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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 42, October 15, 2006, Article 15

NUMISMATIC REPRODUCTIONS: GOOD COPIES AND BAD

Dick Johnson writes: "I can readily understand Tom DeLorey's comments
last week in response to "reproductions" in the numismatic field. He
probably has to field inquiries from the public about copies of rare
coins constantly working in his coin shop. This must get tiresome
rather quickly. And this is probably typical of every coin shop in
America. But it is a cost of dealing with the public. If you are a
coin dealer open for business to the public you must expect to deal
with copies the public may have.

However, there are good copies and bad copies. In fact, I've identified
twelve classes of copies and reproductions of coins (and medals). You
might even be surprised there are some copies that are worth more
than the originals.

But to dump all copies under one umbrella and disparage all is unfair
and fallible. Tom is an experienced and knowledgeable numismatist. I
admire his expertise and have complimented his writings in the field.
He, perhaps like others, may be a little short-sided on the subject
of numismatic copies however.

The bad copies are, of course, (1) counterfeits and (2) forgeries -
both illegal and made to deceive collectors and the public. These are
the "bane" of the field to use Tom's term. (3) Restrikes are a gray
area, it depends on who has the dies and what is their intent.

(4) Imitations have no bad intent and are not illegal, like childrens'
play money. (5) Facsimiles, also called "stage money" and "costume
jewelry copies," are for use in the theater and film industries.

(6) Reproductions, (7) private copies, (8) collectors' copies, and
(9) replicas are made for collectors and are called "study copies."
When these are made from new dies they are called "struck copies."
When cast by electrolysis they are called "electrotypes." All are
completely legal and of interest to and for collectors.

There is perhaps a 150-year heritage of these items. The British
Museum made electrotypes for other museums and collectors. Struck
copies of American coins have been made by a who's who of American
numismatists (Bolen, Dickeson, Idler, Robinson, Wyatt names come to
mind).  Dick Kenney compiled a pamphlet on these in 1952, published
by Wayte Raymond. Struck copies are certainly collectible.

(10) Revisions are a slight change from the original, collectors
call these "type I" and "type II."

(11) Custom copies are those made exactly like the original, by
the same maker, often of decorations and medals. Examples;
"replacement medal" (for one lost) or "jeweler's copy" for perhaps
a second uniform.

(12) Deluxe copies are made for recipients (if the recipient was
awarded one in silver a deluxe copy could be made in gold at his
own expense).

Obviously the last class are worth more than originals. This also
has occurred for the Paduan copies of ancient coins. They were of
such excellent craftsmanship and rarity they often bring higher
prices than their ancient coin originals.

Please, Tom, tar the bad copies as you should. But not all copies."

[It seems to me that Tom's point was that even copies that Dick
would categorize as "good" can and are used by unscrupulous people
to cheat collectors.  If I could paraphrase Dick's arguments, it
would be, "Copies don't cheat people, people cheat people."   Both
points are equally valid. -Editor]

Bob Neale adds: "I'd like to weigh in strongly opposed to Tom
DeLorey's apparent wish to outlaw repros. In many cases, yes,
they can be and are a problem, such as in Gallery Mint pieces
based on rare but collectible issues. But when deliberate attempts
to defraud are made using modified repros, they are almost always
found out. Buyers of stuff on eBay take lots of chances. Buyers in
face to face transactions take less. As always, dealer and personal
ethics and reputations become known over time and the bad ones can
be identified and avoided (if not subjected to the penalties called
for in some of the early counterfeiting legislation).

When it comes to items that are just not available to collectors, no
matter how deep their pockets, I believe that reproductions are a
really great idea and when done well, such as at Gallery Mint, put
more than just a picture or drawing in the hands of we who wish such
things as the silver Novas had once been made and circulated. Robert
Morris tried to bring his system of a new coinage into effect and had
a few patterns made, but Thomas Jefferson had a more rational plan
for America's new coinage that proved the basis of the mint act of
1792 [see my article, "Mr. Jefferson's Money" in the November 2005
Numismatist]. I think that anyone who has not seen the Gallery Mint
1796 type sets, for example, is missing something truly exceptional
in terms of beauty, interest, and value."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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