Blockbuster movie posters starring in Jasper52 sale May 14

Jasper52 will debut an Affordable Vintage Movie Collectibles auction on Tuesday, May 14. Original posters, lobby cards and movie stills comprise this 50-lot collection that ranges from film noir to modern cult classics.

‘Key Largo’ (Warner Bros., 1948) vintage original lobby card featuring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, 14in. x 11in. Estimate: $200-$300. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

How to identify fake gold coins

NEW YORK – Ever since the first gold coins were produced in Lydia, in present day western Turkey, in the sixth century B.C., counterfeiters have been at work in what has been called the world’s second oldest profession.

The first gold coins were made from electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver found in the region’s rivers. The coins typically showed a picture of a lion or bull on the face and a punch mark or seal on the other side. They weighed from 17.2 grams (0.55 troy ounces) to as little as 0.2 grams (.006 troy ounces). The introduction of these coins to the masses is said to have been by the Lydian King Croesus (561-547 B.C.). Improvements in refining soon led to the distinct minting of gold coins.

The detail on this counterfeit 1877 $2.50 Liberty gold coin (left) shows limited sharpness throughout. It was identified and properly represented by the auctioneer as a counterfeit and sold for $190. An original 1877 $2.50 Liberty gold coin is pictured on the right and can sell for twice that amount. Image courtesy Affiliated Auctions, GovernmentAuction and

Earlier coinage consisted of ingots of silver before base metal coins were introduced for wider circulation. Pure silver coins were reserved for higher denominations.

The common method for making counterfeit coins has changed little over the centuries. Take a base metal, cover it seamlessly with a precious metal – gold or silver – then die stamp it using a forged engraving of an authentic coin. Then use the debased coin, or fourrée (French for “stuffed”), at face value in regular commercial transactions.

The counterfeiter can also create fourrées by making a clay or ceramic mold of an original coin, then pour the alloy, create the coin, then cover with a thin veneer of precious metal using a “fire gilding” process that involves dissolving mercury to adhere the gold to the base metal. Early silver ingots were also counterfeited the same way.

An example of a counterfeit silver clad Roman coin for Emperor Domitian over a copper alloy, called a fourrée, French for ‘stuffed.’ Image courtesy:

While counterfeiting can be successful, the penalties for being caught were rather extreme. Besides disrupting trade in general, counterfeiting was considered to be a personal offense against the state and the emporer. During Roman times, for example, a counterfeiter could be sentenced to damnatio ad bestias, loosely translated as being fed to the lions during festival days. Death by hanging for counterfeiters was still common in 17th and 18th century Europe.

A third century A.D. clay mold for counterfeiting an early Roman coin. Image courtesy: By Geni and

Gold coins are still being counterfeited, according to of industry studies. A recent study of the 50 most commonly counterfeited U.S. coins by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp., an industry grading company, 43 are gold coins of different eras. And that’s a concern for collectors.

While detecting counterfeits is getting easier in the age of electronics, counterfeiting is still a game of numbers. In 2016, Deutsche Bundesbank, the central bank of the Federal Republic of Germany, reported finding 33,000 counterfeit Euro coins, but only 1,570 precious metal ones. This begs the question: How many others did they miss?

For gold coins it’s getting more difficult to know for sure. Counterfeiters have employed science to help. They have found a particular alloy that replicates a similar density of gold as an alloy in the center. They then cover this alloy with a respectable layer of gold and die stamps them with a counterfeit example of the original. The alloy of choice for gold coins is tungsten. Gold and tungsten are close in density. For that reason, a thin layer of pure gold over tungsten is the ideal combination for counterfeiters because the overall weight is very close. Tungsten has a face value of about one-third of gold per ounce, which makes producing a counterfeit cost effective.

So how do you determine if your gold coin is a counterfeit or not? Biting it won’t work. That was something early gold miners might have done to distinguish the soft gold from the hard pyrite, but otherwise has no relevance as a reliable test. After all, if you have a proof gold coin, for example, biting it, drilling into it, carving a piece out of it to examine, or otherwise removing it from its original plastic slab to test would devalue the coin. You could weigh it, but if the scale isn’t properly balanced or doesn’t weigh past two decimal places, it would be hard to detect if an alloy such as tungsten is being used.

The other, less intrusive way is to examine the coin details. Check that the date is consistent with official production records along with its official weight, diameter and thickness. Under magnification small details such as sloppy lettering, the use of a wrong typeface for numbers and letters, misspelled or missing words, unusual or missing design features, rim or edgings that are spaced incorrectly or missing altogether, and other obvious defects like foundry marks will show up clearly.

One of the ways to quickly determine a counterfeit is by its details, such as this obviously unskilled attempt to replicate the detail along the rim of a coin. Image courtesy: By Peterlewis and

Other more professional methods include a gravity balance test, the use of an x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy using ultraviolet light to measure the electrons, and a device that measures electrical conductivity consistent with gold and any other metals that might be present. All the tests are done with no harm to the coin and usually in their original packaging. Ask a respected local coin or bullion dealer for assistance.

Where are these counterfeit gold coins originating? According to several respected coin and bullion dealers, many of the counterfeit gold coins are being produced in China, among other places. One longtime dealer simply will not accept any gold coins from Iran, for example, knowing that most of their gold coins may be counterfeit. And yet, collecting obvious or suspected counterfeits is another collecting category that can be both a learning experience and an interesting look at the history of gold coinage, without the premium intrinsic value. Even the British Museum has a large collection of ancient and modern counterfeits in its official inventory.

The rule of thumb is to always associate with respected dealers and auction houses when adding gold coins or bullion to your collection. Once a counterfeit is verified, the coin is usually confiscated and destroyed with no recourse for the collector. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, cautious is as cautious does.

