One of the more popular collector series is the Indian Head or Buffalo Nickels. Designed by James Earl Fraser, a student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, this design was a continuation of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” to change the look of the nation’s coinage.
Introduced in 1913, the coin features a right-facing Indian head (now called a Native American head). Although there have been claims by several tribal chiefs that they were the model, Fraser’s notes suggest the image was created using the features of several men.
The reverse features the image of a buffalo, which in reality is a North American bison. The 38 different types of buffaloes live in Africa and feature larger horns similar to a longhorn steer. Most are domesticated and are raised like cattle is in the United States. Bison are largely wild animals native to the western hemisphere. Aside from their shorter horns, they have beards hanging from their chin and heavier coats that allow them to survive in colder climates.
But that has not stopped people from referring to the coin as a Buffalo nickel. It is a design so popular that when it has been used in coinage, the available supply usually sells out.
Before I receive a deluge of email, the Jefferson nickels struck from 1942 through 1945 were struck on a planchet made from .560 copper, .350 silver, and .090 manganese and features a large mint mark over the image on Monticello on the reverse. This was done to reduce the use of copper and nickel needed for the war effort.
Like every five-cents coin made since the introduction of the 1883 Liberty Head or “V” nickel, the planchet is made from an alloy of 75-percent copper and 25-percent nickel. Most vending machines will not be able to tell the difference between a Buffalo nickel and a Jefferson nickel.
The coin’s ability to be used in vending machines and how a worn coin could pass the unwatchful eye of a cashier, it is possible to find a Buffalo nickel in change. Although there are very few of these coins remain in circulation, avid change hunters say they can find one every 12-16 months.
This was the case when a reader found what was thought to be a 1914-D Buffalo nickel. Although not a rare or key date, a 1914-D coin could be worth upwards of $70-80 in good (G-4) condition. Finding a Denver mint coin from that year would be better than finding a Philadelphia mint coin since a coin in good (G-4) condition would be worth $16-18.
But this coin was different. Rather than having a “D” mintmark on the reverse, the “D” was backward!
The found coin, a 1914-D Buffalo Nickel (obverse)
The reverse of the found 1914-D with an alleged “Inverted D” mintmark
Prior to the U.S. Mint creating dies with mintmarks in Philadelphia, they would send dies to the branch mints without mintmarks. The coiners at the branch mint would use a punch to imprint the mintmark into the die before striking coins. Of course, this manual process was not perfect and there are cases of mispunched, repunched, overpunched, and other such errors.
There have been cases of a mintmark that was punched horizontally into the die. Those mintmarks were repunched correctly. Coins from the San Francisco mint has had errors where the “S” is punched upside down known as an inverted mintmark. This is a fun error to find because noticing this error requires a careful eye and patience along with understanding the shape of the “S” in the font used.
However, there is no reference that mentions a backward punched mintmark.
A closer look at the “inverted” D mintmark
Adding or removing mintmarks is a common method to artificially change the value of a coin. Remove the “S” from a 1921 Walking Liberty half-dollar and watch its value raise by 300-percent. Or practice adding a “D” to a 1914 Buffalo nickel to make a 400-percent profit.
After checking several references and speaking with two dealers, I sat with a box of Buffalo nickels I have to compare the mintmarks to the one on the coin. Additionally, I consulted with the images at PCGS Photograde. After all, it could be a real, undiscovered error.
The first thing I noticed on the image and with the coins I have on hand is that the mintmark on this coin is too defined for the grade. When comparing the coin to the images on Photograde, if the coin was sent in for grading it would probably be assigned a grade of G-6 of VG-8. Because of the worn rims, this coin would not grade higher than VG-8 and could be assigned a G-4.
As I was looking at the coins, those that would grade VG-8 or lower with worn rims also had mintmarks that were almost worn into the rim. In more than a dozen examples from my box, the mintmarks on all of the low-grade coins showed the rims and mintmark worn together.
Another aspect of the mintmark that bothered me was that the “D” seemed smaller than those on the coins I was looking at. For comparison, I pulled out my album with higher grade Buffalo nickels and found that the mintmark was similar in size to those in higher grades.
According to PCGS Photograde, this 1921 Buffalo Nickel represents a VG8 grade.
Look at the “D” mintmark on this 1929-D nickel graded F12 as part of PCGS Photograde
Then there is the coloring around the mintmark. Comparing it to the examples in my box, the dirt patterns around the “D” seems off. While the coloring around all of the letters appears to be uneven, there appears to be a consistent line around the “D.” In fact, the coloring at the bottom of the “D” is inconsistent with that of the other letters around it.
