|COUNTERFEIT COIN NEWSLETTER||Robert Matthews Coin Authentication|
|Home||Coin Information||Links||Contact Webmaster|
No.12 September 2009
COUNTERFEITING SNIPPETS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Counterfeit Coin Newsletter apologises for the very late publishing of this edition of the newsletter. This was due to a combination of IT problems running into the editor's holidays. One IT problem is one too many but the editor was hit by a dead pc needing replacement, changing internet provider and then problems with the newsletter's web-hosting company. They came one after each other to make a "perfect storm". Hopefully all these problems are now over.
This edition of the newsletter contains news of an important conviction of a metal detector enthusiast for selling fake coins. It emphasises that coin dealers and collectors should not be buying any supposed metal detector finds unless they can independently establish that the coin(s) has been registered with Britain's Portable Antiquity Scheme. The PAS database can be found at http://www.findsdatabase.org.uk/hms/home.php?publiclogin=1. Unfortunately the database is slow but if we are to stop this type of counterfeiting as well as "nighthawking" and people using metal detectors on land without the permission of the landowner, its use is necessary.
The newsletter contains the latest news on a number of areas including Chinese counterfeiting and UK £1 counterfeiting, that have been reported on previously. Some short research notes are included on the activities of anarchist coin counterfeiters in Britain during the early years of the twentieth century. It also contains a lot of small items such as the recent Archaeometry paper on using a radiological decay series to date when gold items were manufactured and a link to a 1965 Revue Numismatique article on a group of Bactrian Forgeries. Often these small items can be just as useful to the numismatist. Hopefully you will find something of interest.
An example of one of the fake coins sold by Hutchings
British, metal detector enthusiast, David Hutchings, 43, pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud at Warwick Crown Court in March 2009. The fraud consisted of selling fake ancient coins as genuine. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment.
Hutchings has also used the names David Chester and Roy Chestert and the internet name "Coldfeet". He was a founder member of the metal detector club, the "Coventry Moles", and registered more than eighty finds with the unofficial website for British detector enthusiasts', UK Detector Finds Database, UKDFD. Rod Blunt, a verifier for the UKDFD, told "The Times", "He is a strange character. There was a general view that the find-spots he recorded were not reliable. He seemed to find items where you would not normally expect to see them." Mr. Blunt also told "The Times" that two experts had challenged the legitimacy of an Anglo Saxon Shilling that Hutchings registered in 2007.
The five frauds to which Hutchings pleaded guilty were described by the Metropolitan Police Art & Antiques Unit as follows:
There were seven coins sold to an Essex dealer for just over £2,000. These coins were represented as; an Emperor thrymsa coin, a Merovingian tremisses coin, a Biga Stata coin, a Celtic Tasc Unit coin, a Celtic Unit coin, a Tasc Quarter coin and a Cuno Quarter Stater coin. Hutchings claimed to the dealer to be an avid metal detector who had found the coins at various times and locations.
Hutchings sold a 'Two Emperors' Anglo-Saxon thrymsa coin to a Birmingham based dealer for £400 cash. As provenance, he claimed that the coin was part of a horde that had been declared to the British Museum.
Hutchings contacted a private dealer in Aylesbury, claiming to have a 7th century gold thrymsa coin. He claimed the Anglo Saxon coin was part of a horde declared to the British Museum and he sold it to the private collector for £1,500 cash, refusing to take a cheque as payment.
Hutchings sold the same Aylesbury dealer five coins for a value of £1,800. He stated that two were 7th or 8th century gold Merovingian tremisses coins, two were ancient British silver units 1st century AD and two 7th century Anglo-Saxon thrymsa coins.
Whilst at the Aylesbury dealer's address, Hutchings spotted a collection of six Art Nouveau French/Belgium medals. He took the medals, on the promise of a coin in the 'near future.' This coin never materialised.
The Deputy Head of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum informed the editor, "Mr Hutchings/Chester has offered finds for recording with the PAS" [Portable Antiquity Scheme] "in the past, and did show one of the fake finds to a FLO" [Finds Liaison Officer]; "but did not offer it for recording (though he did record it/another on UKDFD). The FLO was convinced that the find was 'not right' and subsequently made a statement to the police."
