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Numismatic Articles

Van Arsdell 2014c

 

 

Modern Celtic Fakes 3

Haslemere Die Dressing Errors

By Robert Van Arsdell

 


 

Four Haslemere fakes

52-01-F152-01-F352-01-F3 another54-01-F1

54-01-F1

54 - 01 - F1    Imported Coinage    Gallic War Type
Gold Stater    6.47 gms    17 mm

Earliest Record: September 1986

Authentication: Coins die-linked to this coin condemned by Van Arsdell as part                                of the Haslemere Investigations, November 1984, this plate                                coin condemned September 1986

Publications: Van Arsdell 1984c, 1985a, 1986c

Notes: Plate coin retained by the author

Detection Points: Haslemere steps almost eliminated via die-dressing
                                  New reverse die
                                  Improved style
                                  Improved (but still incorrect) die-cutting
                                  Has obverse die-link to 52-01-F3 (another) plate coin
                                  Most deceptive of the Haslemere Forgeries

 

52-01-F3 another

52 - 01 - F3    Imported Coinage    Gallic War Type
Gold Stater    6.44 gms    17 mm

Earliest Record: August 1986

Authentication: Reverse die condemned by Van Arsdell as part of the                                Haslemere Investigations, November 1984, this plate coin                                appeared with a recut reverse die September 1986

Publications: Van Arsdell 1984c, 1985a, 1986c

Notes: Plate coin retained by the author

Detection Points: Haslemere steps
                                  Incorrect style
                                  Incorrect die-cutting
                                  Provides obverse and reverse die-links to other Haslemere                                        Forgeries
                                  Recut reverse die from the "Infamous Sylloge 17"

52-01-F3

52 - 01 - F3    Imported Coinage    Gallic War Type
Gold State    6.01 gms    18 mm

Earliest Record: Mack 1973

Authentication: Condemned by Van Arsdell as part of the Haslemere                                Investigations, November 1984, this plate coin condemned                                November 1984

Publications: Van Arsdell 1984c, 1985a, 1986c

Notes: Plate coin is the "Infamous Sylloge 17" retained by the author

Detection Points: Haslemere steps
                                  Incorrect style
                                  Incorrect die-cutting

52-01-1F

52 - 01 - F1    Imported Coinage    Gallic War Type
Gold Stater    6.10 gms    18 mm

Earliest Record: Catalogue June 1960

Authentication: Condemned by Van Arsdell as part of the Haslemere                                Investigations, December 1984, this plate coin condemned                                     August 1987.

Publications: Van Arsdell 1984c, 1985a, 1986c

Notes: Plate coin retained by the author

Detection Points: Haslemere steps almost eliminated via die dressing
                                  Incorrect "whispy" style
                                  Incorrect die-cutting, numerous graver slips

(place cursor over coin image to see detailed information)

 

The four Haslemere fakes pictured above are all die linked. They serve as a warning that the forger had no intention of retiring in 1986 and would attempt to defraud the numismatic community for years to come.

The first three coins are well known and need little comment. The forger recut the reverse die twice to create the "new varieties" sought by collectors and scholars. The last coin reveals the methods he used to improve his die cutting after his earlier fakes had been condemned. These improvements have never been published and the forger was not tipped off about a new mistake he made.

The first fake was part of the original Haslemere Hoard and presumably appeared about 1960-1962 (1). The second appeared in 1969 (2). These two coins were condemned as part of the original investigations into the Haslemere Forgeries (3). The third coin was condemned by Peter Mitchell and Michael Sharp of Baldwins, and was brought to my attention in August 1986. The last coin was condemned by Italo Vecchi and brought to my attention in September 1986. It is probable the last two coins were struck about the same time circa 1986. The coins weigh 6.1050, 6.0225, 6.4405 and 6.4744 gms – the last two perhaps a bit heavier than genuine coins (4).

Scheers 1983, p. 340
Van Arsdell 1984c, 1985a, 1986c
Mack 1973 (sgy 17)
Mack 1973 (sgy 20)

 

 

The Die Links

Die Links

This illustration gives the die links for the four coins. The original Haslemere Hoard reverse die was recut twice and each recut die was paired with a new obverse.