If I had the coin in hand, I would be able to examine it closer with a 15x loupe. I would even attempt to pick at it with a toothpick to see if the “D” would fall off. However, given all of the issues with the coin based on the images alone, I am reasonably certain that the “D” was added by someone outside of the U.S. Mint.
Of course, if you have your own theories then please post them as a comment, below.
PCGS Photograde images courtesy of PCGS and can be found here
A regular reader was upset about the appearance of hypocrisy at the World’s Fair of Money
. On one hand there was a lot of talk about counterfeit collectibles from China. On the other hand, there was a lot of hoopla over the Panda with special designs and privy marks honoring the World’s Fair of Money. In this episode of “LOOK BACK,” I update what I wrote in February 2014
about China and counterfeits.
A persistent question that follows stories about counterfeiting is why do most of the counterfeits come from China and how do they get away with doing this? Unfortunately, the answer lies in differences in our laws, politics, and cultures that may not be as easily resolved as people would like.
Front of a counterfeit 2012-dated American Eagle $50 denomination one-ounce gold bullion coin. (Photo courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.)
Every coin minted by the U.S. Mint is legal tender and are legally an instrument of the government. Although the Trade dollar was demonetized in 1876, it was remonetized as part of the Coinage Act of 1965 making it legal tender (31 U.S.C. § 5103) for trade in the United States. This means that it is legal to spend an 1873 Trade Dollar for $1 of goods and services even though the coin is worth more than its face value.
To protect its currency, the United States has anti-counterfeiting laws that makes it illegal to counterfeit the nation’s money and use in commerce. For collectible coins and currency congress passed and has since updated the the Hobby Protection Act (15 U.S.C. § 2101 et. seq.). These laws protect the money supply when it is a collectible and not an instrument of commerce.
In the United States, laws are cumulative. Once passed, they remain the law until repealed or declared unconstitutional by the courts. This is not the way in many other countries. In many countries, when a new government takes power they are given the authority to rewrite the laws. It is expected to happen within authoritarian governments but it is common in many parliamentary democracies.
The People’s Republic of China has been run by the Communist Party since 1949. Their rules and laws have changed significantly when the Communist Party came into power. One of their first rules was to demonetize the money produced by the Republic of Chin and issued renminbi, the “people’s currency.”
Since then, it has been the practice of the chairman of the Communist Party to demonetize non-current issues of coins and currency as part of their economic control policies. Based on the current Chinese economic system, all coins struck since 1955, the first issued under the current government, are legal tender. Currency printed since 1999, the fifth series is the only legal tender notes. Any other coin or currency note has been demonetized.
Under Chinese anti-counterfeiting laws, it is illegal to duplicate any legal tender coin or currency note for any reason. However, since coinage from previous regimes is no longer legal tender, it is legal to strike coins with those designs. Chinese laws do not recognize the collection of these coins as a market to protect.
Buying and selling coins as an object is a matter of commerce between individuals and not something that requires protection under Chinese law. While the Chinese buyer can use the obsolete coin as an object of barter, bartering does not hold the same legal status as paying with legal tender currency. Basically, once coins are demonetized, just about anything goes.
An example of a Morgan Dollar cut in half to match a date with a mintmark to have the coin appear something it is not. Coin was in a counterfeit PCGS slab and caught by one of their graders.
Chinese law does not recognize the perpetual legal tender status of every coin issued. Chinese law also recognizes that counterfeiting current issues of other countries is also illegal because someone could try to use the coin in commerce where it is legal to use foreign currency. This means that in China, it would be illegal to reproduce a presidential dollar or Washington quarter, but producing Morgan dollars or a set of 1921 Walking Liberty half-dollars is legal in China because these are coins no longer issued in the United States.
When China is asked to assist the United States to stop the counterfeiting of coins, China does not recognize that its people are doing anything wrong. The coins are no longer being made, they are not in circulation, and their laws allow people to make copies of these coins. The only laws that China has regarding collectibles are laws protecting antiquities and cultural properties. This means that you cannot duplicate a Ming Dynasty vase and try to pass it off as real but it is legal to reproduce a Rembrandt masterpiece since he is not Chinese and his work was not made in China.
A trade attorney that was originally consulted for this article confirmed that when it comes to these issues, Chinese law is very protectionist. The claim is that they follow their laws consistently regardless of outside circumstances and they refuse to make exceptions citing the complication with enforcing their laws in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion people.
Making the problem more difficult, copying and counterfeiting of grading service holders are also not covered by Chinese law because they are not made by government entities. The grading services would have to fight the counterfeiters using Chinese patent and copyright law. A patent attorney confirmed that not only would this not stop the problem, but foreign challenges to alleged patent and copyright violations are rarely successful in Chinese courts.
PCGS representatives showed Congressmen counterfeit U.S. coins in counterfeit PCGS holders during their recent meetings in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy of PCGS.)
