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Roman Fourrees

Ian Darke said he has been detecting for 40 years and on various sites during that time has found lots of Roman silver coins. In addition to the genuine coins he has unearthed no less than ten silver and one gold fourrees. If instead of being solid gold or silver a coin has a base metal core covered in gold or silver it is known as a fourree.

Ian sent in images of his finds and three denarii, all silver on a base metal core, are featured here (click an image to enlarge).


The first is coin of Augustus, with the standing figures of Gaius and Lucius on the reverse.


Number two is a coin of Tiberius, with the seated figure of Livia on the reverse.


The last is a coin of Domitian, with the standing figure of Victory on the reverse.

The denarius of Tiberius is the best preserved; on the obverse only very small areas of silver plating are missing and the reverse is fully covered.


Fourrees were made from the Republican period onwards and Ian’s latest one dates from the 4th century. Some are nothing less than forgeries but when the plating is intact they look just like the real thing. Whilst some are certainly forgeries, others are struck from official dies. Whether the striking of fourrees at official mints was government policy or the work of dishonest workers is impossible to say.

I’ve seen a number of very convincing fourrees and if the plating had been intact I would have accepted them as genuine. Leading on from this, I wonder how many examples are in private and museum collections masquerading as solid gold and silver coins.

There is a market for fourrees with keen collectors of Roman coins. However, to achieve a decent price they would have to be offered up in a sale that included a good range of Roman material.


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