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 The paper fiver was withdrawn on May 5, 2017 (withdraw the £5 on 5/5… get it?!).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.
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
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
Too hard of a strike is likely to have caused the copper-nickel center to melt across the coin.
As I am working on a manuscript about counterfeiting coins and currency, I started to search the internet for the location of some information when I stumbled on The British Museum’s website. Rather than find something about counterfeiting, searching the term “defacing coins” lead me to the most recent Curator’s Corner blog entry by Thomas Hockenhull, the curator of Modern Money for The British Museum.
For this entry, Hockenhull found a 1903 large penny with the words “VOTES FOR WOMEN” engraved over the head of King Edward III. It was done as part of the suffragist protests in England prior to World War I. Although not much of a presenter, The British Museum recorded a video featuring Hockenhull describing the coin and his research into how it might have come into existence. Rather than rehash what he said, you can watch the video here:
I have not to been to London for many years, but I remember spending a day at The British Museum was a highlight of the trip. It is one of the great museums of the world and worth setting at least one day touring the museum. There is so much to see that if you love to see the living embodiment of history, consider spending more than a day.
Welcome to my first 100-percent blog post by iPhone. I am sitting in my booth at DC Big Flea on Sunday waiting for the afternoon crowd and decided to share pictures of some of the coins I found during my Saturday afternoon walk around the show floor. Considering how long it takes to type on the iPhone, and taking care of business, it might take most of the day to finish this post!
A glance into my booth at DC Big Flea
One thing I like about this business is the variety of items that you can find. Aside from the various antiques and collectibles, there are a lot of interesting numismatic items that you may not find at a coin dealer’s table at almost any show. Most of these are not high priced items but are very interesting. For example, while Love Tokens can bring a nice premium, only a few specialized dealers would carry them. Since most of the dealers are also pickers. They will buy all of this stuff and bring it to a show like this.
A couple of smamples that I missed taking pictures of includes someone who had a coffee cup full of buffalo nickels for 25-cents a coin. After searching through most of the coins, all of them had at least a partial date. Not a dateless coin to be found. Another dealer was selling circulated Morgan dollars in VG-to-XF condition for $20 a coin, which is pretty good since the catalog value of most of these coins are $25-45 each. Current melt value of Morgan dollars is a little more than $14.
Although I do not have coins in my inventory at this show, you could have come by and bought a Red Book from one of the contributors, cheap!
Here are the pictures uploaded directly from my iPhone:
Page of odds and ends including a hammered coin, love token, and Hobo Nickel
A $100 Confederate States of America note
1901 $10 Dollar Lewis and Clark Bison note (Fr# 122), Elliot-White
A small selection of Love Tokens
Lots of silver dollars and many at very good prices
Medals, awards, casino chips, and a Challenge Coin
Casino chips and challenge coins make for an interesting display option!
Some decent Buffalo Nickels, although some of these prices are a little high for their condition
A layout of foreign coins. I bought the 1920 Canada Large Cent to the left
The clock on the left is an old Capital Plastics holder. It is the first time I have seen one.
Bracelets are made from Australian pre-decimalisation coins that have been gold plated
Check written to Lorin Wright from her brothers. Lorin Wright endorsed the check on the reverse.
Tray of miscellaneous coins.
Continuing my self-education into the subject of foreign coin production at the U.S. Mint, the data was normalized to the point where it can be determined the number of coins that were struck for foreign countries. Although the publication I am using as a primary reference, Domestic and Foreign Coins Manufactured by the Mints of the United States, has a table, it is not complete.
1968 Canada 10-cents coin struck by the U.S. Mint
After adding the coins struck for Iceland as part of the 2000 Leif Ericsson commemorative program and the coins struck at the Manila Mint, it appears that the Mints of the United States have produced over 10.75 billion coins and sold nearly 650 million planchets to foreign countries. That is over 11.4 billion pieces produced by the U.S. Mint from 1875 through 2000 that were not intended to circulate in the United States.
The following table shows the number of coins produced for each country:
||Number of pieces produced
||Number of pieces produced
|China, Republic Of (Taiwan)
||Netherlands East Indies
||Surianam (Netherlands Guiana)
1 Listings marked “(Blanks)” were those countries who purchased blanks and not struck coins.
2 Coins produced prior to Hawaii becoming a state.
3 Includes coins struck at Manila Mint.
I expected to see the number of coins struck for the Philippines to be very high. What surprised me were the volume of coins struck for the Dutch East Indies. Combine that number with the total for the Netherlands, the U.S. Mint has struck over 2 billion coins for them.
