Contemporary Imitations

Summary of discussion on southasia-coins eGroup.

From: Vashisht Vaid
Date: 2000 Aug 2, 8:59am

Can somebody throw some light on the Indian copies of gold venetian
ducats as to which kings issued them and in what part of India,

From: Shailendra Bhandare Date: 2000 Aug 2, 11:44am Venetian Ducats were traded to India in large numbers and acquired status of the accepted currency in the post-Vijayanagar period. This was mainly due to the fact that after the fall of Vijayanagar, the issue of gold coins of 3.5 gms reduced drastically, while the demand for such a denomination was very high. Although various trading companies struck pagodas corresponding to that weight in large quantities, there was still space to accomodate these foreign coins of a comparable weight standard. They soon achieved the status of a standard Gold currency and the purity of gold in existing coins was often expressed in terms of Venetian Gold, especially in South India. I believe no political authority was responsible for their issue in India, it was entirely through public enterprise. Another significant aspect about the Venetian coins is that they found their way in jewelery, particualrly in the Deccan. The mechanism of how it happened and explanation for why it should have happened, is a lengthy subject. Typologically, the practice gave rise to several imitations being manufactured in India, with the characters slowly getting Indianised. For example, on some issues, the effigy of St.Mark handing over the Godolfin to a kneeling Doge is replaced by Radha and Krishna! It is an interesting subject and I did a paper on it for the last Colloquium at the Nasik Institute. We also have an unpublished Doctoral Dissertation here in the British Musem on the subject of Venetian imitations from India. It mainly deals with the subject from a purely numismatic standpoint, classifying and cataloguing the varieties.
From: Mobin Ahmed, Islamabad, Pakistan Date: 2000 Nov 10, 7:28am During my recent visit to Mardan, I have seen following coins, which are, although old, but fake of that time: 1. Menander (Made of Copper but covered with silver thin plate) 2. Hepthalite (Large flan)(Copper, plated with silver) 3. Akbar, the Great (Mughal King) (Copper, Mint Delhi, Round full size, but silver plated). It is held that producing fake coins has been our local tradition which is current even today. Has some friend seen/have such fake coins of other dynasties? I think that only Sultan Ala uddin Khilji was strong enough to stop making fake coins. We, in 21st century, are not enough strong to stop this practice.
From: Alan VanArsdale Date: 2000 Nov 10, 2:17pm The practice Mr. Mobin Ahmed refer to is common and known throughout the ancient World. There are called fourees in classical coins (silver issues which are instead silver plated, usually on copper or billon). In some times and places this practice was common, even done officially by the governments to increase revenue (it could be argued that today all issuers of coin and paper money do the same, as they do not issue currency of silver or gold any more, and most currency is issued at value far over metal content). I doubt any administration ever eliminated this completely (that is coins issued with less precious metal content than officially mandated, whether fourees, debased, with internal plugs, underweight etc. by the intention of the issuer (that is intentional fraud not accident) whether official, semiofficial, private or by counterfeiters), though it may have been very rare in some times and places. Many times complex and often secret marks have been put on coins, not easily imitated by anyone, so that those issuing the coins will know their weight and purity by examination. These coins are not really fakes, rather they are contemporary forgeries or even signs of contemporary official corruption. With many Roman and Greek issues for example, most people consider a fouree to have the same value as a good silver coin so long as the plate is not broken in any place. That is one could determine by density it is a fouree, but the value of the silver does not make the value of the coin, rather the style, condition and strike determine the value in many cases. As to the reputation for the manufacture of forgeries in Pakistan I am afraid that this reputation is not so good, that is Pakistan is not known for great talent or abundance in the manufacture of forgeries of ancient coins. From what I hear and see nations like Syria, England, and Bulgaria can take greater pride in the skill and volume of work in those nations regarding the forgery of ancient coins. Personally I do not see it as a matter of national pride about the making of forgeries, one way or the other. In all nations ancient coins are found or at least traded, and all nations contain dishonest people who will try to profit by imitating ancient coins and selling them as old (whether poor quality copies for sale to tourists, or advanced copies for sale in major auction houses). To me modern forgeries of ancient coins are part of a long and unbroken tradition, and the study of modern forgeries (modern being from about the 17th century AD), is just another branch of numismatics, and as valid a study as any (and commercially a very important study).