The Chinese government has no incentive to help the United States or any other country fight counterfeiting in what is perceived by the Chinese as a small market problem. To put the resources necessary into what looks like a petty crime for selling inexpensive, non-circulating duplicate coins that are within Chinese law to manufacture is considered not worth their resources.
While there is anecdotal evidence that the Chinese government knows about the counterfeit trades and some officials informally support the efforts because they get kickbacks, official Chinese policy denies there is a problem.
A lot has been written about the nature of the relationship between the United States and China since President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. Neither side trusts each other nor does neither side believe each other. Today, the United States decries the Chinese for buying too much of our debt, allegations of spying, industrial espionage, and cyber crimes. The Chinese say that the United States is trying to bully the world and that these naysayers are making up the stories to scare the world into following them. The United States talks about civil rights violations within the Chinese border and the Chinese government tells the United States to mind its own business.
The greater opening of markets between the country and the increase in popularity of bullion coins has made the Chinese Panda a popular coin amongst collectors and investors. Those of us who buy these coins know that even with the production increases since 2010 new issues continue to command a premium greater than other bullion coins.
While the Chinese are happy to sell coins and be the factory to the United States, there remains an underlying tone of political and commercial hostility between the nations. A trade attorney said that the Chinese would rather keep the relationship to business between the countries that the United States should stay out of China’s domestic policy. It was explained that the Chinese central government was upset over how the United States passed judgment over companies in their high tech electronic manufacturing sector because these companies are doing better and are safer than other Chinese manufacturers. To the Chinese government, it is not a problem if a few workers die for whatever reason. There is an ample supply from the population to keep the plants running.
These are the values of the Chinese government. Whether you agree with them or not, Communist Party officials will resent anyone telling them how to manage their domestic affairs. They want advice about how to treat their citizens as much as the United States wants similar advice from China.
There is no incentive for China to stop the manufacture of counterfeit collectible coins.
It is not against Chinese law for these people to manufacture coins that are no longer in production. Chinese people who are manufacturing these coins are working in China and many employ other people. It means there are fewer people relying on assistance the Chinese government provides. Since they now have incomes, it provides revenues for the tax coffers.
When a United States trade representatives negotiate with their Chinese counterparts, it gives the Chinese a chance to lecture the United States how they resolved the counterfeiting issues which leads to a discussion on currency handling and management, which is a sore subject in the United States since the United States questions Chinese monetary policies.
A portion of the exhibit of confiscated counterfeits on special loan from the Department of Homeland Security displayed at the 2018 World’s Fair of Money® by ICTA/ACTF.
Finally, it gives China a measure of moral superiority against the United States. After all, China figured out a way to prevent the impact of counterfeiting of older currency, why can’t the United States do the same?
China has no incentive to help the United States to solve a problem that they perceive does not exist. It is up to the United States to resolve these issues. This is why the industry promoted the Collectible Coin Protection Act (Public Law No: 113-288) so that law enforcement has an additional tool to use to help prosecute handlers of counterfeit coins in the United States.
You can read the original article here
It is difficult to turn on the television, read the news, or visit social media without the tragedies of the day smacking us in the face. Although crime statistics are the lowest it has been in generations, there are some crimes that have seen a rise. Those are the crimes that are given the headlines and the most airtime on the news.
Unfortunately, the news extends beyond the mainstream but extends to Main Street.
Numismatics has not been a stranger to the criminal element. If it is not embezzlers using coins to defraud people and governments, there are the counterfeits primarily coming from China. Now there are two new scams that the industry has to watch.
Counterfeiting currency is definitely not a new issue. Counterfeiting the currency that is supposed to be the most secure is something that is now hitting the mainstream, especially in countries that have adopted the use of polymer notes, is important news.
Police in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has reported the confiscation of 72 bogus Canadian banknotes. Counterfeiters are using a combination of printed plastic sheets and physical cut-and-paste of lower denomination notes to mimic higher denomination notes.
Image released by the Saskatoon Police showing the counterfeit currency (Image courtesy of the Saskatoon Police via the Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
Within the same news feed, the Bank of England issued warnings and additional guidance after counterfeit notes were used for purchases at pubs in Lincolnshire. Many stories from the U.K. suggest that the people do not seem to like the new polymer notes, but this does not seem to help.
Bank of England wants people to watch for the color shifting ink in the quill (Bank of England image)
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Australia’s central bank and the primary developer of the polymer substrate used around the world, has found that their currency is under attack by industrious forgers. One particular forger found a plastic substrate similar to the polymer developed by the RBA. The forger bought one high-quality commercial printer from the used market and rented two others to print Australian $50 notes.