Some of the countries on the list are interesting like striking coins for Cuba until 1960, two years into Fidel Castro’s reign. France was also a surprise until I looked at the data and noticed that the coins were struck in 1944, post World War II. In 1968 and 1969, the Philadelphia Mint struck over 85 million 10 cent coins for Canada. This must have been a capacity issue by the Royal Canadian Mint which I will investigate at another time.
NOTE: For the non-technical among the readers, data normalization the process of organizing the data and making it consistent for use in a database. It makes programming easier when all of the data is consistent. Unfortunately, the data on foreign coin production from the U.S. Mint is formatted so that it can easily be printed. I am trying to fix that.
- Image of the U.S. Mint struck Canadian 10-cent coins courtesy of Canadian Numismatist Daniel W. Gosling. See this page for more information on the 1968-69 Canadian 10-cent coins.
During this past week, I have been working on two projects to satisfy my curiosity. One of those projects was to find and document all of the coins the U.S. Mint has produced for foreign governments. One of the questions I wanted to be answered was what was the first coin the U.S. Mint produced that was not for the United States and what was the last.
When looking for reference materials, there is nothing better than finding the authoritative source
Finding most of the information was easy. After searching a number of online archives and digitized publications, especially the Newman Numismatic Portal hosted at Washington University in St. Louis, most of what I was looking for was printed in the publication Domestic and Foreign Coins Manufactured by the Mints of the United States.
Although I have a printed copy, it would be easier if someone else digitized the book. After poking around a few archives, I found a digital copy and downloaded the entire image as a PDF. Although other formats were available, the PDF image was the most complete and the only one that my optical character recognition (OCR) program was successful in converting the printed page to something a computer can understand.
These printed tables have been updated ever since the Bureau of the Mint began to publish this compilation, which appears to begin around 1905. Prior, bits and pieces have been added to the Director’s report which was submitted to congress as part of a larger report by the Department of the Treasury. The problem is that the tables were created in a matter that would be easier to typeset using the technology of the time. It is not optimal for the person that wants to digitize the information.
I will spare the details, but it took more than two weeks of part-time work to extract the data and format it in a way that made sense for a computer. Even though I felt that it might have been faster to manually transcribe the data, the work will benefit future projects.
Not coincidentally, the last time the Mint published this book was in 1980, the last year they stopped striking accepting orders to strike coins for foreign countries.
The first coins struck by the Mint for a foreign government was the 1876 one centavo and 2½ centavo coins for Venezuela. In 1875, the Mint in Philadelphia struck 8 million of the one centavo and 1.5 million 2½ centavos coins for Venezuela. The composition is reported as being an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc but there is no record of the ratio.
Venezuela 1876 Centavo (obverse)
Venezuela 1876 Centavo (reverse)
Venezuela 1876 2½ Centavos (obverse)
Venezuela 1876 2½ Centavos (reverse)
Apparently, it was common for the Mint to strike coins for foreign countries with the following year’s date. In one document, it explained that these coins were struck at the end of the year following the completion of the minting of United States coins. Since coin production and transportation was a bit slower than it is today, it allowed foreign governments to plan for their following year’s demand.
The last coin produced for a foreign country was the 2000-W Leif Ericsson 1000 Krónur silver coin produced for Iceland as part of the Leif Ericsson commemorative issued in the United States. The last circulating coins the Mint produced for foreign governments were coins for the Dominican Republic and Panama in 1980.
2000 Leif Ericson Icelandic Krónur Commemorative Silver Proof (Obverse)
One thing that none of these tables include are the coins struck at the Manila Mint. To help relieve the burden of making coins for the Philippines after they became a colony of the United States, the Mint was allowed to establish a branch mint in Manila. It is the only branch mint outside of the continental United States. The mint opened in 1920 and produced coins in one, five, ten, twenty, and fifty-centavo denominations. Coins struck by this mint bear either the “M” mintmark or no mintmark. The mint was closed in 1941 because of the outbreak of war.
Official records from the Manila Mint are difficult to find because they were not included in the regular Treasury reports. Using a combination of the colonial government reports to congress, which required a trip to the Library of Congress, and the Standard Catalog of World Coins, I was able to compile the data of coins produced in Manila.
