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Fall 2013 - reports of the first known fake silver coins of the Western Kshatrapas

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Last update: November 2014

(Very short) history of the Kshatrapas

Early History of the Kshatrapas and their coinage:  

The information below is taken from my 2 books on the coinage of the Kshatrapas - I published these two books earlier in 2013. They are full of information and photographs of the coins of the Western Kshatrapas, including many types and rulers never before published. If you are interested in this coinage, please check the books, they should be useful to any collector of ancient Indian coins.

Approximate span of the Western Katrapa kingdom in the Indian subcontinent at its apogee under Mahākatrapa Rudradāman and his immediate successors, ca.150-200 AD.

The “Western Katrapas” (more commonly known in the West as the “Western Satraps”) is a collective name for the rulers from a number of different families ruling in Gujarat, Saurashtra and Malwa in the 1st-5th century AD. This catalogue is concerned with the lead, copper, bronze, potin and billon coins of two of these dynasties, the Kshaharātas and the Kārdamakas.

The Western Satraps were Scythian (Śaka) rulers of the western and central parts of India (parts of Saurashtra and Malwa: modern Gujarat, Southern Sindh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states). Their state was called "Ariaca" according to ancient Greek Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, with the word “Ariaca” probably derived from the reference to the “Arian” (that is, Scythian) origins of the Indo-Śakas. These “Arians” were the successors to the Indo-Scythians, though their exact relationship to the earlier Indo-Scythians and Indo-Greek rulers of Northern and Western India is not known. They were also contemporaneous with the Kushans who ruled a vast empire spanning northern part of the Indian subcontinent and huge tracts of land in Central Asia. The early Katrapas were also the neighbors of the powerful Indian Empire of the Satavahanas (Andhras), which governed Central India and acted for many generations as the arch nemesis of the Katrapas, despite being related to them by close family ties. Throughout the long history of the Western Katrapa Kingdom, many other kingdoms rose and fell on the borders of their domains – the Kushans, the Vakatakas, the Taikutakas and the powerful Guptas, who finally conquered and annexed the Western Katrapa Kingdom.

The extent of the Western Satraps’ Kingdom at the high of its power under Rudradāman is known from various inscriptions. However, our knowledge about the later (and earlier) boundaries of the Kingdom is derived from indirect information about the conflicts, invasions and establishments of other powers in the territories formerly belonging to the Western Satraps. The power of the Western Satraps shrunk considerably over the centuries, and by the 4th century AD their Kingdom was probably confined to Kathiawar and perhaps small parts of Malwa.

Most of the Western Katrapas issued beautiful silver coins in a single denomination – the dynasty is now known mainly because of this silver coinage. These coins, usually measuring 13-15mm in diameter and weighing around 2-2.1 grams, are commonly referred to as “drachms”.

The early coins of the rulers Chaṣṭana, Jayadāman, Rudradāman, Viśvasiha I and the early coins of Dāmajadaśri and Rudrasiha I are undated, but almost all later coins carry dates in Śaka Era years. This practically uninterrupted series of remarkable dated coins lasted for well over 200 years, from 99 SE (177 AD) to 337 SE (415 AD), and the entire dynasty of the Western Katrapa rulers can be reconstructed with a precision that is unprecedented among any other ancient India royal dynasties. In addition to the silver coins, a variety of potin, lead and copper coins were issued – these coins are the subject of this book. They were never properly studied and catalogued, though many pieces do appear in various older publications. Numerous new types and varieties in a number of different metals are published in this book for the first time

The fake coins:

The fake silver coins of the Western Kshatrapas are almost unheard of. The reverse has a long and a very complex inscription, and making these coins with fake modern dies would be very difficult. One such coin might be a coin of Prthivisena II from 146 SE, but I think even that coin is authentic.

