17th Century Coin Forgery

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Here’s a cool thing from my buddy Claes Pettersson at Jönköping County Museum. He’s been directing big excavations of the town’s 17th century industrial precinct, and his team has found something that appears to be a forged gold coin. It consists of a soft grey metal (tin?) with a thin coating of a yellow metal. So far nobody’s been able to tell quite what type of coin it was supposed to look like, only that one side features a crowned head. Any ideas?

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  1. #1 Håkan
    June 18, 2009

    Jönköpings länsmuseum is doing BIG archaeology! Keep moving the loop close to the ground, Claes!

  2. #2 Brad
    June 18, 2009

    It might just be a token or a jeton (a token used for counting). Tin even plated with gold wouldn’t be that good a replacement for real gold since people regularly weighed and tested coins back then to check the metal.

  3. #3 Kevin
    June 18, 2009

    Would any metal other than gold have retained its color like that? And could it be lead in the middle?

  4. #4 Martin R
    June 19, 2009

    I found an early 18th century jeton three years ago.

    The yellow stuff probably is gold. And lead would make sense as to its weight if you’re trying to fake a gold coin.

  5. #5 Ny Björn
    June 19, 2009

    I’d await the analysis before deciding whether it’s a forged piece – I’ve seen a lot of very poorly preserved silver (of a quite porous nature) as well as gilt silver coins. Hence I’d really like to see it SEM or XRF analysed.

  6. #6 Claes
    June 19, 2009

    It’s certainly not a jeton, as they were normally made of solid brass – and why put a thin gold coating on a counting device?

    But we do have a number of real Nuremberg jetons from this particular excavation. They are all made by the wellknown Krauwinckel family in the early 17th century and were probably part of one set of jetons.

    Tin or lead? Well, since the object is extremely fragile it has not been tested. Let’s say that the geyish core looks more like tin today and that the weight of the “coin” indicates the same. But we might be wrong.

    Also note the two cuts – looks like someone tested it and to his displeasure found it to be a fake…

  7. #7 Claes
    June 19, 2009

    @Ny Björn – Being at the end of a fairly large project we strive to finish the publications in time. And there are no more resources availiable for further analysis. We’ve already spent what we could on the several hundred metal objects brought in from our site, the kv. Diplomaten. So – this possible 17th century forged coin will be sent to the Kungliga Myntkabinettet in Stockholm. Let’s hear their opinion!

  8. #8 Ny Björn
    June 19, 2009

    Claes – what really concerns me is whether it’s possible to fire gild an object of lead or tin – they both have fairly low melting points and fire gilding is based on mercury vaporizing from a gold-mercury amalgam leaving the gold on the object’s surface. If the object is made in a metal which melts before the mercury gets airborne it’s hard to gild it… I’m away from my books right now so I can’t help you out here, but it might be something to consider.

  9. #9 Martin R
    June 19, 2009

    Gold sheet, maybe.

  10. #10 Kevin
    June 19, 2009

    A coin-collector friend of mine who specializes in 17th-18th century European coins to whom I showed the pictures noticed the cuts too and speculated the same thing. I think in the movies, when the fortuneteller bites down on a gold coin, she’s testing to see if it’s soft lead covered with gold leaf, lead being a common way to approximate the weight of the gold alloy of which most gold coins were made. It’s fascinating, I can’t wait to hear what the experts say.

  11. #11 Kevin
    June 19, 2009

    …and the layout of the coin (text style on both sides) matches Swedish golden ducats of the period, ex: http://imagedb.coinarchives.com/img/goldberg/041/image04132.jpg and http://www.coinnews.net/wp-content/images/2008/Swedish-1632-Gustav-II-Adolf-gold-Dukat-coin.jpg

  12. #12 Martin R
    June 19, 2009

    Yeah, but the best-preserved letters in the legend seem to be “GOTT”, which means God in German but would not be found on a Swedish coin.

  13. #13 Kevin
    June 19, 2009

    Saw that, was hoping that was the “GOTH” in the title “REX SVEC GOTH VAND” which I think means King of the Swedes, Goths and Vandals or something like that.

  14. #14 Claes
    June 20, 2009

    @Martin – gold sheet seems like the best explanation to me. The coating is thin, but appears to be in one piece – as you might see in the photos where the surface is beginning to come off.

    And yes – we’ve discussed the Swedish 17th century gold ducats as a possiblity. Size, weight + what’s left of text and images could be interpreted like that. There’s been large amounts of money in circulation in a place like The Royal Cloth Factory of Jönköping. That doesn’t exclude German coins – far from it, as a large number of the work force were recruited in Sachsen and counties nearby. And between 1621- 1640 large amounts of wool were imported by the board of directors.

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