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Terms Used in Ancient Numismatics: Ghosting
By Josh Moran, WINS#62

Due to improvements in technology and method of coin minting, some problems which were prevalent on ancient coins have been all but eliminated in modern coinage. Errors such as double striking, die rotation, brockage and off-center strikes are much less common on modern coins than they were on ancients. As a result, some terms that circulate widely among enthusiasts of ancient coins may seldom be heard by collectors of modern coinage. One such term is "ghosting." This is not to say that the term cannot be applied to modern numismatics, but the phenomenon itself is much less common.

Ghosting occurs during the striking of a coin usually due to mated dies that are poorly designed with respect to each other. These dies have an improper matching of relief devices to fields. The ghosting is a faint image of the obverse design that manifests itself on the reverse side of a coin as a result of this imbalance. During the strike, there is not enough pressure to force the metal into all areas of both dies. Because the obverse design is usually much broader and deeper than that of the reverse, some metal is forced deeper into the obverse die and away from the reverse. The resulting image is often similar to that of a clashed die.

The antoninianus of Postumus (259-268 A.D.) pictured above exhibits an excellent example of ghosting. The broad relief of Postumus' portrait on the obverse die, paired up with the deep fields surrounding Aesculapius on the reverse die caused the metal of the relatively thin flan (planchet) to be excessively forced into the obverse die, causing the outline of the bust to appear on the reverse of the coin. As can be seen by comparing the red outline to the inverted image of the obverse, the outline matches with Postumus' nose, forehead, mouth and beard, as well as the back of his neck and two points from his radiate crown. Although an interesting example of contemporary quality control issues, specimens exhibiting such strike defects as ghosting do not command a premium and will often times sell for less than a comparable example free of this "flaw."


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