Cast copies of the silver Kshatrapa coins were long expected, but I have not encountered any, even though I've been keeping a very close eye on the Kshatrapa coins on the market for many years now. The reason why these coins were left alone by the counterfeiters is because the coin are small (usually 14-15mm in diameter) and light (usually about 2.1 grams). They are also quite cheap (as far as ancient coins go) and it seems the counterfeiters did not bother faking them until now. The fake coins are sold out of India by a few previousely unknown sellers.

The fake coins of the Kshatrapas are now known in 6 different types (and more seem to appear regularly). The coins are all cast from real pieces, and seem to have been mass-produced, as numerous pieces are being sold on ebay as authentic. The same faker also made some Maitrakas and Gupta silver pieces using the same casting method.

Fake coin #7

This is a coin of Mahakshatrapa Rudrasena I (121-144 SE / 199-222 AD). The coin is cast from a rare piece with reversed symbols on the reverse (with the sun on the left and crescent on the right). The coin from 120's SE. The reverse of these fake pieces is very poorly cast and looks all blurred. As of this point, I've seen a dozen coins made with this cast sold on ebay.

 

This is authentic coin of Rudrasena I. Original coin is "The Silver Coinage of the Western Satraps in India (50-400 AD), Catalogue and Price Guide" (A.M.Fishman) #13.4R.125.

  This is a fake coin of Rudrasena I. The reverse is very poorly cast and looks flat, blurry and pitted.

Fake coin #6

This is a coin of Mahakshatrapa Rudrasena II (277-298 SE / 255-276 AD). The fake shows a clear full date "188" (188 SE/266 AD). The fake coins are softly cast and seem to be pitted. As of this point, I've seen a dozen coins made with this cast sold on ebay.

 

This is authentic coin of Rudrasena II (177-198 SE / 255-276 AD), dated 188 SE (266 AD)

Original coin is "The Silver Coinage of the Western Satraps in India (50-400 AD), Catalogue and Price Guide" (A.M.Fishman) #27.1.188

  This is a fake coin of Rudraseva II, showing the complete date 188 SE. These were among the earliest fake kshatrapas to appear. All are softly cast and seem to be pitted.

Fake coin #1

This is a coin of Mahakshatrapa Bhartrdaman, son of Rudrasena II. Bhartrdaman ruled as Ksatrapa (198-204 Saka Era / 276-282 AD) and later as a Mahakshatrapa (204-217 Saka Era / 282-295 AD). He issued copious coinage during this entire period. His coinage is among the most common of all the Kshatrapa coins. The style on them is also quote crude, and the coins of Bhartrdaman are not overly popular with the collectors. It is surprising that his coins would be among the first fakes on the market.

 

These are the  coins of Bhartrdaman (unfortunately, better images were not available). All are crudely cast from the same original coin.

 

Authentic Bhartrdaman

Authentic coin of Bhartrdaman.

Original coin is "The Silver Coinage of the Western Satraps in India (50-400 AD), Catalogue and Price Guide" (A.M.Fishman) #29.3

Fake Bhartrdaman Fake coin - Sold on ebay in September 2013 by an Indian dealer. The coin is softly cast, with the traces of the casting channel at 10 o'clock on obverse. The fake coin has two semi-circular countermarks on the obverse (a common feature for the real coins of this period).
Numerous coins made from the same cast were sold on ebay after September 2013 (I am not picturing them, since they all look very much alike).

Fake coin #2

This is a coin of Mahakshatrapa Rudrasena III, son of Rudradaman II as a Mahakshatrapa (270-300 Saka Era / 348-378 AD). He issued copious coinage during this entire period. His coinage is among the most common of all the Kshatrapa coins. While some of his coins are rare, most are very common and inexpensive. It is surprising that his coins would be among the first fakes on the market.

Authentic Rudrasena III

This is authentic coin of Rudrasena III (the coin that is faked dates to 294 SE / 372 AD, even though the date on the fake coin is off-flan).