Old Masters to modern art ready to hang in May 8 auction

Original works of art will be going up for bid Wednesday, May 8, in a Jasper52 online auction titled “Old Masters to Modern Art Oil Paintings.” Art lovers can choose from 78 paintings having estimates ranging from $350 to $22,000. Offered are paintings from Italian, French and British schools of art. Subjects include portraits of famous leaders, saints, women of nobility and the common man.

Large Classical landscape, ‘Hagar and The Angel,’ oil on canvas, 19th century, follower of Claude Lorrain (French, 1600-1682), 49in. by 62in. Estimate: $18,000-$22,000. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Jasper52 launches fresh wave of medieval jewelry May 8

Seventy-five lots of Viking and medieval jewelry are offered in an online auction conducted by Jasper52 on Wednesday, May 8. Featured are rings, amulets and pendants once worn by Viking warriors, sorcerers, Crusaders and pilgrims during the Middle Ages. Most of the objects have been professionally refurbished with gold or silver overlay for contemporary use.

Viking warrior’s coil ring, 9th-10th century, 3¾ turns, size 9¾, 3¾. Estimate: $700-$900. Jasper52 image

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Get hooked on collecting vintage fishing lures

NEW YORK – Anglers have their favorite fishing holes, especially deep and dark spots few know about where the big fish lurk, and have their favorite lures to catch them. Much like their decoy compatriots, fishing lures have become highly collectible.

Gary Smith, an editor with The National Fishing Lure Collectors Club, said the best-known fishing lure makers are referred to as “The Big Five” and are Heddon, Shakespeare, Pflueger, South Bend and Creek Chub.

Heddon’s Deep Dive River Runt with original box and pocket catalog from 1951. Photo courtesy Heddon Museum

While a top five list of the most highly collectible fishing lures is debatable, and certainly personal, most collectors would likely agree that the original Heddon Frog tops the list. “Very few are known to exist, and provenance is extremely important because reproductions/fakes are out there in circulation,” Smith said. “After that, I would say that the Haskell Minnow is number two.”

This Haskell Minnow marked with the typical ‘R. Haskell Painesville, O., Pat’d Sept 20, 1859,’ 3½in. long, sold for $6,000 at Dan Morphy Auctions on Nov. 3, 2017. Prices do not include the buyer’s premium. Photo courtesy of Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Smith’s third pick for the top lure would be the Flying Helgrammite, which was made by Harry Comstock in upstate New York and was notable as one of the earliest lures having glass eyes. “Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess or preference but good candidates would be the Chautauqua Minnow, first production Heddon Minnows, early Rhodes Minnows [Rhodes morphed into Shakespeare] and first production Pflueger lures,” Smith said.

This Comstock Flying Hellgrammite earned $5,000 in November 2014 at Crossroads Angling Auction. Prices do not include the buyer’s premium. Photo courtesy of Crossroads Angling Auction and LiveAuctioneers

Founded in 1996 by Don and Joan Lyons, the Heddon Museum stands today in Dowagiac, Michigan, where the Heddon company made its fishing tackle.

“The James Heddon & Sons company began selling wood lures on a commercial scale in 1902 in Dowagiac, Michigan. In fact, they named their first lure the ‘Dowagiac.’ That lure today is referred to by collectors as a ‘Slope Nose in recognition of its upward facing snout,” Don Lyons said.

From that first Dowagiac lure, Heddon quickly developed a number of new lures that for the next two decades they referred to generically as Dowagiac Minnows, and added a number such as “100” or “150,” or a name such as Artistic Minnow or Crab Wiggler to distinguish the different lures.

Heddon’s Dowagiac Slope Nose lure from 1904. Photo courtesy Heddon Museum

For years, fishing tackle was purely functional and it’s hard to say just when tackle collecting, especially bait lures, took off but it took shape in the mid-1970s with the formation of the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club. The club (spawning many localized clubs) promoted regular shows across the United States – initially referred to as swap meets because lures were traded, not sold – and it encourages members to share information via club publications, a mission it continues to embrace today.

“As with most hobbies, the popularity of antique fishing tackle was fueled by people who had matured, gained some disposable income and could now afford to own those things that they could only dream about as young kids who had made do with what they could afford, not what they really wanted,” the Lyons said.

A collection of South Bend fishing lures with a National Fishing Lure Collectors Club pin sold for $4,500 in July 2016 at Ellenberger Brothers Inc. Photo courtesy of Ellenberger Brothers Inc. and LiveAuctioneers

Lures were made in different price points and when collecting today, potential buyers must evaluate not only condition but how a specific lure was decorated (glass eye vs. painted eye), material (wood, rubber or hard plastic) and what color. Some lures were made in multiple styles. With regard to condition, Smith suggests buyers consider: “Do you want a lure that appears to be factory-new or would you prefer a lure that exhibits good honest use and therefore tells you it has tempted fish, and maybe caught them?”

People collect vintage lures for various reasons, he noted, including, “the beauty of lure construction and finishes, the link to an earlier (and seemingly less complicated) period in our history, fraternity, investment/profit, the thrill of the hunt or an appreciation of fishing lure history and owning a tangible part of it.”

Various lures like this grouping were offered at the 2016 Nationals show held by the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club. Photo courtesy of the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club

Offering advice beyond doing homework, Smith said, “Be disciplined. Stay within your budget. You might want to limit your search for one company, like Creek Chub. Don’t display your lures in direct sunlight and keep artificial light to a minimum. Excessive exposure to light will cause lures to fade. Control climate as much as possible. Extremely dry air can cause paint to crack; extreme moisture encourages rust.”

“Again, as with all collectibles, collect what you enjoy,” the Lyons advise. “It’s a large and diverse hobby with regional and national clubs that will be glad to help newcomers to the hobby gain knowledge and make new friends.”