On 11th May 2009 Rod Blunt announced on the UKDFD website that, "The recent conviction of David Hutchings ('Coldfeet') for selling fake coins inevitably raises doubts about the reliability of information he provided for the finds that he recorded on the UKDFD. The decision has therefore been taken to remove all the records of his finds from the public database." An index of "Coldfeet" finds registered with UKDFD could be found at http://www.ukdfd.co.uk/ukdfddata/showcat.php?cat=500&ppuser=102 in June 2009 but no details of the finds could be publically accessed at that time.
When interviewed by the police Hutchings maintained that he had bought the coins from two dealers, "Gary and Steven" and believed they were genuine. He could not give surnames or addresses for these dealers. The police news release is rather confused on the source of the fake coins. It states, "Also found at Hutchings' home address during the search were a number of real coins, believed to have been used as a base for test striking during the manufacture of some of the fake coins." It further added, "Experts from the British Museum and Fitzwilliam Museum assessed the coins recovered as part of this case and concluded that all had either been manufactured by casting in a mould or struck using forged dies." This report seems to imply that Hutchings was at least involved in the initial stages of making these coins by supplying templates. However he was not convicted of any offence of making the counterfeits. Most counterfeiters usually specialise in one manufacturing technique so it would be surprising for both cast and struck counterfeits to be produced by the same source. The editor did seek clarification of these points from the Metropolitan Police but they have not felt able to provide it.
The Essex dealer who first made a complaint against Hutchings is to be congratulated on his firm stand. However the attempt to feed counterfeits into the system via the metal detecting community is worrying. The editor believes that the vast majority of metal detector enthusiasts are honest and a positive force for good to both archaeologists and numismatists. A small number are illegal detecting on protected sites, "nighthawking", and these and others selling undeclared finds, often on internet sites such as eBay, are causing a problem. If some of these finds are counterfeit the problem becomes even greater.
[Sources: Metropolitan Police News Bulletin 0000001277, Times Online, Nuneaton News, correspondence from the Portable Antiques Scheme, UKDFD website]
Return to Contents.
Photograph of those attending the Long Beach meeting, from left to right: Scott Schechter, CCG/NGC; Armen Vartian, PNG; Don Willis, PCGS; Jeff Garrett, PNG; Diane Piret, ICTA; Raymond Gregson, Jr., retired I.R.S. criminal investigation special agent; Fred Weinberg, ICTA; Barry Stuppler, ANA; Robert Brueggeman, PNG; and Gary Adkins, PNG. Not pictured: meeting moderator Donn Pearlman. (Photo credit: Donn Pearlman.)
"The great and the good" of America's coin collecting organisations co-ordinate their actions against Chinese counterfeiting
On 27 May 2009 in Long Beach, California and following a preliminary teleconference, five of America's leading coin collector's organisations held a meeting to co-ordinate their actions against counterfeit coins, and specifically those from China, entering the country. Those at the meeting included representatives of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG). The group's press release stated, "The groups recognize that counterfeiting can’t be completely stopped, but that efforts can be made to reduce the easy availability of fakes and to educate coin buyers about common sense ways to avoid unwittingly purchasing them".
They agreed to pursue a three-part strategy as a group and/or as individual organizations:
* initiate consumer education and protection programs including online resources to reach the casual coin-buying public who are not part of the mainstream numismatic community;
* aggressively attempt to compel online auction sites to be more responsive to complaints about fraudulent listings of fake certification services’ holders and replica coins that are in violation of The Hobby Protection Act;
* and utilize ICTA’s extensive experience in Washington, DC to explore possible criminal actions by federal law enforcement agencies against importers and sellers of illegal numismatic items.
eBay ban the sale of replica Canadian coins
Canadian coin collector, Mike Marshall, has been campaigning for over two years for the removal from eBay of Chinese produced replica Canadian coins. In the spring of 2009, after reading a magazine article by Mike Marshall, this campaign was joined by fellow coin collector and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Sgt. Farabakhchian. He made his RCMP commanders in Ottawa aware of the problem. They made the Canadian Parliament aware of the problem and gave Sgt. Farabakhchian the job of pursuing the matter. eBay were reminded that it was against Canadian law to sell copies or replicas of any Canadian coin produced since 1858. Canadian coins produced since 1858 are all regarded as legal tender. In July 2009 eBay stopped the listing of replica Canadian coins on both its Canadian and USA sites.
