As round pound winds down the number of fake errors are rising

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.

A weak strike can prevent the two metals from fusing properly allowing them to separate

In other words, they are suggesting that people are removing the centers of the coin to claim they are errors.

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.

Trial strikes found without the effigy of Queen Elizabeth, II

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.

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
Credits

How the iPhone X can help numismatics

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.

Device that could metallic analysis of a coin below the surface

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.

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.

Counterfeit U.S. coins in counterfeit PCGS holders (Photo courtesy of PCGS.)

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.

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.

Credits

  • iPhone X image courtesy of Apple.
  • Niton scanner image by the author.
  • Counterfiet PCGS slabs courtesy of PCGS

Counterfeiting Around the World

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.

Canada

The top note is a counterfeit $100 note, the bottom is a legitimate note

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.

United Kingdom

Detecting counterfeit £1 coins, the genuine coin has edge lettering (left), the counterfeit does not.

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.

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.

Euro

Eurozone has had more problems with counterfeit €2 coins than currency.

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.

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.

China

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

Click on the image to read a nice description (in English) on identifying genuine Mexican currency

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.

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.

United States

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.

Prop Movie Money continues to be a problem because people just do not look!

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.

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.

Credits

  • 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.

Weekly Numismatic World Newsletter — SERVICE UPDATE

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.

SERVICE UPDATE

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!

Beware of counterfeit Canadian currency

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.
All currency images courtesy of the Bank of Canada.

Beware of fake British pound errors

On the left is an altered British £1 coin. The coin on the right is a legitimate coin.

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.

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
Image of counterfeit courtesy of AOL (UK) Money.

News sparks change hunting

1943 Lincoln cent struck on a copper planchet
(Courtesy of CoinTrackers)

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.

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!”

U.S. cents have been made of copper, steel, and copper plated zinc. What’s next?

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.

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.

Credits

  • 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.

Buying the book

An adage of numismatics is “Buy the book before the coin.” It was first used by numismatist and dealer Aaron Feldman in an advertisement that appeared in the March 1966 issue of The Numismatist. Aside from being used to sell books, this sound advice tells collectors to enhance their knowledge of the hobby.

Education is important because helps build the skills and tools they need to navigate the world. Education helps us read, write, calculate and communicate. Without education, we would not be able to perform our jobs competently, accurately and safely. Education also gives us a view of the world which we live and provides a context to how we arrived at society today.

Numismatic education is important because it teaches us how to understand the and navigate the world of money and the economics that made it necessary. Without numismatic education coins, currency, bonds, tokens, and medals are just objects to be ogled without context. We would not know why these items are important or how to collect them. Numismatic education not only teaches us about how to identify these items and collect them but provides the background into history that explains how these items represent today’s society.

The areas I find interesting are the history and policies that have led to how things are today. History gives us the lessons learned as to how it was once done and the evolution of the policies that govern the way any institution is run. This is no different for the money manufacturing apparatus of the United States.

I have been on a book buying binge. If I find a book that will add to my curiosity, then it will become part of my growing library. Over the last few months, I have probably spent more on books than coins. With the exception of the few review copies (that I really should review), most of the books I buy are older and have information that I have not found anywhere else.

There are books from my new stack of older books I would like to highlight.

History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 100 Years

Compared to the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing does not get the same love by collectors. Created as the National Currency Bureau in 1862, it became the official security printing agency of the United States government. History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing covers the first 100 years of the agency’s history. Printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and sold for $7.00 in 1962, this book outlines the growth of the agency from cutting fractional currency printed by commercial printers to pioneering currency production including new press operations and how to create plates.

It is a beautifully produced book that stands out for its quality in both production and writing. The history of the BEP is well written with images of the process with images of some of the printing element interspersed throughout the text. Also included are intaglio printed images from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing archives. Between the pages with the intaglio prints is a tissue-like paper to help protect and preserve the images.

Although there are many good online histories of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing none of them are complete and does not include the other security printing history of the agency including bonds and stamps.

Three on Counterfeiting Currency

The most read post on the Coin Collectors Blog is “How easy is it to pass counterfeit currency.” I am fascinated that since I published that post there it has logged over 5,000 unique hits. I am sure that the post is being picked up by search engines and shown to people who are looking for illicit information. They are probably disappointed that the post is not an instruction manual, but I am fascinated that so many people would be interested.