Although the list is being edited for consistency in formatting (I like things accurate and pretty), the following is a summary of the coinage produced by the Manila Mint from 1920 through 1941:
| 1 Centavo
| 5 Centavos
||.750 Silver, .250 Copper
||.750 Silver, .250 Copper
||.750 Silver, .250 Copper
When the table is completed and I figure out a way to display the data in a useful form, I will upload it for everyone to reference. I know that there will be some that would disagree with adding the mintage from the Manila Mint to those located in the United States. But the Manila Mint was owned by the United States government at a time that the Philippines was a colony of the United States and was run by administrators that were part of the Mint’s reporting structure. As the editor of the data, that is enough reason for me to include it with the rest of the data of foreign coins produced by the U.S. Mint.
- Venezuelan coin images courtesy of Monedas de Venezuela.
- 2000 Leif Ericsson Krónur Proof coin image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
There are times that while we are having fun collecting coins, currency, exonumia, and the like, there is a real world out there with real issues. For some, this hobby can be an escape from that reality.
On Wednesday, the Bank of England announced that they were looking into the issue where their new polymer notes contain traces of tallow. According to the supplier of the pellets that are used to make the polymer substrate, tallow is used in the resin it sources from a supplier to make those polymer pellets. It was a low-key response to an issue that was made bigger by the British vegan community.
While writing a snarky response, my Twitter feed blew up with the news of the attack on the Westminster Bridge and near Parliament Square in London. I stopped writing and turned on the news. Having once walked on that bridge there was a sinking feeling I could not shake.
We know that five people have died, including a police officer and the attacker. One was a man from Utah on the last leg of a 25th Anniversary trip with his wife. She was amongst the reported 50 people injured and one of the 31 requiring hospital treatment. One woman was so scared she jumped off the bridge and into the Thames River
MI5, the United Kingdom’s internal security force, arrested seven men and four women on terrorism charges. One of the women posted bail, the other 10 are still in custody. They have collected over 2,700 pieces of evidence that they will be studying.
Although I am not a “run-and-hide” type, I find it difficult to be snarky given the recent events, even if the story deserves that type of treatment. I am sure that the heartbreak of tallow will return to the news and will give me a chance to have fun at their expense. But for now, let’s wish the best for the people who were injured and the families of those who are mourning.
A few weekends ago, I was out picking when someone offered to sell a box of lapel pins and buttons. Most of the buttons were modern political mainly from the 1988 election through the 2008 election. There was a mix of both major parties along with a number of local and state races, primarily from Virginia.
The box was nothing remarkable. It was originally for high-priced basketball shoes from a well-known company in the western United States. Alongside many of the political buttons were lapel pins and some sports pins. I also noticed some buttons with cute sayings. While being stuck in the fingers I was thinking that I could buy the box and use it as junk filler at a show. Just like coin dealers have junk boxes, those of us in other collectible areas have our versions of junk boxes. In this case, I can lay them out in felt-lined trays and let buyers pick over them for a dollar each.
Flag and ribbon pins always sell. So do buttons that say, “I usually don’t wake up grumpy, I sometimes let him sleep.” This gets the ladies to laugh and look at some of my other items.
After setting up the card table I use to work on this type of sorting, I dumped the box in the middle of the table. Expecting to have to sort through a few hundred pins and buttons when I noticed a 2×2 flip on top of the pile. It was a coin sitting that was sitting in the bottom of the box now at the top of the list of things to look at.
At first glance, I noticed it was not a U.S. coin and thought that it just could be an uncirculated copper-nickel coin until I looked closer. Shifting my glasses to get a better view there was no mistaking the reverse design as a Mexican Liberatad. The 1984 Libertad is clearly marked “1 ONZA PLATA PURA” (1-ounce pure silver) with the obverse declaring it from “ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS” (United States of Mexico).
I found a beautiful, uncirculated 1984 Mexico Libertad worth more than what I paid for the box!
Obverse of a 1984 Mexico Libertad
Reverse of a 1984 Mexico Libertad
Edge lettering on a 1984 Mexico Liberdad
Although I love large silver coins, I have never owned a Libertad. Did you know that the edge of the Libertad has edge lettering? It reads “INDEPENDENCIA Y LIBERTAD” (Independence and Freedom). The distinctive mintmark of the Mexico Mint is on the reverse and has an overall great look.
I almost did not buy the box!
Let’s have some fun rather than talk about the mundane! Covering floors, cars, or any other surface using coins is not something new, but according to Matt Giles this has not been done in the United Kingdom. On the YouTube page where the video is posted, he writes:
When thinking about what to lay in the kitchen Amy came up with a fantastic idea inspired by what she had researched online. We saw a bunch of penny floor projects in the USA, it seemed a really popular way of creating a bespoke retro floor for any part of the house, but wasnt done in the UK. Challenge accepted!
