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Modern fakes of ancient Indian punchmarks

This page is meant as a resource for collectors, illustrating and discussing the modern fakes of ancient Indian punchmarked coins.

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Fake punchmarked coinage

   As more and more of the earliest Indian coins make it to the Western market, more and more fakes of these coins are created and distributed in India. The price for authentic punchmarks is skyrocketing, and faking these coins is becoming more and more profitable. Some of these fakes are easy to recognize, while other are really well-made and would deceive even a professional.

Countless pages about coins can be found on the internet, but it seems to be completely devoid of all information concerning fake punchmarks. This page is dedicated to listing and explaining fake punchmarked coins.

If you have a fake (or a suspected fake) punchmarked Indian coin that you want to be added to this website, please email it to me.

The Coins

Follow the links to the following parts of this page or scroll down to see all the sections of this page:

Modern fakes of shatamanas and fractions from Gandhara

Modern fakes of silver vimshatikas (heavy karshapanas) from Kasala

Modern fakes of silver coins from Magadha

Modern fakes of silver Mauryan punchmark karshapanas


Before you begin - a quick note about ANY ancient gold punchmarked coins (please be careful to distinguish the ancient punchmarks from the completely legitimate medieval punchmarked staters). There are some gold counterparts to the silver karshapanas - they are called "suvranas" and there are a few of them out there, all are exceedingly rare and ALL of questionable authenticity. One such suvrana is pictured below - it is certainly fake. Some other ones, such as the ones listed in Rajgor and in other publications are likely to be fake, though some were sold by respectable dealers as authentic pieces. As far as I know, there are no unquestionably authentic gold punchmarks known!!!

If someone offers you a gold punchmark, be extremely cautious - most chances are it is fake! Before jumping on that wagon, contact a specialist (or two) in punchmarked Indian coinage (if you contact your neighbourhood dealer or one of the numerous dealers on the internet, the advice you will get will not be worth much) - it might save you a bundle!!!



Modern fakes of silver shatamanas and fractions from Gadnhara

Examples of AUTHENTIC shatamana and 1/4 shatamana from Gandhara (ca.600-500 BC)




Photos courtesy ACC

The earliest punchmarked coins of India were minted in Gandhara - they are always very popular with the collectors, so it is not surprising that some fake shatamanas and fractions appear on the market from time to time, though (surprisingly enough) not in large numbers.

Shatamanas and shatamana fractions are known, both in silver and bronze. If you see a bronze or copper punchmark from Gandhara with smooth patina that does not look like debased silver or like it was silvered at one point in time, be very suspicious - many fakes are struck in pure bronze, while authentic examples were struck in silver only (or debased silver in later times).



Examples of FAKE coins:


"Bent bar" flan, uniface, two identical symbols

Long and narrow bronze bar with smooth red patina, usually with a lot of flower-shaped and sun-shaped bankers' marks. If you see high quality bronze bars with smooth patina (and without traces of silvering), there is a good chance that the piece is fake.


Some modern fake bronze bars of this type can be found in the numismatic market.

(Image courtesy Shinji Hirano)

1/2 shatamana

Round scyphate flan, uniface, single symbol. 

MODERN FAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Punchmark (6-armed Gandharan symbol with a bar and dot between two of the arms) / blank. Artificially patinated. 16-17mm, 6 grams. Unpublished.

All 1/2 shatamanas with this punchmark come from a single issue of modern fakes.

(Image courtesy Dr.Shinji Hirano)

Modern fakes of silver vimshatikas (heavy karshapanas) from Kashi and Kasala

A few examples of AUTHENTIC vishmatikas from Kashi under Kasalan occupation (ca.525-475 BC)




Photos courtesy ACC

An interesting group of suspected fake silver vimshatikas from Kashi (under occupation of Kasala) was brought to light by Mr.Shinji Hirano and published in the Paul Murphy's "Kosala State region, ca.600-470 BC, Silver punchmarked coinage". The group consists of 15 silver struck coins weighing 4.1 to 6 grams, all in a similar style but with different numbers and varieties of various symbols. The coins do look somewhat suspicious, but I am not 100% sure they are indeed fake. You can easily find more photos of these suspected fakes on the pages 36-39 of that book.

A few of these suspected struck fakes are illustrated below. The punchmarks are very crude, the reverse small marks are struck randomly, unlike on genuine issues, and the weight of the pieces ranges from 4.1 to 6 grams (on genuine pieces the weigh of about 4.3 grams is quite consistent). The coins are artificially patinated with some brown agent. All the photographs below are courtesy Dr.Shinji Hirano.