According to the reports, the $50 note was picked because it provides is common enough to be used in daily transactions (AU$50 is equivalent to US$39.06 as this is being written) and high enough of a denomination to be cost-effective for the forger. Remember, forgery may be a crime but it is a business.
A counterfeit Australian $50 note has the wrong security stripes and the star field on the right is supposed to be clear (Image courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald)
Although these issues have not directly affected the collectible currency market, it has had an effect on the dealers when their customers pay in cash. Even with the rise of electronic transactions, many European dealers continue to do over-the-counter sales using cash. In some countries, like Germany, cash is still king even when purchasing rare coins.
While discussing these issues with a dealer based in Germany, it was reported that he will not accept large sums of cash from customers he has not done business with in the past. This dealer does not accept credit card payments over 200€ or for any bullion-based transactions. His regular customers can directly wire the funds to a special account the dealer set up. Others must use certified bank checks.
This is not to suggest wire transfers are safe. In a blog post on Kovels.com, they have been contacted by antique dealers that reported money stolen by wire transfers. According to the blog post:
The fraudsters hack your emails and insert their own email, cloned to look like an email from a trusted person, into your email stream. They then request a wire transfer — providing all needed wire instructions — for something that looks legitimate. Once a bank wire is sent, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get the money back. If you need to send a wire, be sure to use “old” technology and confirm on the telephone with someone that you know!
Even though I am no longer in the information security business, it is still my obligation to remind you that EMAIL IS NOT A SECURE FORM OF COMMUNICATION! Email is the electronic equivalent of a postcard. Any message you send, unless it is encrypted, can be read, scanned, snooped, and even altered by anyone, anywhere, at any time.
“Oh, it cannot happen to me!”
I used to hear that line when I taught a senior-level college class on information security. Using a laptop connected to an overhead projector, I was able to show the class how easy it was not only to create spam but to make it look like an email was sent by someone else. I was also able to demonstrate how to read the email traffic on the local network with a few keystrokes. Are you using wireless connections? You just made stealing your information easier for the hacker.
Counterfeiting and wire fraud are not just problems for dealers. When dealers are defrauded by these criminals, they have to recover the money in some way. Insurance does not cover all losses or the extra security that will be required to protect their transactions. Prices will have to go up to cover the losses and the future costs of doing business.
The cost of doing business in this environment is not a trivial subject. While dealers of all types of collectibles want you business, fraudsters are making it difficult for dealers trust the off-the-street buyer. This makes counterfeiting and fraud a problem for everyone.
As the British are winding down the use of the Round Pound, stories are once again popping up about errors of the new 12-sided pound coin being sold for high prices on eBay.
Although the Royal Mint has admitted to manufacturing issues in trying to produce enough new pound coins to satisfy circulation requirements, their claim that the number of errors where the center are missing of the bi-metallic coins is likely post-minting errors.
In other words, they are suggesting that people are removing the centers of the coin to claim they are errors.
A weak strike can prevent the two metals from fusing properly allowing them to separate
To better understand why it is being claimed these are post-mint errors, I contacted a European-based dealer who has relationships with many of the continent’s mints. What follows is a summary of his explanation.
The Royal Mint coins money in a process similar to any other mint. Planchets are prepared, sent the coining press, stamped, dumped into a hopper, and sent down a conveyor where they are bagged. The bags are weight to a precise weight before the bags are accepted. Along the way, there are cameras and other sensors to detect errors.
All of the checks and sensors, including the weight of the coin, would be caught long before reaching the bagging section. Aside from the dimensions not being correct, the weight of the ring or center by themselves would not be up to the standard.
It is possible that the coins could separate in the bags during transport. However, these coins are transported to government authorized handlers. Some of them are similar to the companies that drive armored trucks here in the United States. They take the coins and prepare them for delivery to the banks.
The preparation process requires coins to be counted, rolled, and bagged. As part of the process, the coins are loaded into a system that transfers them to an automated line that brings the coins by conveyor to a machine that will either roll them or dump them in a bag. In both cases, the contents are limited by the amount they hold.
As part of the automated system, the coins are counted and check for size and weight so that if there are any coins that do not meet the Royal Mint’s standards are removed. The automated system would catch the ring and the center if they separated before the process.
Coins that are to be rolled are sent to a machine to roll them where they are counted and placed in rolls of £25 each. Those rolls are for bank and retail use and handled accordingly.
Bagged coins are used by bulk handlers such as the coin-op industry. Bags with £100 of coins are counted before being placed in the bag. If the coin cannot be verified before it is placed in the bag then the coin is rejected.
Is it possible for the coin to separate in the £100 pound bag prior to circulation? Of course, it is. However, there is one more check before the coins reach the consumer, and that is the coin-op machine itself.
