Gold electrotype, ANS # 0000.999.56003, the obverse of Gold double dinara, Bactria, AD 113 - AD 127. ANS # 1949.66.2

Since there has been some discussion on the blog about reproductions and forgeries, I thought we might look at something along those lines today. Fittingly, then, the object we will be looking at is not a coin. It is an electrotype, an exact copy of the obverse of a coin produced in gold from a process invented in 19th century Russia.

The original coin, shown last, is a Kushan coin, from the reign of Vima Kadphises, dated to the middle of the second century. It reads ΒΑCΙΛΕΥC OO-HMO KAΔΦICHC and shows the king helmeted, on clouds, with a Tamgha behind his head. It is clear the the coins are the same, given the distinctive notch at the bottom right of the flan. 

The electrotype process creates a perfect mold of the object and then, using electricity, activates molecules between two surfaces to create a perfect copy. For those who are interested, an video of the process is available here.

This electrotype, in the American Numismatic Society collection, offers a rare opportunity to see the reverse of such an object, so it is possible to see how, in this case, the electrotype was done first in copper and then gilded. This process can create exact replicas, and has led to trouble in the past with objects intended for study ending up deceiving the unwary on the market. This kind of forgery requires that the forger have access to an authentic original, but can be caught when too many identical coins begin to appear on the market.

In celebration of the European day of Languages on the 26th September, here in the OUP Archives, we have a Victorian sample from the extensive print shop that was closed in 1989.

This artefact shows a selection of the 900 or so languages that Oxford University Press could print at that time. The characters shown were cut (on metal blocks) at the Oxford Press, by Mr John Streaks, who has also made the greater number of the electrotype matrices which are stated in this work to have been produced at the Press. 

Image courtesy of OUP Archives.

Copy that!

Michael Neilson is the Museum’s replication specialist, and works in the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, creating reproductions of objects in the collection. Here he talks about some of the interesting moments in his (rather unique) job!

‘I’ve recently reached 20 years’ service at the Museum. My copies serve many purposes, but are mainly used by curatorial departments to substitute for an original object that has been withdrawn from a gallery, usually because it’s on loan or in a special exhibition. My work crosses every department, era and culture. Projects can vary from replicating a Palaeolithic carved bone to making an intricate piece of modern jewellery.

‘My career history might be described as ‘quirky’. I initially trained as a taxidermist at my local museum in north-east England. I now apply the observation skills I learnt there to the colour matching of replica sculpture and archaeological objects. Depending on the nature or condition of piece, I use conservation moulding techniques to produce a cast, electrotype or even a handmade sculpture using the original as reference. An artist is only as good as his reference, and you can’t get any better reference than having the original on the table in front of you.

‘I usually make a facsimile in synthetic resins and other modern polymers when replicating stone and marble and an electroplating process to copy precious objects made of copper, silver, brass or gold. However, I recently reproduced an object using the same technique and material as the original when I made a reproduction of the Lacock Cup. This can give an insight into the practicalities or difficulties of making the original, and how they were resolved.

‘Although I usually make a ‘one-off’ copy of an original for a specific purpose, when a mould is made, it is always retained for future use. I’ve even used the moulds made by my predecessors several decades earlier! For example, in 2003 I used an old mould taken directly from the front surface of the Rosetta Stone to complete a model for visitors to touch in the Enlightenment Gallery (Room 1). Since then, I’ve made a further 25 copies of it which are dispersed across the globe.’