Some photos of the struck fake vishmatikas:

4.5 grams 4.3 grams 6.0 grams

"Kosala State region, ca.600-470 BC, Silver punchmarked coinage" also shows two examples of cast forgeries of Kasala coins (again, of vimshatikas, weighing 4.33 and 4.55 grams), but these are much more easily detected than the struck coins mentioned above. The two cast fakes shown below are cast from the same mold. The photos of the coins shown below are courtesy Dr.Shinji Hirano.

Some photos of two itentical cast fake vishmatikas from the same mold:

A group of fake vishmatikas currently on the market:

In July 2008 I was offered a group of 6 really nice-looking vishmatikas. They are all fake, closely related to the 2 vishmatikas shown above. The coins range in size from 24 to 31mm, and weigh from 3.7 to 4.7 grams (this weight spread is much bigger than what you would see on authentic coins). All six coins are cast - the edge is slightly raised (I am not sure why, but it is obviously related to the manufacturing method). Four of the coins are of the same type as the two coins above, the other two coins are of a type not known for fake Kasala vishmatikas before. Overall, it is a really attractive and well-made group, though the signs of casting can be seen on the surface with careful obversvation. In any case, I returned the coins to my supplier, and now there is a good change the coins are out there on the market again, looking for a buyer :-)


Modern fakes of silver vimshatikas, karshapanas and fantasy coins from Magadha

The large karshapanas from Magadha are rare, attractive and always in demand. They are also readily available for anyone who wants to copy the punches and produce his own, Magadha-inspired, counterfeits. It is not surprising that they attracted the counterfeiters as much as they attracted collectors, so the fakes of the various Magadhan coins are the most common among all punchmark counterfeits.

There were at least two huge groups of fakes produced, 2000+ and 700+ in each "hoard" - these are responsible for the bulk of the Magadhan fakes. However, unique creations are seen from time to time on the numismatic market. If you are not a specialist, the best way to avoid buying such counterfeits is to purchase coins from respectable and knowledgeable dealers in the US and western Europe (I would suggest not buying them directly from India or Pakistan).

The New Delhi "Hoard"

The imitations of Magadha of this type account for the bulk of the fake punchmarks encountered in the numismatic market. The bulk of these imitations were minted by an aspiring mintmaster in India in the 1980's - the "hoard" of some 2000+ coins (as reported by Rajgor) appears on the numismatic market of New Delhi in 1988. These coins are probably among the most beautiful punchmarks produced, either in ancient or the modern times - they are all beautiful pieces, with the punches catching the ancient Magadhan style well (there were 24 different punches employed - it seems that whoever made them labored really hard making them...). The coins still appear on the market quite regularly - they are usually sold as fakes since this hoard it too well-known, but I've seen specimens sold as authentic. They have an "authentic" look to them, but if you have some experience handling authentic karshapanas from Magadha you will probably not be fooled.

The flans were cast in good quality silver, flattened and cut into oval planchets of various sizes, ranging from very small to exceedingly large (12 to 50mm to the most part, but I've seen specimens of up to 68mm long). It seems likely that the counterfeiter intended to produce a hoard of three denominations: 1/4 "karshapana", 1 "karshapana" and a double "karshapana" (see the tablet below). The edges of the flans were filed and smoothened, so they actually feel like real Magadhan karshapanas. Most coins of this type on today's market are cleaned - originally the coins were artificially patinated using copper sulphate.

The flans were punched on wooden anvils (using the same technique as the ancient celators) with very hard (probably steel) punches, resulting in scyphate flans that look quite "authentic", though the punches are actually much sharper than on the original Magadha coins. The weight ranges are shown in the table below. The number of punches varied from 3 or 4 (on very small pieces) to about 20 on the largest pieces - this complete lack of any order in punching gives away these coins as fakes. The symbols rarely appear once on a particular coin - a single punch can appear 3 or 4 times on the same coin!!!! That never happens on real Magadhan coins. The reverse is either blank or shows a single large symbol (one of the symbols that appear on obverse, most often a hill symbol or a leaf (symbols 10,12 and 19 from the table below).





