The Exchange : Fear of Counterfeits

Fear of Counterfeits

In this day and age, most collectors have heard about the important issue of counterfeit coins. While in the numismatic world we are concerned about fake collectible pieces, there are several countries battling the issue of contemporary counterfeits. This problem is not likely to end soon. Should we be scared out of our wits? Will all coins and currency be counterfeit soon? In short, I believe the answer is no, but let me explain why.

A Selection Of Counterfeit Coins From China

The problem of contemporary counterfeits, or counterfeits made for circulation, is not very prevalent in the U.S., but it is an issue in other western countries. For instance, the U.K. has had a huge problem with over 40 million fake pound coins. A recent article estimates that to be approximately three percent of circulating £1 coins are counterfeits. In the European Union, there is a number of fake Euro coins circulating, but that number is estimated to be a smaller than one tenth of a percent. Even a few counterfeit coin factories in Canada have been found. Although the United States does not have much of a problem with counterfeit coins, there is undoubtedly an issue with counterfeit bills and specifically superbills. The superbills, or fake $100 bills, are extremely high quality counterfeits that are very hard to detect. It is unknown exactly where the bills are being produced but this threat is certainly the greatest that the U.S. must face.


A very related issue is, of course, the counterfeiting of collectible coins and paper money. While the key date counterfeits and date/mintmark alterations might be most well known, there are many other counterfeits in years or series that collectors may not expect. Semi-key Mercury dimes, 1955 DDO Lincoln cents and three-legged Buffaloes are all among the affected coin series but there are certainly many others out there. While some collectors are aware of this problem, it is important to check any valuable or key date coin before you purchase it. To use the old adage, "buy the book before the coin," so that you know about your coins before you buy them, and remember to look closely at any and all numismatic purchases. This can also help you avoid other problems, like cleaning marks or artificial toning, that might deter you from buying the coin even if it is real. In fact, with the counterfeit grading slabs that are being produced as well, even collectors who buy exclusively slabbed coins must know a bit about detecting copies as well. I would highly recommend taking the ANA Summer Seminar course on this topic or the correspondence course equivalent. After all, this area of numismatics is going to be even more crucial to the future of the hobby. 

A Counterfeit And Authentic British Pound Can You Tell Which Is Which


While the technology with which counterfeiters can continue producing fakes is constantly improving, I don't think that there is much truth in the idea that counterfeits will kill the hobby. After all, the pros at major grading companies can spot the fakes, so why can't the average collector detect at least the easier ones if not the majority? It does take some time to learn about detecting these counterfeits, but as the ANA Summer Seminar shows, even a week will give you a good basis of knowledge. As more counterfeits are identified, knowing the new diagnostics is the key to detection. And if you slip up once or twice, hopefully you have been dealing with trustworthy numismatists who can help you out. Just remember that you shouldn't be thinking that every coin out there isn't genuine, but before you buy the coin, give it a second look to be sure it really is what it looks like.




This story was previously published in the RCNA's CN Journal, January/February 2013 edition.
Written by Erik Elbieh at 04:00



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