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Becker copies from Vienna

RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

Excerpt mentioning “Becker copies of ancient coins” in a letter regarding a collection of Greek and Roman coins being purchased by the Philadelphia Mint Cabinet from a European collector.

J. G. Schwarz (U.S. Consul, Vienna) to Robert M. Patterson, Director

December 8, 1843

“Counselor Becker had these rare Roman coins precisely imitated for the use and pleasure of collectors, but it must be admitted that malpractices have taken place in the second hand and particularly in the beginning.”

Patterson responded on September 28, 1844 (excerpt):

“The copies by Becker are admirable, I might almost say deplorable, since they are so difficult to detect, and thus increase the hazards and doubts of collectors. I suppose you have seen some of his Roman medallions….”

Comments

  • BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 3,821 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Being in Vienna in 1843 -1844, with diplomatic accreditation and a small stipend from one's own home government, must have been pleasant.

  • SmudgeSmudge Posts: 9,247 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks, counterfeiters have been around a very long time obviously.

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    To be clear, the copies were made for Becker not by him.

  • HemisphericalHemispherical Posts: 9,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Eloquent wording.

    “...but it must be admitted that malpractices have taken place in the second hand and particularly in the beginning.’”

    “The copies by Becker are admirable, I might almost say deplorable, since they are so difficult to detect, and thus increase the hazards and doubts of collectors.”

    My feeble attempt to translate: The coins were doctored a couple times and the counterfeits are so good even experienced collectors are fooled.

    :#

  • ZoinsZoins Posts: 33,861 ✭✭✭✭✭

    What’s Becker’s full name?

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Not sure. In letters he is referred to as "Counselor Becker," but the context indicate an Austrian diplomatic term - it's used as a title for other people, too.

  • RittenhouseRittenhouse Posts: 565 ✭✭✭

    The letter apparently refers to Carl Wilhelm Becker, a German engraver noted for his forgeries. Here's a link to a CoinWorld article https://coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2014/11/carl-wilhelm-becker-among-most-prolific--famous-forgers.all.html

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks! Very helpful information.

  • HemisphericalHemispherical Posts: 9,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Rittenhouse said:
    The letter apparently refers to Carl Wilhelm Becker, a German engraver noted for his forgeries. Here's a link to a CoinWorld article https://coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2014/11/carl-wilhelm-becker-among-most-prolific--famous-forgers.all.html

    Thank you @Rittenhouse Followed the crumbs from the article. Thought this was interesting.

    “This month, Rutgers University Libraries, the Zimmerli Art Museum, and the Rutgers University–New Brunswick Department of Classics are teaming up on a display of counterfeit coins from the Ernst Badian Collection of Roman Republican Coins. Counterfeit Caesars: The Criminal Genius of Coin Forger Carl Wilhelm Becker (1772–1830) will be on display through February 6, 2017....”

    Note: At the bottom of the article in the link below there is an exhibit catalogue of the coins that were on display.

    https://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/news/counterfeit-caesars-display-zimmerli-art-museum

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Neat. I'll pickup a copy of the catalog. since the original correspondence was about coins for the Mint Cabinet of Coins and Ores, are any of these in the NNC either labeled or not?

  • HemisphericalHemispherical Posts: 9,370 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @rogerb The catalog has pics of the coins with descriptive labels for each.

  • RittenhouseRittenhouse Posts: 565 ✭✭✭

    @RogerB said:
    Neat. I'll pickup a copy of the catalog. since the original correspondence was about coins for the Mint Cabinet of Coins and Ores, are any of these in the NNC either labeled or not?

    That would be interesting. You gonna check? BTW, Becker also did copies of colonials. I've seen early auction listings for some of his pieces, which included Pine Trees, IIRC.

  • RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    As Hemispherical noted, the catalog is available for viewing on-line at the posted link. Downloading is prohibited. Content is sparse with as much space devoted to various curators and staff as to Becker and his forgery business. On-line the photos are indistinct; descriptions are brief and clear.

  • I once bought an auction lot with 300+ Beckers in white metal (probably mostly lead). All brilliant and beautiful, with tickets hand-written on little vellum strips. I ran them on eBay over the course of maybe two years (after letting ANS pick out what they needed --about a dozen). I described them as ca.1830, the year C.W. Becker died. Some woman challenged this, saying that in his lifetime he only struck in silver and sometimes gold. (I did see a Syracusan decadrachm in copper, in a Morton & Eden auction, I think Gaines or Stack sale). Becker's widow remarried quickly and her husband marketed white metal strikes. Hill's book makes use of a price list the new husband issued, I think before 1835. In time the dies were acquired by a museum. The comment that these white metal strikes were issued by the Berlin Museum is suspect at best.

    I have a photo file of a couple hundred pieces, obviously better quality than the pictures in the Hill book.

    --Paul J. Bosco
    Manhattan

  • DCWDCW Posts: 6,973 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interestingly, another Becker made copies of scarce medals struck in the 1860s. But this Becker stamped his name into the pieces so as not to deceive:

    Dead Cat Waltz Exonumia
    "Coin collecting for outcasts..."

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