A fake item on eBay

There are many antiquities for sale on eBay.  But it is very much “buyer beware”.  One item caught my eye a couple of weeks ago:

“ROMAN Ancient Artifact BRONZE PLATE with INSCRIPTION Circa 200-400 AD -4234″… “Circa 200-400 AD. WEIGHT:23.3 g. A Certificate of Authenticity will be issued on request but it will cost extra. CONDITION: FINE.” … “Business seller information: GsalesR.  Contact details: Georgi Kolev, 98 Clacton Road, Walthamstow, London, London E17 8AR, United Kingdom”.  It was sold for a mighty £150, around $220.

The inscription reminded me of something, and, after a while, I found it.  The inscription is identical with that on a slave-collar, in the museum in Rome in the Baths of Diocletian:


I have run away. Catch me. If you return me to my master Zoninus, you will receive a solidus.

So did Zoninus really have this on more than one slave?  Or, more likely, did some enterprising modern chap stamp out an “ancient” artefact, and stick a copy of the inscription on it?  Just how did “Georgi Kolev” of Walthamstow come to have this, and many other Roman items, all dated 200-400 AD?

I think a reasonable man will assume that this is a fake.  Indeed probably all of this seller’s items are fakes.

I am reminded of the wise words of Amelia Edwards about Egyptian antiquities dealers in A Thousand Miles Up The Nile:

Forgers, diggers, and dealers play, meanwhile, into one another’s hands, and drive a roaring trade. Your dahabeeyah, as I have just shown, is beset from the moment you moor till the moment you pole off again from shore. The boy who drives your donkey, the guide who pilots you among the tombs, the half-naked Fellâh who flings down his hoe as you pass, and runs beside you for a mile across the plain, have one and all an “anteekah” to dispose of. The turbaned official who comes, attended by his secretary and pipe-bearer, to pay you a visit of ceremony, warns you against imposition, and hints at genuine treasures to which he alone possesses the key. The gentlemanly native who sits next to you at dinner has a wonderful scarab in his pocket. In short, every man, woman, and child about the place is bent on selling a bargain ; and the bargain, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, is valuable in so far as it represents the industry of Luxor – but no farther. A good thing, of course, is to be had occasionally ; but the good thing never comes to the surface as long as a market can be found for the bad one. It is only when the dealer finds he has to do with an experienced customer, that he produces the best he has.

Genuine items do appear on eBay.  But caveat emptor.


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