Coin-op machines have mechanisms to try to prevent accepting counterfeit money and to ensure it is giving the proper change. Machines just do not eject any coin in its hopper. These checks include the weight, dimensions, and magnetic signature. The magnetic signature measures what happens after magnetic energy is flashed on the coin. Think about it as measuring how the coin would reflect light but use magnetism instead.
A pound coin that had separated would not pass the magnetic signature test and be rejected.
Although there are a number of points along the process that could fail, the number of checks between the Royal Mint and the consumer, it is highly unlikely that all of these separated pound coins exist.
It is possible that the coins being sold are from the reject bins of coin-op machines. However, the dealer I spoke with is suspicious of the number of coins being sold.
This dealer told me that he will not buy 12-sided pound coins dated 2016 without their centers. Technically, they are not coins because they originally did not have the portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the front. Under British law, all legal tender coins must have the image of the monarch on the front. In 2016, the Royal Mint created about 2000 of these 12-sided test slugs for businesses to test coin-op systems ahead of the conversion. The dealer community has serious doubts that the test slugs had these errors and believes that people separated the centers from the rings.
Trial strikes found without the effigy of Queen Elizabeth, II
My dealer contact said that nobody should pay more than “three-and-a-half quid” (£3.50 or $4.64 at the current exchange rate) for just a 12-sided pound outer ring. Even if it is not a legitimate Royal Mint error it is a nice conversation piece.
Examples of legitimate 12-sided £1 coin errors
Too hard of a strike is likely to have caused the copper-nickel center to melt across the coin.
First new £1 coin error found with missing detail on the thistle
On September 12, Apple opened the Steve Jobs Theater on their new campus in Cupertino with an announcement of new hardware. There was the new Apple Watch 3, Apple TV-4K, and two new iPhones.
Outside of the tech press, everyone is focused on the iPhone X, “X” for the Roman numeral 10, a marvel of engineering but will cost $1,000. Breaking that $1,000 barrier is a big thing because it makes the iPhone X the most expensive smartphone on the market.
But I see another story that can be more important to a lot of other markets than the price of the device. It is the technology that can be industry altering.
Both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X have dual-lens cameras that are designed to enhance the use of photography. The new cameras have larger sensors that pick up more pixels of information with a processor that can better process the image.
It is the image processing and the iPhone’s ability to use the detailed images to map the terrain, textures, and to use augmented reality (AR) to enhance what the camera sees.
An area where this technology can help numismatics is with computer-based grading.
Computer-based grading was first tried in 1991 using the technology of the day. While it was a good start, the technology was just not ready for the ability to grade coins.
Apple proved that the technology is ready to try again.
Human-based grading has led to an environment of mistrust amongst the grading services. It is the failure of humans to be consistent in grading that leads to religious-like arguments as to which grading service is better. These failures have led the creation of verification services to check up on the ability of grading services to do their job.
The ability for the imaging process to visualize and analyze thousands of polygons on an image, the way imaging technology visualizes the three-dimensional surface, in such a way to allow for real-time expression processing and rendering can be used to assess the surface of a coin.
Another problem that can be resolved is the crack out game. Some people will crack coins out of their slabs to submit them to the grading services multiple times to play on the failure of humans to be consistent to try to have the coins graded higher. The information created based on the surface analysis of the coin will result in digital data that should be unique to each coin. Minute scratches and other environmental factors can help distinguish one coin from another in the same manner that there are subtle differences that can detect on identical twin from another.
Creating a digital signature for each coin will help prevent theft or help law enforcement use the information to track stolen items.
Imaging analysis can look at the surface to find alterations like the use of a chemical that would change the surface. Rather than using the “sniffing” technology that Professional Coin Grading Service has pioneered to find chemical additives, a surface analysis can detect chemical-based alterations to the surface.
Altered surface detection can also be used to detect unnatural toning. It will require teaching the imaging systems to detect the differences between natural and unnatural toning, but the long-term benefits to the hobby will be tremendous.
Aside from grading consistency and the ability detect altered surface, it is possible to expand current technologies that will help detect the use of plated or other metal counterfeits. Devices that are able to visualize a few microns under the surface of the coin to detect the metal content along with the new visualization technologies will make it more difficult to pass counterfeit coins.
Device that could metallic analysis of a coin below the surface
In the short term, this will not put the third-party grading services out of business but it will change their business. They will not be grading and regrading coins. The computer will analyze the coin, provide the owner with a report, and that report will be consistent regardless of the imaging process used. Otherwise, the coin was altered and you would know about it.
Eventually, this could eliminate the plastic slab that has been counterfeited. The coin itself becomes its own identifier and reduces the reliance on the slab.
