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29th September 2010A correction
There was a brief item in September's edition of "Coin News" on fake one-pound coins. They use a quote of mine from a national newspaper and the description, "the most senior coin tester in the country". This is an erroneous description that was made up by the national paper concerned. When I worked for the Royal Mint one of my responsibilities included controlling the chemical composition of the coinage alloys including the fineness of the precious metal coins. The examination of the coins' physical attributes was the responsibility of other people. To these former colleagues I would like to make an apology and state I have not and would never attempt to claim responsibility for the duties they carried out so well.
Charles I shilling copies?
On the Coin Forgery Discussion List, CFDL, "Richard" reported on a recent spate of copies of Charles I shillings appearing on eBay. He states that they were commonly described as "detector finds".
Also on the CFDL in August "Will" reported, "a fairly recent phenomenon on eBay has been the appearance of quite a large number of fakes that claim to be ancient "Funan" coins. This seems bizarre in the first place because the two main authorities on early Southeast Asian coinage, Wicks and Mitchiner, both insist that no coins were ever minted in Funan!"
Indian police arrest distributors of fake Rs 10 imported from Nepal
In August "The Times of India" reported the arrest of two alleged counterfeiters in New Delhi. The accused were alleged to have imported the counterfeit 10 rupee coins from an illegal mint in Nepal. Over 40,000 counterfeit coins were seized.
A fake 1923 Australian half-penny obverse, photograph reproduce with the permission of loosechangeau. Click on the image to view a larger photograph.
The reverse of the fake 1923 Australian half-penny, photograph reproduce with the permission of loosechangeau.
6th September 2010Identifying counterfeits
In an article in "Numismatic News" Richard L. Francis advocates only allowing "authorised persons" to be given access to information on counterfeit coins. The "caregivers" of the information would be "should be the certification services". Those able to be given access to the information would "..consist of any established coin dealer, as well as established ANA members. For the purpose of this proposal let’s define “established” as five years or more." This proposal appears to be a re-jigging of the system already run by the IBSCC. It is arguable whether that system was suitable for the pre-web age but certainly it would just not work in today's online world. I certainly reject the concept that the "knowledge" should be only available to a self-selecting group that by some act of faith will never contain any rogues. It is of course incumbent upon all who write about counterfeits to ensure that we do not help the counterfeiter but it is as important to inform the ordinary coin collector.
Bearing the above in mind I thought describing a couple of counterfeits with interesting features would be a suitable riposte to Mr. Francis article. The first is a correctly described fake 1923 Australian half-penny that was recently put up for sale on Ebay. The seller agreed to me reproducing the photographs of the coin. On viewing the obverse it is easy to see a very large number of raised pimples of metal on the coin surface. These are very indicative of a counterfeit coin. Their cause can be due to a number of factors. In cast counterfeits they are often due to air bubbles forming on the mould surface when forming it from the master. In struck counterfeits the cause can be a similar process when reproducing the coinage die. It can also be due to the poor quality of the die steel or poor heat treatment practice used in producing the counterfeit die. Poor quality die steel will often contain a lot of carbide inclusion that oxidise during heat treatment of the die producing small cavities in the steel surface and hence raised metal pimples on the struck counterfeit.
My second example is a return to the British one-pound counterfeit coins. Andy Brown emailed me with some interesting photographs of a 2008 shield counterfeit he has identified. The obverse contains the designer's initials as IRE instead of IRB. The counterfeiter appears to have no numismatic knowledge. It does raise some interesting speculation as to the process being used to produce the die design. It obviously allows the counterfeiter to alter the design at some intermediate stage in its manufacture. This could be just the use of a letter punch on the coining die. More worrying would be if it meant the counterfeiter was using a computer design stage.
The IRE designer's initials on a 2008 counterfeit £1, image reproduce from a photograph by A. Brown.
1st September 2010Copies and replicas on eBay
There is a small group of collectors of counterfeit coins. Their reasons for collecting the counterfeits are many and varied. I do not count myself as a collector but do occasionally buy counterfeits to study. If the ordinary collector is challenged by the number of counterfeit coins circulating it is even more challenging for the counterfeit coin collector. How does one authenticate a contemporary fake? The reality is it is almost impossible to be sure about the provenance of a counterfeit coin.
It is my suspicion that a small number of eBay sellers are listing recently made counterfeit coins as contemporary counterfeits. Mainly these appear to be white-metal, cast counterfeits that suggest by the wording of their text that they are contemporary counterfeits. However the words contemporary counterfeit are rarely explicitly used. I have identified at least four eBay sellers that list a relatively large number of nineteenth/twentieth century counterfeit coins that appear to me to be suspicious. I am sure some of their offerings are genuine but others are doubtful. These sellers are listed as originating in Malaysia, Turkey, Romania and Argentina, buyers beware.
Viewing copies, counterfeits, replicas on eBay can be a difficult process. Although the site has a category for copies etc. most are placed in the genuine coin categories. Today I found 495 items listed in the Novelty/Replica section worldwide. Yet a search for copy coins found 10,880 listings. For the vast majority the term copy was used in the title. Surely it is not beyond the wit of eBay to devise a piece of software that would re-categorise any coin with copy in its title to the correct section? It would certainly help the ordinary collector who is not looking to buy a copy coin.
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