An insider’s perspective on counterfeit publications



A recent letter to the editor in Numismatic news suggested that more details on specific counterfeit parts be included when posted. It is a good suggestion that has been raised several times in the past. In the 1970s, when the certification service of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) was established in Washington, the amount of information to publish about a specific new counterfeit coin was hotly debated. An influential group has insisted that all diagnoses of a counterfeit be revealed so that dealers and collectors are not fooled by the counterfeit. Another equally important group of professionals felt that this information should be kept secret. The service employees were caught in the middle. Both parties had a good argument; especially the latter. You see, a lot of things besides coins are counterfeit – even our modern postage stamps.

Writing about a recently discovered counterfeit Forever stamp, the expert said: “We were seeing evidence that the responsible parties could have used our items to improve their illegal work.”

In my experience, this has also been the case with counterfeit parts.

When I joined the ANA, a monthly column appearing in The numismatist the magazine featured new counterfeits; but the writer, one of the anti-counterfeiting activists in the United States, never gave readers detailed information on how to avoid them except to purchase parts from a reputable ANA dealer. Then when he got the chance he even tried to get the authenticators in DC to stop authenticating Indian $ 2.50 or Indian $ 5 because he claimed they were too difficult. to authenticate! This was the state of affairs in the early days of the Certification Service. Fortunately, the director, Charles Hoskins, ignored his stupidity. But in order to please both factions, we took a middle course and only published part of the diagnoses of the newly discovered fakes. Alas, even this has helped counterfeiters improve and made our job harder year after year. As an insider, some things became very obvious to me in a short time:

1. In order to authenticate anything, you had to know what the genuine coin looked like – beyond eye or magnifying glass.

2. A need to rely on oneself by relying on “experts” by checking their opinion.

3. Data published on specific counterfeits becomes obsolete in a relatively short time, as these coins are removed from the backwaters of collections / collectors and are replaced by improved copies.

4. Almost any diagnostic fault on a counterfeit part can appear on a genuine part. The reverse is also true, as virtually any feature found on a genuine coin, such as die breakage, bushings, flow lines, etc., can be found on a deceptive die-struck counterfeit.

5. Any specific information on counterfeits and their detection ultimately returns to the counterfeiters and is corrected, making it easier for them to improve their products.

I have told the story many times about what happened to a newly discovered Indian $ 10 coin in the authentication service. Shortly after its discovery, I showed one of the coin’s diagnostic flaws during Counterfeit Detection at the ANA Summer Seminar. Shortly after, the identical fakes were seen, except with the diagnosis which I revealed was removed.

A less common effect of publication is the misuse of the information. Shortly after the certification department moved from DC to Colorado, a newbie authenticator wrote an article in the ANA authentication column of The numismatist magazine showing an actual mint polish on a $ 20 1907 high relief, claiming it was diagnostic evidence of the coin’s counterfeit. Oh man.

Fig. 1: Decades old counterfeit with a “pasty” pattern in bas-relief.

Fig.  2: Microscopic (40X)

Fig. 2: Microscopic (40X) “wormy tool marks” on a counterfeit coin where the C / DF die has been touched up.

Over the years, in various third-party filing services, I have witnessed a dramatic improvement in the quality of counterfeits as copying techniques have improved. Exposing their flaws definitely accelerated these improvements. At the start of my professional career, counterfeit die-struck gold coins were so coarse that some experts at the time reported that they were casts. This is because the drawings and the raised letters looked blurry and in low relief (Fig. 1). As die-hit fakes improved, we revealed the large notches on some dies, appearing as raised spikes from their edge in the field. When this defect became rare, we discovered microscopic scratches (wormy tool marks) on the forgeries where the counterfeiter had “touched up” the die to remove the irregularities, not realizing that he had left even more irregularities. curious (Fig. 2) for his problem. .

By the way, so far I haven’t seen any deworming tool markings on a genuine coin which flies in the face of my review # 4 above. Since all of these peculiar flaws are rarely encountered on new deceptive fakes, there is no risk of helping those who produce fakes by showing them here. However, I’ll try to be a little more revealing when writing about new fakes that I see in the future.


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