Counterfeit U.S. coins in counterfeit PCGS holders (Photo courtesy of PCGS.)
This technology will eliminate the verification services. There will no need for a human to verify the human-based grading. After all, the fourth-party verification process is artificially driving up the costs of collector coins because of blind trust placed in humans verifying humans.
Although I spent nearly all of my adult life in the technology industry, I am not for technology completely taking over all aspects of our lives. There is a level of trust in the hardware and software that must be earned to have me feel comfortable with things like self-driving cars or even maintaining personal information (see the recent Equifax breach).
However, I am for the use of technology where it can solve a problem. Technology can solve the problem of inconsistent grading. Technology can solve the problem of coin identification. Technology can solve the problems with counterfeiting. Why not use technology to increase the trust in the numismatic market by fixing these problems?
It is now time that technology was put to use in the numismatic and collecting industries in order to create a level of assurance for the collector that their item is genuine and the condition is what the collectible is being represented as.
- iPhone X image courtesy of Apple.
- Niton scanner image by the author.
- Counterfiet PCGS slabs courtesy of PCGS
As I continue my research into history and technology of counterfeiting, I have been collecting historical statistics as to the problem of counterfeiting. I thought I would share the current statistics I found.
The most common counterfeited denomination is the 20s, be they dollars, pounds, euros, or pesos. For currencies whose values are significantly lower than the dollar, such as the yuan, or whose currencies have no real fractions, like the yen, the most common counterfeited denomination is the 100 unit.
In the past few years, many countries and central banks have released new currency with additional anti-counterfeiting technologies. Canada is currently in the process to transition to the cotton bond currency to a polymer substrate. Since starting the transition, the Bank of Canada is reporting a decrease of 141,502 notes in 2007 ($3.3 million in value) to 17,492 in 2016 ($900,000 in value). For Canada, this is a decrease in 88-percent of the number of notes passed and a decrease of 73-percent in value.
The top note is a counterfeit $100 note, the bottom is a legitimate note
A few months ago, the Royal Mint began the process of issuing a 12-sided pound coin to replace the round-pound because about 2.5 percent of 1.6 billion of 1 pound coins are counterfeit. Although this has been a painful process, the Brits will continue the transition which calls for demonetizing the round-pound by October 15, 2017.
Detecting counterfeit £1 coins, the genuine coin has edge lettering (left), the counterfeit does not.
The Bank of England began issuing currency using the polymer substrate starting with the £5 notes. The paper fiver was withdrawn on May 5, 2017 (withdraw the £5 on 5/5… get it?!). Plans continue to issue the £10 note in September.
The move to polymer notes was prompted because of a spike in counterfeiting in 2012. Spiking at more than 746,000 counterfeiting notes with a value of £13.71 million, the Bank of England reports that 347,000 counterfeit notes valued at £7.47 million were confiscated in 2016.
The European Central Bank reports that counterfeiting remains low in the Eurozone and even reduced by 20.7-percent from 2015 to 2016. Of the notes counterfeited, the €20 and €50 notes make up 80.3-percent of the most counterfeited currency. Surprisingly, the €100 (at 9.7-percent) and €500 notes (4.9-percent) are not as widely counterfeited. However, the ECB has other concerns with these high denomination notes since the €500 notes are a favorite amongst the cash-based illegal trade because it takes fewer notes to carry a high-volume of currency. One study noted that the €500 note was referred to as the “Bin-Laden” for its added convenience.
Eurozone has had more problems with counterfeit €2 coins than currency.
The ECB is in the process of transitioning their currency to the new Europa Series. A new €50 note was issued this past April. Aside from new designs, the Europa series uses some of the advanced technologies to prevent counterfeiting but does so on cotton bond. Currently, there is no plan to use the polymer substrate for the Euro notes.
As opposed to other central banks, the People’s Bank of China (PBC) is not as forthcoming with information. But when they do something, news reporters can obtain some nuggets of information from Chinese officials. When the PBC unveiled new 100 yuan notes with additional counterfeiting features, they reported to the Wall Street Journal that police confiscated 532 million yuan ($85.6 million) in counterfeit bills in 2014. The most commonly counterfeited notes were 50 yuan and 100 yuan bills but there have been increases in lower denominations.
Mexico has been undergoing a slow conversion to polymer notes. Currently, the 20- and 50-peso notes are made using polymer and the new generation of 100-peso notes are made of polymer. Higher denominations continue to be printed on cotton bond but incorporate a number of advanced anti-counterfeiting features other countries are using. The Bank of Mexico has not announced plans to convert higher denominations but a representative reported that the plan is to print future special issues on cotton bond, such as the 100-peso banknote commemorating The 100th Anniversary of The Enactment of the Constitution issued last February.
