The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 48, November 27, 2022, Article 22


A coin in the Hunterian museum in Glasgow, long thought to be fake, has been declared genuine, but not everyone is convinced. -Editor

  Coin of Sponsian

A forgotten Roman emperor has been saved from obscurity as a coin long thought to be fake has finally been authenticated.

The coin, unearthed 300 years ago, depicted a leader named Sponsian who was in power during the 260s AD.

It was believed to be a forgery, as it differed from both the manufacture process and general style of Roman coins from the time.

There are no other historical records that Sponsian ever existed, but new analysis suggests the coin is indeed authentic.

The coin comes from a small hoard unearthed in Transylvania in 1713 which found their way into collections around Europe.

Some ended up at The Hunterian museum in Glasgow, where they remained hidden in wooden cabinets until now.

Researchers from University College London closely analysed the coins – three of which depicted other known Roman emperors - using a range of techniques, including light microscopy and ultra-violet imaging.

On the Sponsian coin, they discovered micro-abrasion patterns typically associated with coins that were in circulation for an extensive period of time.

The researchers also analysed earth deposits on the coin, finding evidence that after its use the coin was buried for a prolonged period before being discovered.

Together, the new evidence strongly indicate the coin is authentic, the team said.

They suggest Sponsian was an army commander in the Roman Province of Dacia during a period of military strife during the 260s AD.

  Coin of Sponsian  photos

Curator of Numismatics at The Hunterian, Jesper Ericsson, said: 'Not only do we hope that this encourages further debate about Sponsian as a historical figure, but also the investigation of coins relating to him held in other museums across Europe.'

To read the complete article, see:
Ancient Roman coin thought to be FAKE after being discovered in Transylvania over 300 years ago is almost certainly authentic - and proves the existence of 'forgotten' leader Sponsian, study claims (

Arthur Shippee, Len Augsburger and Leon Saryan passed along a Wall Street Journal article on the coin. Thanks. -Editor

  Coin of Sponsian researchers

To read the complete article (subscription required), see:
Rare Gold Coins Reveal New Roman Emperor (

Howard Berlin passed along a CNN article which quotes some doubters. -Editor

Despite the study's findings, some experts, including in the field of numismatics -- the study or collection of currency -- still believe the coin to be fake.

"Like everyone in the numismatic world, I strongly believe this coin to be a modern forgery," Jerome Mairat, curator of the Heberden Coin Room in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, told CNN.

"This whole theory -- that the coin is genuine -- is both unscientific and unfounded," he added.

Dame Mary Beard, the acclaimed scholar of Ancient Rome and professor of classics at Cambridge University, wrote in a blog post published by the Times Literary Supplement that "there is still very powerful evidence that they are fakes," going on to list a number of issues surrounding their crafting and design.

To read the complete article, see:
Puzzling debate over Roman coin authenticity could determine legacy of 'fake' emperor (

On social media Arthur Needham shared a link to the original paper, correctly noting that the article is one journalist's interpretation. Other numismatic experts are not quoted. While the coins may or may not be complete modern forgeries, they could well be contemporary imitations. Thanks also to David Sundman for passing it along. -Editor

Authenticating coins of the ˜Roman emperor' Sponsian

The ˜Roman emperor' Sponsian is known only from an assemblage of coins allegedly found in Transylvania (Romania) in 1713. They are very unlike regular Roman coins in style and manufacture, with various enigmatic features including bungled legends and historically mixed motifs, and have long been dismissed as poorly made forgeries. Here we present non-destructive imaging and spectroscopic results that show features indicative of authenticity. Deep micro-abrasion patterns suggest extensive circulation-wear. Superficial patches of soil minerals bound by authigenic cement and overlain by oxidation products indicate a history of prolonged burial then exhumation. These observations force a re-evaluation of Sponsian as a historical personage. Combining evidence from the coins with the historical record, we suggest he was most likely an army commander in the isolated Roman Province of Dacia during the military crisis of the 260s CE, and that his crudely manufactured coins supported a functioning monetary economy that persisted locally for an appreciable period.

To read the complete article, see:
Authenticating coins of the ˜Roman emperor' Sponsian (

Robert Hoge writes:

"This is a rather unsatisfactory article. I hope we shall see something more substantive in the near future. The coin still looks suspicious to me. Definitely it has affinity to "Barbarian" issues."

David Sundman, David Pickup and Kavan Ratnatunga passed along a BBC News article. Thanks also to Bill Rosenblum who passed along a Fox News version. -Editor

  Coin of Sponsian Hunterian Museum
Hunterian Museum

To read the complete article, see:
Gold coin proves 'fake' Roman emperor was real (

David Pickup and David Sundman passed along a link from the Hunterian. Thanks, everyone. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:

  Stacks-Bowers E-Sylum ad 2022-11-13 Locations

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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