Around 12-14mm

Around 1 gram

1/4 "heavy karshapana"

Not very common. Usually carry 3-4 punchmarks

Around 18-22mm

Around 3.5-4 grams

1 "heavy karshapana"

Common. Usually carry 5-10 punchmarks, usually overlapping

Around 25-68mm

Around 7.4-8 grams

Double "heavy karshapana"

Very common, with most pieces carrying 10-20 punchmarks.

The symbols are interesting - all are copied from the known Magadhan series 1 types in quite a detail. I identified 24 different symbols, repeatedly appearing on all these coins, but there might be more of them. The symbols do not appear in any order like on authentic karshapanas - for example, the "sun-symbol" can be struck 2 or more times, often with punches 1 and 2 (which would be chronologically impossible on an authentic Magadha coin). The multiple application of punches usually left the obverse very "crowded" (this feature is a very characteristic and easily recognizable for this type of counterfeits), with the symbols overlapping and rarely seen completely. All the known symbols for this series are depicted below:

All (or most) obverse punchmarks for these fakes



Symbol position



1st symbol



2nd symbol

"6-arm symbol"


3rd-5th symbols

various "hill" punchmarks


bankers' marks and fantasy symbols

"flower" designs


3rd-5th symbols

various "leaf" punchmarks


3rd-5th symbols

inanimate objects


3rd-5th symbols

various "animal" punchmarks

As I already mentioned, the "hoard" consisted of some 2000+ coins - since every one is unique, it is futile to try to list them all. A few representative pictures and drawings of these coins are shown. All coins in this "hoard" are very similar stylistically, and the coins shown and described below are a good general representation of these counterfeits. Eight examples (4 photographs and 4 drawings I made) are shown below. The coins shown are of various sizes and weights, 20-50mm. The reverses (not shown in most cases) are either blank or show symbols 10, 12 or 19.

"Heavy" denomiation, about 28mm in diameter, 7.8 grams.

Photo courtesy Malter Galleries



Photos courtesy Dr.Shinji Hirano

Drawings courtesy ACC

The Varanasi "Hoard"

These fakes are usually available on the numismatic market in India.

The coins from this "hoard" are not quite as spectacular as the ones described above, but they do have an authentic look to them. The coins were originally (mistakenly) published as authentic, but reattributed as fakes a few years later. They most likely intended to imitate the Magadhan issues - all seven symbols shown below are copied from well-known Most of them were made of debased silver, but a few (very few...) gold (!) pieces are known (one is pictured below) and a few pieces seem to have been struck in lead.




1st symbol


(1) The symbol pictured is was usually the "sun" shown (1). A single die was employed, showing 7 thick expanding rays.

(1a) Another, poorly enraved "sun" is known on some coins, but it is usually barely visible - it seems that the die was not finished when it was employed.

2nd symbol "6-armed symbol" (2) A single die was used, showing three "blunt" arrows and three "arrowhead-like" devices. It is symmetric.
Other symbols Humped bull, geometric shapes, snake The 4 other known symbols include (3) humped bull within an oval border - usually prominent, bold and clearly visible on coins; (6) Snake within an oval, with four dots above and three dots below - this symbol is copied from the series 1 magadha coins - it is usually very prominent and easily recognizable; (4) Geometric symbol, square surrounded by four circles - large and usually only partially struck (almost never seen completely); (5) Same as (4) but with four sold circles added - I think it is a re-engraved symbol (4)... It is almost never completely struck, and only parts of this symbol are usually visible.


Since hundreds of "coins" were produced, trying to depict them all would be quite impossible. Luckily (for the collectors), because so few different symbols were struck, these coins are very easily recognizable. Some actual coins and hand-drawings of the actual coins are shown below. All the photos are courtesy Dr.Shinji Hirano, 

Gold (electrum) piece ("suvrana"), depicting six symbols - 1,1a,2,3,5 and 6. The gold fakes of this type are extremely rarely seen and seem to be unpublished. The photo is courtesy Dr.Shinji Hirano
Debased silver piece, showing three symbols - 1, 2 and 3. It weighs 4.0 grams. The photo is courtesy Dr.Shinji Hirano. Debased silver piece, showing symbols 3 symbols - 1, 4 and 6. It weighs 3.6 grams. The photo is courtesy Dr.Shinji Hirano
Drawings of a number of different coins of this type, showing one or two symbols each.


Modern fakes of silver Mauryan punchmark karshapanas

Modern fakes of the ancient Mauryan coins are by no means common - the original coins are among the cheapest ancient Indian coins and are readily available to both the dealer and the collectors. They are too cheap to fake, so the modern copies do not pop up very often at all.