It made me curious about the history of counterfeiting in the United States. Since I am on a book buying binge, it was time to find some interesting titles:

  • Illegal Tender, Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth-Century America by David R. Johnson. To save money, this is a former library book in very good condition. I have skimmed this book and it looks like it will provide a good background as to the evolution of the U.S. Secret Service. The U.S. Secret Service is a unique agency. It was formed to investigate and deter counterfeiting of U.S. currency starting in 1865. They were so well respected that they were asked to protect President Theodore Roosevelt following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Although many countries have divisions of their law enforcement services that investigate counterfeiting, the United States is the only country that has an agency whose mission to protect the currency from counterfeiting.
  • Banknote Reporters and Counterfeit Detectors from 1949

    Counterfeit, Mis-Struck and Unofficial, U.S. Coins by Don Taxay. While my copy has condition issues, including water damage, it is still a book written by Taxay that has to be worth reading. Since this is my most recent purchase it has been added to the “up next” queue.
  • Bank Note Reporters and Counterfeit Detectors, 1826-1866, by William H. Dillistin. Published by the American Numismatic Society in 1949, this book is a survey of experts in counterfeit detection that describes what to look for. It is also a catalog of publications in counterfeit detection and the authors. An interesting exercise may be to work on trying to find the papers and pamphlets listed in this book. I also liked the images in the back of the book that shows what to look for to detect counterfeits.

Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada

Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada by P.N. Breton

When I reviewed 2017 Canadian Circulating Coins, Tokens & Paper Money I noted that the third section of the book is dedicated to Breton Tokens. Breton Tokens refer to the coins and tokens that were documented by Pierre Napoleon Breton in 1894. Although I am not a collector of Breton Tokens it would be great to have a copy of the book. Think of it as owning a copy of “Penny Whimsy” by Dr. William Sheldon or the first edition of United States Pattern Coins by J. Hewitt Judd.

I have to admit to “picking” this book during a sale of books from my local coin club. The club is selling off items in its library that there seems to be little interest. Periodically, a few books are brought to a meeting and sold by silent auction. When Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada, I did not pay attention. I was drawn that it was an older book about Canadian coins and that it is written in both French and English. What made this book stand out is that each page had two columns with the French text on the left and the English on the right. The format was fascinating I bid and won the book. Only after I started to go through my pile this past week to prioritize my reading list did I realize what I had purchased.

Although this is not a priority read, to have a contemporary reference about Breton Tokens written by P.N. Breton should make a fascinating read.

So… what’s on your bookshelf?

FTC Update Hobby Protection Act and Fails

Federal Trade CommissionThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published the “Final Rule of its Rules and Guidelines” for enforcing the Hobby Protection Act (16 CFR Part 304) to include the provisions of the Collectible Coin Protection Act (Pub. L. 113-288) that was signed into law by President Obama on December 19, 2014.

It is the job of the FTC to provide support to enforce the Hobby Protection Act. When updates are made to the law, such as the Collectible Coin Protection Act, the FTC is required to figure out how they will implement the law. Executive agencies, like the FTC, is required to write regulations that conform with the law and legal precedent, announce them to the public, allow for public comment, and then publish the file rule.

On October 14, 2016, the final rules that the FTC will use to enforce the Hobby Protection Act was published in the Federal Register (81 FR 70935). Since this is the final rule, the section begins with explanations and commentary about the information received from the public comments.

What appears to be troubling is that the FTC rejected comments from noted numismatists that there should be a rule to cover the manufacturing of fantasy coins. Fantasy coins are those that were not manufactured by the U.S. Mint. An example cited was the manufacturing of a 1964-D Peace Dollar “FANTASY” since the coins were never officially manufactured. Although the coins were struck, they were considered trial strikes and subsequently destroyed.

Daniel Carr is a mechanical engineer who also studied computer graphics and later turned it into an art career. He had entered U.S. Mint sponsored competitions for coin designs that have been used on commemorative coins. Carr is the designer of the New York and Rhode Island state quarters and his design was used as the basis of the Maine state quarter.