Click on the image to read a nice description (in English) on identifying genuine Mexican currency
Statistics published by the Bank of Mexico reports a decrease in the number of counterfeit currency from 70.7 per million issued to 61.8 per million notes issued. This represents a decrease of 12.6-percent. When the Bank of Mexico issued the new polymer 20- and 50-peso notes in 2014, they experienced a drop in 36.9-percent in counterfeiting.
It is not a surprise that the world’s most use currency and the currency that most world trade is based is the most counterfeited currency in the world. There is also more United States currency in circulation that any other, including the Euro. According to the Federal Reserve, there is approximately $1.49 trillion in Federal Reserve notes circulation. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco says that 31.1-percent of those notes is the ubiquitous dollar and 26-percent are $100 Federal Reserve Notes mostly held overseas.
According to the United States Secret Service in their 2015 Annual Report, the latest available, they prevented the circulation of over $58 million in counterfeit U.S. currency resulting in the arrest of 796 criminals and closing 145 manufacturing operations. Of the $58 million counterfeited, $28 million, about half, of the bogus U.S. currency was seized prior to it being circulated.
Prop Movie Money continues to be a problem because people just do not look!
The $20 bill is the most commonly counterfeited banknote in the U.S., while overseas counterfeiters are more likely to make fake $100 bills.
In every report downloaded from the various governments and central banks regarding the security of their currency, it is a common theme that the vast majority of counterfeiting would have a minimal impact if people would just look for the anti-counterfeiting measures these entities go through great lengths to add to the currency. Whether it is not looking for the edge lettering on the old round-pound or the recent cut-and-paste of the security features of Canadian currency, there would be few problems if people would just look.
- Canada counterfiet currnecy image courtesy of CTV News.
- Counterfeit round-pound image courtesy of BBC News
- Counterfeit €2 coins courtesy of The Daily Mail
- Mexican currency image courtesy of Bajainsider.com.
Since Volume 22 of the “Weekly Numismatic World Newsletter” will not be sent via email, the following would have been the exclusive content included in the newsletter. A service update follows.
Counterfeiting remains a problem for society and the collector’s market. This was highlighted this week with two stories I posted about scammers and opportunists preying on the public too eager to believe.
In the collector’s market, scammers are taking advantage of the Royal Mint’s myriad of errors on the new £1 coin and mocking up their own errors to sell online. The error coins are clearly contrived because most either remove the center copper-nickel section or replace it in reverse, showing the Queen’s portrait on the wrong side. A few have been polishing the side with the Queen’s portrait to resemble the 2016 version that was issued by the Royal Mint to businesses for testing.
Canadian authorities have found that altered $5 notes are being used to forge $100 notes. Currently, the $5 note is made of polymer and scammers have found that by cutting out the features in the clear window and taping over the cutouts and still be used. Scammers print their own $100 notes, which are still printed on cotton bond currency paper, and use the clear window to make the notes look legitimate. The problem is that if people looked at the notes, its alterations and counterfeits are easily detectable.
It is interesting that people are so willing to try to figure out how to counterfeit currency, especially when it can be detected if someone put in the time to look. It says a lot about a society when the number one blog post on my site is “How easy is it to pass counterfeit currency” where I discussed the use of the iodine pen and the number one clicked link is the one to the site where I borrowed the image of the of the iodine pen.
The scary part is that people are not paying attention to the simple measures.
Because of an issue with the provider, the Weekly Numismatic World Newsletter has been suspended.
Unfortunately, the automated system run by MailChimp appeared to have choked on the word “counterfeit.” I am not sure if this is the exact reason for the problem, but their support is so bad that I have not been able to contact a human to explain the issue to me. When I tried to find another provider (SendInBlue based in France), I was accused of being a spammer. Based on what I can find out, MailChimp may have added me to a non-public database blackballing me from finding another service.
If that is the case, then I will likely create a self-hosted newsletter service. Although it is something I am technically capable of doing I was hoping to relieve myself of the management responsibility. Until I can determine my next move, I am suspending the newsletter. Sorry!
Police in Vancouver, British Columbia has discovered that criminals are altering the new polymer notes to create counterfeits that are being passed in the region. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Bank of Canada are warning merchants that criminals are splicing $5 bills to remove the holographic strips and add them to color-copied $100 notes to make them seem less suspicious.
In order to make sure that the clear window in the polymer notes does not raise suspicion, clear packing tape has been used on the altered $5 notes to cover the alteration.
Discovered in Metro Vancouver, police found that a careful examination of the notes shows that the $5 notes can be altered in a way that does not raise suspicion while creating $100 notes that has been passed with little notice, until recently.