The final obverse (Die C) is crucial because it had extensive surface cracks, producing raised lines on the coin. Without these lines, it would have been virtually impossible to assign the 54-01-F1 coin to the forger. Luckily, it shares the obverse die with the third coin (52-01-F3 another), proving the source.

 

 

 

 

First Coin – Die A and Die 1

52-01-F1

The first coin displays the linear style objected to in 1962 (5).

The stringy image on the coin looks nothing like that on a genuine Gallo-Belgic E stater.

The fake could have been condemned immediately. The decision to excuse the die cutting as "perhaps the work of an ancient forger" proved to be disastrous. The forger had gotten away with it.

Allen 1962c, p. 2

 

 

 

 

 

Die 1 miscutThis image shows an engraving slip on the reverse die demonstrating the link to the next coin.

A small line lies behind the leg of the horse (arrow).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Coin – Die B and Die 1 recut 1

 

Die 1 Recut 1 miscut

This reverse die was extensively recut about 1969 to produce a new type.

The heavier die cutting is a direct reaction to Allen's complaint. Unfortunately, the recutting produced the characteristic Haslemere Steps that were used to unmask the forgery.

The engraving slip from the previous coin was almost obliterated by the recut, but a remnant still appears (arrow).

 

 

 

 

Third Coin – Die C and Die 1 recut 2

The third coin has a further recut of the die, making various changes throughout the image and adding a fifth dot to the cluster below the horse.

 

Die CThe coin, however, introduces a new obverse die, one with extensive surface cracks. These reappear on coin 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Coin – Die C and Die 2

The last coin is a totally new kind of Haslemere Forgery and it easily passes a cursory examination with a low magnification glass. At first glance, the image looks very much like a genuine coin. However, it's struck from the same obverse die (Die C) as the previous coin – it must be a Haslemere Forgery.

 

54-01-F1 stepsAfter many years of examining this coin, remnants of Haslemere Steps were finally spotted on the reverse (arrow). They hardly appear at all and are difficult to photograph. The forger nearly removed all of his engraving mistakes when he finished Die 2.

Initially, I believed the die had been sunk using a bow drill (or its modern reincarnation, the Dremel Tool). However, the step remnants suggest the die was cut using gravers instead. The steps were subsequently erased before the die was pressed into service. This erasure was done by a procedure known as Die Dressing and the Haslemere Forger thankfully did too much of it.

Die dressing is a procedure in which engraving errors are removed by filing or grinding the sides and bottoms of the engraved cuts. Rubbing the cuts with an abrasive compound is another way of smoothing them (6).

See Larson, 2004, p. 62, for a brief list of Die Dressing techniques.

An Internet search: "metal working die dressing" will yield detailed information.

 

 

Stuffed SausageThis image shows the results of over-dressing Die 2. First note that die dressing produces lines and curves with virtually no steps or Split End errors (7). Yet, the overall effect somehow looks wrong. The lines and curves don't have the straight, smooth sides seen on a genuine coin (see genuine coin). Instead of sharp lines we see rounded humps of metal. The lines of the horse's leg look like stuffed sausages (arrow).

Genuine 52-01
Van Arsdell 2014b

This stuffed sausage look is the result of over-dressing the design elements. To eliminate the steps, Split End errors, etc., the forger has modified the sides and bottoms of the engraved lines far too much. By over-dressing, he has created a die unlike one cut by a Celtic craftsman.

 

I include all such die treatment mistakes under the general term Die Dressing Errors. These are very difficult to assess. Their detection begins with a good knowledge of the die cutting on genuine coins of the exact same type. A formal analysis is demanded whenever it is realized that the image details somehow don't look right. By comparing the fine details of the die cutting work to that on genuine coins, places where over-dressing has occurred will eventually be seen.


In summary, the fourth coin displays a new Haslemere diagnostic:

Die-Dressing Errors – smoothing the lines and curves on a die by filing, grinding or rubbing with abrasives in such a way as to produce an unnatural effect in the finished coin – one in which the fine details look unlike those on genuine coins.


If this example of the Haslemere Forger's output makes authenticators feel uneasy, it frankly should. I suspect that the forger continued to improve his die dressing techniques into the 1990s. By 1992, he would have been capable of producing some spectacular work. A forgery detected that year is so good, it cannot be attributed to the Haslemere Forger with certainty – but that is the subject of the next article in this series.

 

 

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