Original coin is "The Silver Coinage of the Western Satraps in India (50-400 AD), Catalogue and Price Guide" (A.M.Fishman) #34.3.294

fake Rudrasena III  Fake coins of Rudrasena III (unfortunately, better images were not available). All are crudely cast from the same original coin.Fake coin - Sold on ebay in September 2013 by an Indian dealer. The coin is softly cast, just like the other fake coins from this "issue". The date is not visible, but the original issue of this style dates to 294 SE only.
 
Numerous coins made from the same cast were sold on ebay since September 2013 (I am not picturing them, since they all look very much alike).

Fake coin #3

This is a coin of Mahakshatrapa Rudrasimha III, son of Satyasimha as a Mahakshatrapa (307-337 Saka Era / 385-415 AD). His coins, especially the ones bearing clear dates, are rare to extremely rare. The type which is faked was the 1st issue of Rudrasimha III, issued only for a few years in the beginning of his reign. The authentic coins of this type are actually very rare.

Rudrasimha III authentic coin

This is authentic coin of Rudrasimha III (issued ca.307-309 SE / 385-387 AD

Original coin is "The Silver Coinage of the Western Satraps in India (50-400 AD), Catalogue and Price Guide" (A.M.Fishman) #38.1

Rudrasimha III fake coin  This is a fake coin of Rudrasimha III. All are crudely cast from the same original coin.Fake coin - Sold on ebay in September 2013 by an Indian dealer. The coin is softly cast, just like the other fake coins from this "issue". The date is not visible, but the original issue of this style dates to 307-309 Saka Era. The reverse is VERY soft, which is not characteristic for the coins of this period.

Fake coin #4

This is a coin of Mahakshatrapa Rudrasimha III, son of Satyasimha as a Mahakshatrapa (307-337 Saka Era / 385-415 AD). This type appeared around 315 SE (393 AD) or so and was minted for 10 years or so. Coins with a clear date are rare. The fake coin is well-made, not as softly cast and the other fake Kshatrapa coins. It would certainly pass for an authentic piece on the market. As of this point, I've seen 4 coins made with this cast sold on ebay, many more are surely coming :-)

 

This is authentic coin of Rudrasimha III (issued ca.315-325 SE / 393-403 AD)

Original coin is "The Silver Coinage of the Western Satraps in India (50-400 AD), Catalogue and Price Guide" (A.M.Fishman) #38.2.y325 (the pictured coin has a visible date 325 SE / 403 AD)

  This is a fake coin of Rudrasimha III. All are fairly well-cast from the same original coin. Sold on ebay in November 2014 by an Indian dealer. The date is not visible, only the first numeral "300" is visible.

Fake coin #5

This is a coin of Mahakshatrapa Rudrasimha III, son of Satyasimha as a Mahakshatrapa (307-337 Saka Era / 385-415 AD). This type appeared around 307-310 SE (385-388 AD). Coins with a clear date are very rare. The fake coin is very well-made, not as softly cast and the other fake Kshatrapa coins. It would certainly pass for an authentic piece on the market. As of this point, I've seen 2 coins made with this cast sold on ebay, many more are surely coming :-)

 

This is authentic coin of Rudrasimha III (issued ca.307-310 SE / 385-388 AD)

Original coin is "The Silver Coinage of the Western Satraps in India (50-400 AD), Catalogue and Price Guide" (A.M.Fishman) #38.2.y325 (the pictured coin has a visible date 325 SE / 403 AD)

  This is a fake coin of Rudrasimha III. All are fairly well-cast from the same original coin. Sold on ebay in November 2014 by an Indian dealer. The date is only partially visible, might be 307, 308 or 309 (probably 308).
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In addition to the Kshatrapa coins described above, the same forger made at least 3 types of Gupta fakes, cast from the common Gupta silver coins. One Maitraka type fake is also known.
All are cast using the same method as the Kshatrapas, and all show weakness/pitting.
The three known fakes are shown below.


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If you have any questions or comments, please email me @ alex@ancientcoins.ca

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