A representative from the Bank of Canada says that criminals are preying on the fact that people are not verifying the notes. The Bank of Canada issued a release urging merchants to check the notes for more than one of the security features.
Travelers to Canada and United States dealers that accept Canadian currency as a convenience to their customers from north of the border should learn about the embedded security features before accepting these notes. Visit the Bank of Canada Banknote website for more information as to how to recognize legitimate currency.
Clarification Update: The three lower denomination Canadian notes ($5, $10, and $20) are made using the polymer substrate. The higher denomination note ($50 and $100) are still made with rag bond paper. These notes are scheduled to be converted to polymer in the next few years.
Anti-counterfeiting features on the front of the Canadian polymer $20 note
Anti-counterfeiting features on the back of the Canadian polymer $20 note
All currency images courtesy of the Bank of Canada.
As the British public transitions to the new £1 coin, the finding of errors in the minting process by the Royal Mint have led to a new phenomenon, the counterfeiting of those errors.
On the left is an altered British £1 coin. The coin on the right is a legitimate coin.
According to media reports confirmed by the Royal Mint, the three significant errors found are when the thistle on the reverse did not strike properly is produced as a smooth blob, the copper-nickel center of the bimetallic planchet appears to have melted across the coin, and the inner disc and outer ring did not fuse properly. Coins with legitimate errors have been sold on eBay (U.K. and U.S.) for significant premiums.
Unfortunately, scammers have picked up on these problems and have been selling altered coins on eBay as errors. Common alterations are based on removing the silver-colored center and create error-like coins by making different alterations. Amongst the tries to create something that looks like an error includes the Queen’s portrait appearing on the wrong side of the coin and facing the wrong direction which is impossible because of the how these coins are struck, the center of the obverse lacking the Queen’s portrait, and gouges removed from the center.
Both the errors and fakes are being sold for an average of £300 (approx. $386.13) on eBay.
If you want to purchase a British £1 error coin carefully examine the image and the image of a legitimate coin from the Royal Mint’s website. Make sure the person you are buying from has a return policy or buy from a dealer. Of course, it is easier to be careful buying from the U.K. on that side of the Atlantic, but for those U.S.-based error enthusiasts, you have to do your due diligence. Otherwise, you may get stuck with a fake!
Known legitimate errors
Too hard of a strike is likely to have caused the copper-nickel center to melt across the coin.
A weak strike can prevent the two metals from fusing properly allowing them to separate
First new £1 coin error found with missing detail on the thistle
People seem to come out of the woodwork when there is the story about an error coin being worth a lot of money. Most have folders or albums left behind by long passed loved ones that they have stored in a draw for sentimental reasons. They do not have the passion of the relative for collecting, but they still have the folders.
1943 Lincoln cent struck on a copper planchet
(Courtesy of CoinTrackers)
Since the news reports about the discovery of two 1943 Lincoln wheat cents struck on copper planchets hit the news, I have received a few inquiries as to whether they have a coin that could be worth tens- or hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars. All are disappointed when they find out that grandpa’s old album may not be worth more than $50.00 if that much.
“But the coin is so old!”
Those of us who have been around this hobby for a while know that many factors go into pricing coins including supply and demand, condition, and other market forces. The considerations are so varied, that I wrote a two-part series on “How Coins are Priced” (links: Part I and Part II) that is still relevant.
U.S. cents have been made of copper, steel, and copper plated zinc. What’s next?
The 1943 copper Lincoln cent is known as an off-metal error. It probably happened when the U.S. Mint started to strike the 1943 Steel cents and a few copper planchets were probably still stuck in the machine. According to Coin World, there have been 12 reported 1943 copper cents.
Now that the coin has been reported in the mainstream media, be careful about buying counterfeits coins. Sources report that would-be fraudsters are either taking the abundant supply of steel cents at a cost of 50-cents to $2 each and plating them with copper. This type of counterfeit is easy to detect using a magnet. Copper is not magnetic and will not react to a magnet.
Another trick they try is to alter the “8” on a 1948 Lincoln cent to make it look like a three. If you carefully study the style used on the “3” and the “8” you will see that they are very different shapes on the coins. Also, if you look at the date under magnification, you could see the tooling marks. This is where carrying a 10x loupe is beneficial.
Identifying a 1943 altered date
Otherwise, make sure the coin is encapsulated by a reputable grading service and that you check the serial numbers against the grading service’s database.
While it is nice to have the attention, please do not be disappointed when I tell you that the rusting 1943 steel cent is probably worth about 25-cents or that reprocessed set may be worth one- or two-dollars.
- 1943 copper Lincoln Cent courtesy of CoinTrackers.
- 1943 Steel Cent courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
- Image showing the diagnostics of an altered 1943 date courtesy of The Spruce.