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Copies and Replicas

Copies and Replicas.  Not the original medallic or numismatic item, but a similar specimen. A wide variety of copies and replicas exist, both authorized and surreptitious, for which a large terminology has developed, including those terms listed here. Copy is a broad term that includes all items not the original; replica, likewise broad, includes all similar items to the original. The terms differ in that copy implies a closer resemblance to the original, replica may be more liberal in its exact replication.

The following criteria determine the precise term: (1) does authorization, approval or legality exist?, (2) intent of maker of the copy? (3) quality of workmanship? (4) use of original or new dies or molds? (5) how is the copy made – cast, struck, electrotype, or other?, and (6) any other diagnostic evidence?

Copies sometimes take on a life of their own and often become a collectible of their own. The Paduan copies of ancient coins, the Bashlow replicas of the U.S. Confederate Cent, the British Museum electrotypes, Bolen and Gallery Mint copies of early American coins, Becker counterfeits. These are all copies, desired by collectors, and infrequently more costly than the originals!

Kinds of Copies

Deluxe Copy – Made with authority for sale to the recipient only in better materials or workmanship than the original (as a decoration prepared in a more precious metal – it was issued in silver, but the recipient may order it made in gold at his own expense).

Custom Copy – Made with authority for sale as a second or subsequent copy (say for a second uniform) or to replace a lost original, or other official use; a custom order usually of one made by original maker and dies. Called replacement medal or sometimes jeweler's copy.

ReissueCopy made with authority after lapse of time without change from original issue and reuse of original dies to strike a new piece or a new production run.

RevisionCopy made with authority and with a change of design no matter how minute, requiring retooling the original dies or creating entirely new copy dies. Such change might be a new date, new logo, change of sponsor's name, correct a design error, or similar reason.

Replica – Made with authority where a major portion of the previous design is used to make a new coin or medal. Replication is the most common form of copy making. No unauthorized use here, and new dies or molds are used to make the new issue.

Collectors' Copy – Made with authority for sales primarily to collectors or public; these copies are usually electrotypes (as copies sold by museums of specimens in their collections).

Reproduction – Made without authority and reproduced in a new model or composition. A large gray area of legality.

FacsimileCopy without authority, closely resembling the original and made by any method, as costume jewelry medals.

Private Copy – Made without authority for private use; these copies are usually cast in plaster or metal and if sold may be questionable status (study copies cast in plaster for scientific or scholarly study are certainly legal; private metal copies in off metal are a gray area, but copies the same as the original are outright forgeries).

ImitationCopy made without authority and technically not illegal; usually of poor quality, or a souvenir status (to be given away), or play money (as child's play copies, or play coins).

RestrikeCopy made without authority from original dies at a later date (and often in deteriorated state, as struck from cracked or rusted dies).

ForgeryCopy made without authority and with intent to deceive.

CounterfeitCopy made without authority and with intent to deceive and defraud both collectors and the public. Fake and spurious also denote a counterfeit status.

               Copies Are Not The Original

All these terms have one thing in common: the objects are not the original, the first to be made and issued under authority. Another term, a contemporary copy, indicates the time when the replica was made – during the original issuing period (or sometimes during the lifespan of the artist). Contemporary copies of coins are, of course, counterfeits; however a thin line of legality exists if the coin has been demonetized; its counterfeits are subject to numismatic and scholarly study.  But counterfeits of ancient coins, made contemporary to their original issue, are now historical objects and legal to own. Replicas of ancient coins made centuries later are forgeries as their maker's intent was to deceive subsequent buyers and collectors.

Cast medals.  Cast medals are always suspect of being copies. Because of the ease of reproducing cast specimens it is important data to know the exact diameter of the artist's original mold, or his first casting. Other casts can be made from this original – or subsequent – casts.  The term for this is called a generation. In the process of casting, metal shrinks slightly when it cools, each succeeding generation is one to four percent less diameter from the preceding generation.  See after-cast, shrinkage.

Novodel.  Replicas of older issues of coins, made at the same mint but struck from copy dies are called novodels. The word is derived from the Russian term where mints in Tsarist times made struck copies of early coins and medals as an accommodation for wealthy collectors. It may be a highly technical distinction but if the dies were made from the original hubs we would class this as a reissue; if these were made from copy dies – as we suspect – they would be classed as a revision (see above).

The replication of coins is always suspect; the replication of medals is not always so. We know of museum curators learning of an organization giving an award medal, contacting the organization for permission for a duplicate to be made for the museum's archives. Most of the time this permission was granted and the medal – made by the same manufacturer – ended up in their collections. (Technically this is a custom copy.)

German numismatists use the word abschlag for similar restruck items. Coins normally struck in silver, but restruck from original dies but in gold for presentation purposes are called abschlag. In the above list of terms, an instance of this would be called a deluxe copy.

     Test for Authentication

Each suspected copy or replica must stand various tests for authentication. The first such test is for an experienced numismatist to compare the suspect item with a known original specimen. Other than weighing and measuring a specimen, tests employ scientific equipment must be made. The rising need of authentication, authentication service and laboratory testing gives testimony for proving the original status of any given item.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


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