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Let's talk fake money!

One of the more frustrating supplies to source for my purse artwork are the gold coins to recreate that look that was often part of the design of old cigar box labels. Since I digitally scan my vintage labels to use on my purses, the radiant gold on these 100 year old stone lithograph labels (and yes, they used traces of real gold back then) will never be more than a drab photographic image on the scan. The answer is to apply coin facsimiles that evoke the look of the coins. I have tried several different methods over the years, and I thought it would be an interesting blog topic, discussing the evolution of my discoveries and where I've ended up as far as a solution.


First, let's talk about the labels themselves. These are examples of final prints of labels that never made it into a cigar box. The gold on them just gleams. Not only is it impossible for the average scanner to ever replicate the gold, the image will be flat and absent of any embossing. That goes for the gold parts as well as any other embossing, such as the roses you see here on Rosa de Santos.

Many cigar box labels for sale by tobacciana collectors are "Salesmen Samples". These are typically samples of label, removed from books that salesmen would take to cigar manufacturers so they could visualize artwork for their own product labels. Since gold was expensive to have in sample books, these sample labels were very dressed down and absent of any branding. Below, you can see an example of a sample label.


No, that's not the camera causing an effect on the gold. It really is drabbed down. This is a nice sample because it's still embossed. Many were not. I can still use these kinds of labels but for any piece where I want to add coins, or even cover up an image of the coin that didn't scan well, I'm going to want to use a real coin.


Here, you can see where I have used coins (jewelry coins) to cover up the images of the coins on the label. I then handset tiny gold beads around them the simulate coin edging.


Once I landed on this method, I went about trying to find all the coins like this that I could find. Here are some of the requirements for the coins in order for them to remain authentic to the ones on cigar box labels:

  • Little to no modern American coins.

  • Nothing really recognizable as any country's currency.

  • As few "Elizabeth II" as possible (although I will use them). She just wasn't around back then, and there seems to be a lot of those in coin facsimile format

  • A variety of sizes preferred

  • Nothing Middle Eastern i.e, belly dancing coins

  • Nothing too ancient artifact-looking like doubloons or "Pieces-of-Eight".

I quickly discovered that coins fitting these requirements are RARE in jewelry or trinket format. But I managed to amass a small hoard of them. And got a little sad as I slowly used them up, knowing how hard they are to find in the assortment I need.

Next problem, tarnishing. Well, that's easy. Just gold leaf and varnish them.


Still, these coins are becoming precious to me as though they were real money. And I was using up some irreplaceable ones. And that's when I got the idea to save them in perpetuity for re-use by making silicone molds and casting them. I bought a silicone mold making kit on Amazon and made molds of some of my favorites. I use acrylic caulk to make the "coins". They come out bathtub-white. Again, gold leaf and seal and I always have coins on hand as I need.


Finally, I will show you some "failures" or less-than-optimal attempts in this process of experimentation.


First, we can rule out these cardboard gold foiled discs. I'm not even sure what they are supposed to be. I remembered getting excited when I found them, but quickly lost that enthusiasm.



Here I will add, that the following ARE elements that I do use depending on the purpose. These are cigar labels that have all the gleaming lustrous gold coins, but are not rare or are of little value as collectors items. I will take a hole punch or scissors and carefully remove those coins. Not ideal for every purpose, but perfect for some things.



Well, that's the run-down on gold coins. Thanks for visiting!



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