of real coins, examine details of the coin under the microscope comparing them with real coin, and if still in doubt - do a spectral analysis of the metal used in that coin and compare it with what is expected for real coins, if known.

There are collectors who even collect the most unusual examples. These fakes may not be dangerous to collectors with experience, who make use of methodological approach in passing own judgment, being equipped with magnifying glass for a careful inspection and comparison of them to real coins.

There is a large quantity of coins that are difficult to identify as fakes. Some of them may still be sitting in collections and had been paid a good price at some point. Most of counterfeits really are worthless junk, and I guess, if one may say that there are valuable counterfeits, that would be directed at those that can be tied to historical events of the past - counterfeits that were made at the time of circulation of the original coins, were meant to represent real coins or copy some very rare coins (jeweler counterfeits for example were sold by Petrov at the fall of imperial Russia in his numismatic shop) and made it to our days in spite of state, general population and collectors push to destroy them. Such fakes are worthless and sometimes dangerous to numismatic collections, but may be kept separately and even collected as historical pieces representing the process of making copies and fake coins and may have a high price tag.

Here is an example of one of the difficult copy to identify as a fake. This is an old counterfeit that was made by casting in order to fool collectors.

rouble 1712 cast copy

And here is one of the original coins that it represents:

1712 rouble moscow - real coin


In order to fool collectors and bargain-hunters counterfeiters use different methods. Some counterfeit copies made by casting, some by electroplating, stamping with copies of the dies copied from original coins (redesigned or original). There are fake coins with hand-engraved surface of original coins with modified image, with additional or removed details in order to create more valuable item (for example changing a year). There is a fine line between restoration and counterfeiting when the restorer is tempted at making coin better and starts using engraving on a coin. Examples that were made using different methods are represented in this online catalog, and you need to pay attention to different things with different counterfeits in order to understand why coin is not original. So, always remember that if it is too good to be true, it probably is...

Even though this project is still developing, it is probably the most comprehensive collection of images you could find online or in printed literature. It aims to display images that were reported as having no relation to official mints, and thus cluttering the space of Russian numismatics with their presence. Some of them are very cheap, obvious fakes, while some are not at all, and people may have paid good prices for them (and if fooled - as for the real coins). Yet, there are some really rare recognizable counterfeits, imitation, fantasy, replicas and fake coins (made by casting or copied dies) that can be very expensive even as identifiable counterfeits, as long as they are not treated as numismatic material and never mix with it ever again.

There is another branch of Russian numismatics that I have to touch on briefly here - novodels. Although, novodels are mainly later copies of official coins (trial or circulation), they are not listed in this project due to the fact, that they were produced legally at the mints or with their knowledge. Novodels are still considered to be a numismatic material by some, that in truth, has nothing to do with coinage (coin minting) itself. They are results of collectors greed and wish to have different and rare items in their collections, even if they were copies. It's true that some are made with original dies, but most of them were made with the new re-cut production stamping dies, made especially just for the novodel production.

This happened because on one hand, the dies after series of coins finished being produced were either destroyed or got damaged to the point that they couldn't be used any longer. In that case new dies were cut for novodels. On the other hand, for majority of coins that were ordered for novodel production they only had drawings of coin images left for the engravers to work with, who used newer technologies in cutting the dies. That created a whole array of novodel coins looking nothing like the coins they were meant to portray. This makes a relationships between numismatists and novodels a difficult one, as these coins are more of replicas than coins. I guess, if you don't want to loose sleep over it, you can consider the novodel coins to be historical medals of the coins of the past time and/or fantasy coin medals, as some novodels have dates printed on them that never found their way onto the real coins.

Nonetheless, some of the counterfeits are actually designed to fool collectors into thinking that the coins they see are the novodels, and images of some of these so called "modern novodels" are included in this collection. You must understand that there is no such thing as "modern novodels" of Russian Imperial novodel or other coins. Novodels happened as historical events in the past. The so called "modern novodels" of Russian Imperial coins nothing more, but modern imitations that target to fool modern collectors, and have no relation to any of the mints.

I did not separate cheap and expensive counterfeits into different groups. I aimed this project at making people aware that the coins of which images are displayed in here were reported as not being products of official mints and other places of official coin minting. The chance that some of these coins are actually real coins is slim, but present, and that is a sign of times as they dictate for collectors to have condition that many call fake-phobia.

I hope you will find this catalog project of some use and that studying it may save you from buying or paying high price for a coin that would be less desirable in your collection.

Remember, however, this problem did not start with Russian Imperial coins, and it is not unique to Russian numismatics, so there is no need to be prejudice towards Russian coins. With a large number of coin series and issues comes a large number of varieties and types of coins, and that makes collecting and studying Russian Imperial coins a really exciting and a rewarding experience. You just need to be aware of the problems that gravitate around Russian Imperial coins like around any other collector items, have a critical approach and at times ask for opinions of more experienced collectors or experts. Yes, some of these coins find their way to grading companies and to auctions without being filtered out by their experts, and you must stay critical even when buying form a well-known sources with good reputation, but the majority of coins are real, beautiful and very exciting to collect.

Here are a few random examples of beautiful Russian coins to suit any budget. Yes, you will need to search for them for a while, but you will find them in the end as long as you prepared to be patient, wait and pay a good price:

real russian rouble of peter the great 1721

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