Carr had bought surplus coining machines from the Denver Mint, repaired them, and had been using them to strike fantasy coins. One of his fantasy coins was the 1964-D Peace Dollar. Over 300,000 coins were struck in 1965 at the Denver Mint anticipating its circulation only to be destroyed after congress disapproved of the way the Mint was allegedly handing the program. Some believe that some coins have survived, much like the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle. But like that famed double eagle, it would spark a legal battle if a coin would surface.

Capitalizing on the story, Carr struck his own versions with varieties, errors, and finishes. He sold them as fantasy coins but were not marked in any way. Advertising and writings from Carr explicitly call them fantasy coins, but what about future sellers?

FTC claims it is not necessary to amend the rules “because it can address specific items as the need arises” The FTC further states they have “addressed whether coins resembling government-issued coins with date variations are subject to the Rules.” Using past precedent, the FTC concludes “such coins should be marked as a ‘COPY’ because otherwise they could be mistaken for an original numismatic item.”

Many numismatic industry experts who have seen how Chinese counterfeits have damaged the hobby, wanted the FTC the rule codified so that it would force someone like Daniel Carr to mark his fantasy pieces appropriately. Carr continues to manufacture fantasy pieces based on designs of actual coins changing the date. Recently, Carr has produced Clark Gruber fantasy products with modern dates without the word “COPY” imprinted on the coin.

While Clark Gruber gold pieces were never legal tender, there were allegedly pattern pieces of Presidential dollars that included the required inscriptions and included a denomination. There was no indication on the coins that they were not legal tender even though Carr marketed them as medallions.

The purpose of the CCPA was to prevent counterfeit coins from misleading the public. Carr has allegedly jumped over that line joining the Chinese counterfeiters in an effort that will mislead the public with the apparent blessing of the FTC.

Sources I contacted were not encouraged by the FTC action. It was noted that when Carr’s 1964-D Peace fantasy dollars were reported, the FTC did not take action.

The new rules go into effect on November 16, 2016.

NOTE: Normally, I will include links and other details to the items I write about so you can read more. However, because it is my opinion that what Carr has done violates every spirit that the Hobby Protection Act stands for, I will not provide links to dignify his efforts. I wholeheartedly believe that if similar coins were brought into the United States from abroad, especially from China, the FTC would act to protect our rights under the Hobby Protection Act. However, since Carr previously provided art to the U.S. Mint, it is likely the government may be trying to spare its own embarrassment.

Prop counterfeiting is the new threat

One of the strangest set of stories about the problem of counterfeiting was the several stories that came out at the end of August about people trying to make purchases with movie prop money. This has caused regional U.S. Secret Service across the south to issue warnings.

Prop movie money is designed to look close enough to real U.S. currency so that a moviegoer would not be able to tell the difference on screen. When these notes are examined closely, they are clearly marked with “THIS NOTE IS NOT LEGAL TENDER” and “FOR MOTION PICTURE USE ONLY.” Prop money is smaller than real U.S. currency and does not have the anti-counterfeiting features of a real Federal Reserve Note. But that has not stopped people from trying to pass these notes as real currency.

Here is a sample of the reports about people trying to use prop money as real currency:

In Athens, Georgia, a 30 year-old man beat a customer with a baseball bat at a fast food restaurant when he alleged the customer bought marijuana using two prop $100 notes.

Police in the Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta, are looking for two suspects who went on a spending spree by buying two cars and paying with prop money.

Prop money has shown up in Morristown, Tennessee, northwest of Knoxville.

U.S. Secret Service issued a warning in the Tampa Bay area when someone tried to buy a smartphone using prop money and noted that there has been an increase in the use of this currency.

Areas of East Texas have reported several cases in which prop money has been used. Texas Bank and Trust reported that they have seen a few of these notes were deposited into accounts at their bank.

Sources have not confirmed the source of this recent uptick in prop money usage but noted that the currency can be purchased online. Although eBay rules do not allow for this type of currency to be sold on its site, a recent search yielded several listings offering prop money. There is no restriction on Etsy where searches lead to over 300 listings of all types of prop or replica money.

Why was the criminal in the in the Dateline video attached to my post “How easy is it to pass counterfeit currency” so successful? Like he said, nobody pays attention!

Prop Movie Money

Prop Movie Money

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