Intro – Antimony-Tin Based Contemporary Counterfeit – 1895 Crown and 1933 Half Crown

From Wikipedia I am surprised to learn that Antimony is not a common and abundant metal, being but 3x more prevalent than silver it certainly must have been cheaper:

The abundance of antimony in the Earth’s crust is estimated at 0.2 parts per million,[13] comparable to thallium at 0.5 parts per million and silver at 0.07 ppm. Even though this element is not abundant, it is found in more than 100 mineral species.[14] Antimony is sometimes found natively (e.g. on Antimony Peak), but more frequently it is found in the sulfide stibnite (Sb2S3) which is the predominant ore mineral.[13]

This particular coin has 80% tin and 15% Antimony. From my own reference source is a bar of 99%+ tin, used for calibrating the XRF scanner:

99% tin – a silver lustery metal.

From Wikipedia:  The largest applications for metallic antimony are in alloys with lead and tin, which have improved properties for solders, bullets, and plain bearings. It improves the rigidity of lead-alloy plates in lead–acid batteries.

1895 Crown – 93% Ag

A comparison of the above sterling silver example with the antimony-tin counterfeit below should alert collectors to inappropriate colour. The ash metallic grey of the antimony alloyed tin coin points to base metal.

1895 Crown Sn-Sb 80-15

Modern or Contemporary Counterfeit?

The coin was sold as a contemporary fake (i.e., made back in the day, not modern China). There are several reasons to tentatively suggest that this is the case. Below is a 1933 half crown in sterling silver next to a 80-15 tin-antimony alloy counterfeit. This coin was also described as a contemporary fake. Modern Chinese fakes are more frequently alloys that the XRF scanner recognises.


933 half crown in sterling silver next to a 80-15 tin-antimony alloy counterfeit has some useful information on Antimony. Cornwall was a major mining centre from at least the 16th Century through to the 20th. Note the association of Antimony with Gold, Silver, Lead, zinc and Copper deposits in the 2nd chart. That suggests that Antimony was available in commercial quantities in the UK during the period of forgery in question. Furthermore, it would have had to have been cheap to acquire, so as to make the counterfeiting of the coins in question profitable.

Map of Antimony deposits in Europe

Weights and Measures

When determining authenticity, the important differences to note is the weight. The two counterfeits in question average 17% lighter than the authentic sterling silver/50% silver-copper coins. Minute differences in size was noted in the crowns.

I’ve not checked the accuracy of die reproduction on either UK coin, given that the weight and colour differences are sufficient to highlight the nature of the forgery. In contrast, Australian florins by so-called “Manders-Twibles” (an inaccurate nomenclature) are of good silver and require die recognition in order to highlight the fraud.

Profitable Australian Silver Counterfeits

There are several cases of large scale counterfeiting in the history of Australian pre-decimal currency. While shillings were imported by way of cheap Chinese sourced silver, the source of the silver for these counterfeit florins appears to be local scrap purchased in Sydney. The difference in local silver costs from the face value of the florin made the fabrication and circulation of counterfeits very profitable. The easiest means to distinguish authentic from counterfeit on the obverse is the I in BRITT. The authentic points to the rim bead, the counterfeit between beads.

Australian Tin – Antimony Contemporary Counterfeits

I’d been focused on the popular “Mander-Twible” silver fakes as imaged above. Having recently read Vince Kelly’s “The Shadow” on the life of Frank Fahy, it occurred to me that base metal counterfeits had to be available as well. In fact it is significantly easier to find base metal counterfeits than the good silver Mander-Twible coins. The Ebay seller  characterised this Tin-Antimony coin below as a token to resemble a florin. Another way of describing such is a contemporary counterfeit, which is what it is. It has been cast in a mould, which makes it the most primitive of counterfeits in this selection. Arthur Twible was busted in Redfern for just such a amateur venture in uttering counterfeit coins.

1936 Tin-Antimony Casted Counterfeit 2 shillings

Researching the Past to Better Understand the Future

I’ve found it worth my while to understand the past in fraud to better prepare for the onslaught of Chinese fakes presently flooding the US market and progressively making its way to Australia. To focus on colour, weight, die markers, manufacturing and alloys permits a more sophisticated analysis of currency than what Frank Fahy (image below) required by fingering a dud florin in his pocket while chasing criminals on the street of Sydney. As this is my first foray into contemporary counterfeits, future articles will be devoted to analysis and comparisons of fake coins made for Australia. Of course counterfeiting never ceased in Australian currency; it’s just not profitable to mint fakes in metal anymore:

Frank Fahy's Scrapbook portrait of himself