The coinage of Apollonia and Dyrrhachium:

Ancient fakes and imitations

II. A die-linked chain of hybrid imitations

Corrections: 26 January 17

I detected a series of die-linked hybrid imitations of Dyrrhachian drachms, which reflects the counterfeiting activity of a prosperous and well equipped workshop of so far unknown location during the final period of drachm minting. The coins belonging to this series surfaced in different hoards; can be found in many museums, and turn up in trade from time to time.

The picture below shows the specimens of this series from my collection. The two coins in the upper part of the picture were the prototype issues, the Xenon-Pyrba-club emission (Ceka 360, SNG Tb 1458) is on the left; the Ktetos-Damenos issue (Ceka 276, SNG Tb 1385) on the right.

The supposedly first version of the Xenon-Pyrba imitations can be seen below the line on the left, showing style degradation of the obverse; and the name on the reverse was copied erroneously: instead of ΠYP-BA (PYRBA) it became ΠYO-ΔTA (PYODTA, a nonsense). The obverse of this coin is marked as XPA-A; meaning Xenon-Pyrba (XP) first (A) obverse die variation, coupled with the first reverse type variation (A).

On the right, the first imitation of the original Ktetos-Damenos coin shows some style degradation from the original on the obverse (on other specimens it is also clear that the name Ktetos was copied as Tetos, with K missing from the beginning of the name; and not only because of if is off-flan). The reverse of this imitation was struck with the very same die A which was used for the Xenon-Pyodta-club imitation; therefore this coin is not only an imitation but a hybrid imitation, taking the obverse and the reverse from different prototypes (the obverse from Ktetos-Damenos and the reverse from the Xenon-Pyrba imitation). This coin is marked as TA (obverse) for Tetos, first obverse variation; combined with reverse variation A.

The lower imitation on the right shows another obverse die variety (TB) of the Tetos-Pyodta imitation showing some further style degradation, but this obverse is coupled again with the same reverse die (A); this coin is therefore marked as (TB-A).


The whole series includes the obverse of a third Dyrrhachian issue, Xenon-Haropinou (Ceka 363, SNG Tb 1479) and also a second Pyodta reverse die variety (B). The prototypes came from consecutive years:

Emission Ceka # Class Year B.C Mean weight (g)
Ktetos-Damenos 276 D4 -13 60 3.30
Xenon-Pyrba 360 D5 -12 59 3.31
Xenon-Haropinou 363 D5 -11 58 3.28

The next table shows details of all thirteen pieces of this imitation series known to me; some of them have not been available for closer examination. I found altogether three different obverse types in this material: XP imitating the obverse of the Xenon-Pyrba-club emission; XH of Xenon-Haropinou, and T of Ktetos-Damenos erroneously read as Tetos or its prototype was already an imitation, see Tetos-Damenos, BMC 58. Altogether four obverse dies could be identified: XPA, XHA, TA, and TB.

All these obverses were coupled with a single reverse type: DYR-PYO-DTA-club; and only two dies could be identified: die A and B.

There are several die-links among these pieces: either the obverse or the reverse is die equivalent with another piece. The follow-up of style degradation helps identify the chronological sequence of the dies. Coins marked with the asterisk (#1, 4, 6) are illustrated in the picture above.

Details of recorded pieces
No. Obv. die Rev. die Origin Disposition Weight Reference
1* XPA A ? Baldwin's Auct.17 #19, 1998 GP collection 3.66 -
2 XHA A Zaklopača hoard 1928 National Museum Belgrade ? 4, Pl. VI #1
3 XH? B Bobaia hoard 1962 Museum of Transylvania Cluj 3.65 5, #181
4* TA A ? Spink 1988 GP collection 3.28 1
5 TB A ? HNM Coin Cabinet Budapest 3.18 2, #29
6* TB A ? CNG 2001 GP collection 3.38 -
7 TB A Dolj hoard, 19th c. Museum of History Bucharest 3.38 3, #161
8 TB A Zaklopača hoard 1928 National Museum Belgrade ? 4, Pl. VI #2
9 TB A ? eBay auction February, 2013 3.44 -
10 TB B Bobaia hoard 1962 Museum of Transylvania Cluj 3.72 5, #183
11 Tnon-A ? ? Archaeological Museum Istanbul 3.07 -
12 T? ? ? Private collection Budapest ? -
13 T? ? ? eBay auction March, 2002 ? -
Mean weight of PYO-DTA imitations: 3.42 g

Further observations

The metal composition of the imitations is not known but they cannot be distinguished by their 'look' from the authentic pieces. However, the mean weight of the Pyodta coins is higher than that of the authentic prototypes. This is a rare but not unusual phenomenon among imitations.

Another interesting feature is the multiple appearance of the same reverse die in almost perfect (unworn) condition with several different obverses; and some of the latter are from worn dies. Hoard evidence suggests that in the normal hammered minting practice, the number of the reverse dies exceeded the number of the obverse dies. The hand-held upper (punch) die became worn earlier therefore it was used to produce the reverse of the coin with a simple device and shallow relief to be cut easily for frequent replacement. The more elaborate and therefore more precious obverse die was the lower one, fixed in the anvil so these dies lasted longer. Maybe this workshop used the other way round and the obverse dies were the punch dies; or they were produced from a softer material and had to be replaced more frequently. A small line at the ear of corn on coin #3 may suggest a die crack of obverse die TA that broke soon and was replaced by TB?


The growing number of recorded coins in this die-linked hybrid imitation series and the occurrence of such pieces in three different hoards far from each other (Zaklopača is in Serbia; Bobaia is in the Transylvanian, Dolj in the Wallachian region of Rumania) suggest a well equipped and active mint, which produced deceiving imitations. It was not in Dyrrhachium but close enough to be mixed with the originals en route towards the North-East Balkan territories.


  1. Petrányi G. Dyrrhachiumi borját szoptató tehén típusú drachma egykorú hibrid utánzatának több példánya. Numizmatikai Közlöny 92-93, 109-111, 1993-4.
  2. Gohl Ö. Adalékok Illyria érmészetéhez. Numizmatikai Közlöny 21, 23-6, 1922.
  3. Conovici N. Date noi despre un tezaur de monede antice descoperit in judetul Dolj. Thraco-Dacica 6, 59-74, 1985.
  4. Petrović J. Grcko blago iz sela Zaklopače kraj Beograda. Starinar 7, 40-65, 1932.
  5. Chirila E, Iaroslavschi E. Tezaurul monetar de la Bobaia, sec. II-I. i.e.n. Acta Musei Napocensis 24-5, 69-96, 1987-8.

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