We took 27,000 1p coins and decided to give our kitchen diner a new look. Each coin was individually glued to the floor which had been self levelled before hand and left to dry. After gluing down all the coins a black grout was applied to fill the gaps followed by a high gloss epoxy resin to cover and seal.
The end result is simply awesome. The floor looks stunning and the weeks of hard work has been worth the pain.
Seems like an inexpensive idea. Take £270 in pennys (yes, that is how the Brits spell the plural of penny), glue, grout, apply a high gloss epoxy resin, and take about two weeks of work to come up with something different. For anyone curious, £270 is currently equivalent to $337.88.
Maybe his video will inspire your creativity!
Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds,
to seek out new life and new civilizations,
to boldly go where no man has gone before.
I admit to being fascinated by space and space travel. This has to go back to my watching the Mercury and Apollo missions as a youngster. Even then, I would watch most television shows that were based on space or something about space including the comedies Lost in Space and My Favorite Martian.
During its first run, I was able to watch Star Trek during its last season. When it was picked up in syndication and played on the independent television stations or late at night, I would watch and become a bigger fan. In college, it was common to walk into the TV Lounge to see the television tuned to Star Trek, especially late at night.
When Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979, I was able to see it during my December break from college. No, it wasn’t the best of the movies, but it was Star Trek. I was a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I have seen all of the movies except the most recent—which I will catch when it is available on cable!
Aside from being great stories, Star Trek has inspired generations. Look at the technology that is in use today. Cell phones were inspired by the communicators; the ship’s computer with its infinite database processing is now in supercomputers of today, like IBM’s Watson; while Majel Barrett was the voice of the first computer, we now have Siri, Cortana and Alexa on portable devices; large flat screen displays are now our television; intelligent personal assistants went from the personal digital assistant (PDA) to being integrated with our computer that can now speak to us; then there is the universal translator; tablet computers; video conferencing; even something like Transparent Aluminum (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) exists in something called aluminum oxynitride (ALON). And remember, Scotty gave the formula for transparent aluminum using a quaint keyboard on a Macintosh!
Yes, I am a hard-core fan. But I have never been to a convention! I never really wanted to go. I did meet William Shatner when I was working for NBC, but that is another story for another time.
The Royal Canadian Mint has produced a set of coins for Star Trek fans. As part of the series, the Royal Canadian Mint produced three half-ounce silver coins with enameled images of Spock, Uhura, and Scotty; one ounce coins with images of iconic scenes: Captain Kirk in “Trouble with Tribbles,” the evil Spock and Dr. McCoy in “Mirror, Mirror,” and the time machines image that was in “The City on the Edge of Forever” which featured a guest appearance by Joan Collins. They are nice coins even though they are enameled. However, I think they are too expensive. It’s probably because of the licensing fees.
Of course, I had to get something. I decided to buy the $20 for $20 silver coin, Star Trek: Enterprise. It is a 7.96-gram silver coin with a face value of $20 with the reverse showing an image of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the Star Trek 50th Anniversary logo. The obverse has the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, as required for all Canadian coins. While the RCM calls the finish “specimen,” it resembles a reverse proof. Not only is this $20 in Canadian funds, which is $15.22 in US funds as I type this, but there is also free shipping!
2016 Canada Star Trek $20 Silver Coin folder cover
2016 Canada Star Trek $20 Silver Coin inside the folder
Closeup of the 2016 Canada Star Trek $20 Silver Coin
I also decided to buy was the stamp and coin set produced jointly with the RCM and Canada Post. The set includes a nickel-plated steel 25-cent coin with an engraved center surrounded by enamel ring with six different views of the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701). The stamp features Canadian-born actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk with the U.S.S. Enterprise orbiting a red-colored planet in the background. Also included is a coil stamp produced as a collectible sheet featuring the U.S.S. Enterprise and a Klingon D7-class battle cruiser from the episode Day of the Dove.
Outside folder of the 2016 Canada Star Trek Coin and Stamp Set
2016 Canada Star Trek 25-cents Coin
Inside the folder of the 2016 Canada Star Trek Coin and Stamp Set
The stamps included with the 2016 Canada Star Trek Coin and Stamp Set
You can buy the set from the RCM for $34.95 in Canadian funds, which is $26.60 in US dollars. If you buy the stamp and coin set separately, you will pay postage. However, if you buy both coins together, the RCM picks up the postage.
Before I forget, the Royal Canadian Mint will only ship directly to addresses in Canada and the United States. Collectors in other countries will have to contact a dealer.