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Possibly Dangerous Modern Replicas

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Italy’s Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato or Italian State Mint recently announced the mint was releasing replicas of the Venetian 1472-minted silver 1-lira to mark the 550th anniversary of this, the first Italian lira denominated coin.

The coin is also known as a tron lira, having been named for the 68th Doge of Venice, Niccolò Tron, who authorized the coin. Tron was doge between 1471 and 1473. The coin proved to be popularly accepted in trade throughout Europe. The restrikes are being produced on an antique press similar to that which would have been used in 1472 at the Serenissima Mint.

While these replicas may be of interest to some collectors as well as to the general public, they could also open Pandora’s Box for the Italian State Mint and other world mints to begin re-issuing coins from the past with sufficient accuracy for the coins to be challenging to differentiate from the originals.

You don’t have to look very far to find replicas of other Italian coins. At the time this article was being written Amazon was selling the Crafts silver-plated replica of a 1723-dated Italian coin, Etsy was selling a replica of the Naples 1684 silver 1 tari of Charles II, and Ross-Simons was selling an 18 karat gold over sterling silver replica of an Italian 1939 20-lira advertised as being part of a bracelet.

Coin Replicas has been producing high quality coin replicas since 1955. According to the web site, “Our family’s reproduction methods have been highly regarded by connoisseurs, including rare coin collectors, art historians, and educators. Our coin art reproductions are uniquely beautiful and accurately detailed in comparison to their ancient originals. We achieve this quality by starting with the best casts and molds created by the late Peter Rosa, known as one of the greatest manufacturers of coin replications in the United States.”

The website explains further, “Our coins are made of the finest lead and cadmium-free pewter. This the same type of pewter that is used for dinner plates and drinking cups.

The coins are electroplated with a pure silver, 24 karat gold or copper, depending on the original coins’ metallic make up. The silver and copper coins are then patinated and finished by hand to give them an aged looked.”

Replicating coins, incorporating the use of the contemporary equipment and duplicating the manufacturing process through which the originals were minted has been done many times. The privately owned Osborne Mint in Cincinnati demonstrated how ancient coins were struck by hand by producing a fantasy coin on which triskeles appear on the obverse at the 39th annual Greater Cincinnati Numismatic Exposition this past June. Others have demonstrated the same technology at past American Numismatic Association conventions.

At least those “producers” either mint fantasies or mark their products as replicas as is mandated under the Hobby Protection Act. The Federal Trade Commission website sites 15 U.S.C. §§ 2101-2106 when the FTC states, “This Act, amended by the Collectible Coin Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 113-288, 128 Stat. 3281, prohibits manufacturing or importing imitation political items, and manufacturing, importing, or selling imitation numismatic items, unless they are marked in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Federal Trade Commission.”

The shadowy Bulgarian Slavei (Slavei may be a family rather than one individual with that surname) insist the Slavei ancient coin products are replicas, but few of them are marked accordingly. Slavei ancient coin replicas were being openly sold by a Slavei family member as a vest pocket dealer at the New York International Numismatic Convention during the mid-1980s.

Official restrike coins are nothing new. The 1780 Maria Theresia silver taler has been re-struck by numerous world mints to be used as an international trade coin. Mexico has re-struck some of its gold coins, once again for use in trade. The difference here is that it is the Italian State Mint rather than the long defunct Serenissima Mint producing these coins, and simply to make coins to sell to collectors.

Any cultural artifact excavated in Italy today is considered to be property of the Italian state. Exporting ancient and possibly Renaissance coins from Italy to the United States is challenging. Now the Italian State Mint is producing replica Renaissance coins that are unlikely to fill the requirements of the Hobby Protection Act in the United States. Will other official replicas that are not marked as such be coming, and if so, from how many additional mints worldwide?