However, in March 2007 I was offered a fascinating little group of 6 modern fake karshapanas, copying a single Ashokan provincial type - G/H #566. The coins are not really well-made and are easily identifiable as fakes. In fact, they probably fit the entire check-list for what one should check to see if the coins are real or not.

A few examples of AUTHENTIC Mauryan karshapanas of this type (Gupta/Hardaker 566)



The coins shown above are authentic examples of Mauryan karshapanas of this type (#566). They are all stamped with 5 different symbols on obverse (Sun, 6-armed symbol, sacred hill with a crescent, Ashoka's "royal symbol" and a soldier, wearing a helmet and holding a shield and a spear) and a single symbol (Ashoka's royal symbol on reverse). This type is NEVER struck on a round flan - the authentic specimens are always struck on a rectangular or square, sometimes slipped to adjust the weight (like on one of the coins above). The edges of these coins are often sharp, since it seems the flans were slipped from a flattened rod (a different method of manufacture than the one usually used by the Mauryans). The flans are almost small (12-17mm to 15x15mm) and somewhat thick, and the weight of the well-preserved specimens is always 3.4 grams (give or take a few hundredth of a gram).

    The coins were probably manufactured in Pakistan (at least that's where I got the offer from). The seller had only 6 pieces, but I am sure that more than 6 coins were manufactured (this sort of fakes is usually manufactured in "hoards" of many hundreds of pieces). I am certain that sooner or later I will see a large "hoard" of these offered for sale.

    A few examples of authentic coins of this type are shown in the table to the right. They are always struck on chunky small silver flans (thought the early Sungas struck imitations of these karshapanas on bronze flans). The fakes are struck on very large silver flans of varying shapes, they are WAY too large in size, with different weights all over the place (something never seen on any Mauryan karshapanas) and with soft curved edges (something never seen on this type) and seem to be artificially patinated with some green stuff. The karshapanas exhibit signs of a cold strike - the last piece seems to have almost shattered during minting. The symbols are struck incorrectly in a pattern never seen in authentic Mauryan coinage - it seems that the wannabe celator did not know much about these punchmarks. The reverses of the fakes show one, two or no symbols - the authentic specimens always show a single large punch on reverse, showing Ashoka's royal symbol.

    In any case - please see the images below - hope you will enjoy checking them out as much as I did.




symbol or symbols


size: 2.5cm,weight: 3.540 g

Rounded large flan - would not look unusual on an earlier Magadha piece, but such flans NEVER appear on later Mauryan pieces. The weight is heavier than usual - I've never encountered a G/H #566 of such weight, though it is not impossibly high. The 5 punches are correct, but there is no punch on the reverse of this piece.


size: 2.9cm,weight: 3.660 g

Rounded HUGE flan - would not look unusual on an earlier Magadha piece, but such flans NEVER appear on later Mauryan pieces. The 5 punches are correct, but there is no punch on the reverse of this piece.

Photos courtesy anonymous dealer

1.Size: 3.4cm,weight: 4.000g

Rounded HUGE flan - would not look unusual on an earlier Magadha piece, but such flans NEVER appear on later Mauryan pieces. The weight is MUCH heavier than usual - you will never find a real piece this heavy. Two of the symbols (the sun and the hill) are struck twice, resulting in a total of 7 symbols. No symbol on reverse.


2.Size: 2.7cm,weight: 3.520g

Rectangular large flan, somewhat overweight flan. Two of the symbols (the sun and the hill) are struck twice, resulting in a total of 7 symbols. No symbol on reverse.


3. size: 2.5cm,weight: 3.180 g

Rounded HUGE flan - would not look unusual on an earlier Magadha piece, but such flans NEVER appear on later Mauryan pieces. The weight is MUCH heavier than usual - you will never find a real piece this heavy. Two of the symbols (the sun and the hill) are struck twice, resulting in a total of 7 symbols. No symbol on reverse. This piece also exhibits signs of cold (or insufficiently hot) striking - the flan seems to have cracked....

Photos courtesy anonymous dealer

size: 2.9cm,weight: 3.220g

Rounded HUGE flan - would not look unusual on an earlier Magadha piece, but such flans NEVER appear on later Mauryan pieces. The weight is actually quite a bit lighter than that of the real pieces.... One of the symbols (the soldier) is not on obverse, and there is no punch on the reverse of this piece.

Photo courtesy anonymous dealer


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