Sticky Fingers – Counterfeit Coins

Sticky Fingers – Counterfeit Coins
The Dark Side of Numismatics

17.05.2024 to 21.09.2025

Just as old as minted gold are the crimes associated with it: coins and medallions made of fine metals have been tempting people towards theft, robbery and fraud for as long as they’ve been around. Counterfeit coins put into circulation undermine people’s trust in currency. But they have also been created especially for collectors since as far back as the Renaissance. This exhibition presents originals and counterfeits side by side, as well as siome of the tools of the trade that shed light on the techniques used by counterfeiters.

The main focus of this exhibition is the practice of counterfeiting of coins. Counterfeit coins are usually the result of private endeavour, but they are also sometimes manufactured by state institutions. In times when coins were the only method of payment, counterfeiting presented a serious problem, one which ­– at worst – could lead to a destabilisation of the economy. The question of whether Frederick the Great was a counterfeiter and where exactly the border between voided currency and counterfeit lies are among the topics tackled by this exhibition.

From the Disappearance of Coins to the Challenges of Identifying Counterfeits

The diminishing significance of coins as currency means that counterfeit coins are now a much rarer occurrence. At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult for collectors to identify ever-more sophisticated counterfeit coins. A substantial portion of the exhibition is devoted to the techniques used by counterfeiters. The exhibition uses both historic and modern counterfeiting tools loaned from the Münzkabinett, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the KfW banking group and private owners to help illustrate how these criminals carried out their activities. Visitors to the exhibition can test out the methods used to detect counterfeits themselves. The various punishments dealt out to counterfeiters throughout the ages are also covered in detail.

Coin-Related Crimes

The exhibition also touches on other crimes and their connection to coins. Theft, robbery and offences relating to the protection of cultural assets are not specifically numismatic problems. However, the fact that coins and medallions are easy to carry makes them particularly susceptible to these criminal acts. The Münzkabinett’s own collection has been repeatedly hit by thefts, beginning from the time of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) through to the “Big Maple Leaf” that was stolen from the Bode-Museum in 2017.

The Münzkabinett: A Treasure Trove of Deception

The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s Münzkabinett currently houses around 540,000 objects related to monetary history, including thousands of counterfeit coins that have been deliberately collected since the 19th century. With objects from some of history’s most famous coin counterfeiters, such as Nicolaus Seeländer (1682–1744) and Carl Wilhelm Becker (1772–1830), the Münzkabinett looks after a unique set of archives and holdings that also encompass many tools used for counterfeiting.


This exhibition was curated by Christian Stoess, research associate at the Münzkabinett.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication through Battenberg-Gietl Verlag titled Falschgeld und Münzfälschungen, featuring 15 contributions by renowned academics on the topics explored by the exhibition.

A special exhibition by the Münzkabinett – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Source : Museen zu Berlin