According to August 2009 edition of Canadian Coin News, "As press time, marked replicas of Canadian coins were still advertised online, through websites of the Maryland Mint [they produce replicas] and several coin dealers." They quote Sgt. Farahbakhchian as saying, "We are going to deal with that". The RCMP is also producing a website that will provide assistance in spotting counterfeit coins.
[ In September 2009 Mike Marshall was selling a CD on eBay 160363371697 containing images of 160 counterfeit Canadian coins from his own collection. This CD has not been examined by the editor and cost C $79.99 or approximately £46.6.]
Correction to item on eBay replica seller jinghuashei in CCN11
After CCN11's item covering her "Coin News" articles on Chinese counterfeiting appeared, Susan Headley emailed to correct the impression given by the newsletter that jinghuashei had disappeared from eBay. It appears in December/January he was on his annual holidays. It can be confirmed that jinghuashei still has a shop on eBay at http://shop.ebay.com/jinghuashei/m.html. In September 2009 he had 1,264 types of replica coins for sale. 1,078 of these were USA coin types.[Sources: NGC, Donn Pearlman, Canadian Coin News, Financial Post, Susan Headley, eBay]
Return to Contents.
The size of the problem
The first six months of 2009 saw an unprecedented amount of coverage by Britain's national media of the number of counterfeit one-pounds in circulation. This started on 29th January when Martin Hickman, "The Independent", unveiled the results of the Royal Mint's autumn 2008 survey of circulating one-pound coins. This survey showed an increase of of counterfeit one-pounds found from 2.06% in autumn 2007 to 2.58% in autumn 2008. These latest figures meant one in every forty one-pound coins circulating was counterfeit, a total of about 37.5 million counterfeit coins. The survey sampled 15,481 coins from 31 places in October and November 2008. The highest level of fakes was found in Northern Ireland at 3.6% with London and the South-East second highest at 2.97% counterfeits found. As is current Fleet Street practice this story was copied, without acknowledgement, by a number of the other national daily papers.
On 8 April Ben Ando, BBC News, reported the views of Andy Brown, Willings Services Ltd, that the number of counterfeit one-pound coins in circulation was much larger than found by the Royal Mint. Willings make machines to check coins for other organisations such as local council car parks. They had found that up to 5% of the one-pound coins they tested were counterfeit. This is twice the Royal Mint findings and would mean one in every twenty one-pound coins is a counterfeit or up to 73 million counterfeit coins. Again this story was picked up by a number of national media outlets with very little original input.
Finally at the end of July, Ken Peters, President of the Counterfeit Coin Club, release the results of a survey carried out by the club. Their volunteer "checkers" examined over 15,000 one-pound coins and found 3.26% were counterfeit. This would mean one in every thirty circulating one-pound coins being counterfeit or 48 million counterfeits. The survey did not include any "checkers" from Northern Ireland or Scotland, and London was under represented. Based on the Royal Mint's regional figures this survey would have been expected to find less than the 2.58% found by the Royal Mint's survey. Unfortunately this significant survey was not reported by the national media.
Police activity, arrests and court cases
12 March 2009, the Italian financial police reported the arrest of two brothers, in the Tuscany region, and the seizure of an illegal mint making one-pound counterfeit coins. The police believe the minting equipment was about to be dismantled and sent to England. One of the brother had previously been a long term resident in Britain. The press(es?) and notching(?) machines seized by the police were reported to have been supplied from companies that normally supply the gold jewellery trade. A photograph of a supposedly seized fake one-pound coin shown in "Arezzo Notizie" is a copy of the relatively recently introduced 2008 coin with the reverse designed by Matthew Dent. The only UK report of these arrests appeared as a brief paragraph in London's "Evening Standard". The Google translation of the "Arezzo Notizie" report concludes with, "..investigations are continuing at the international level to determine whether criminal organisations are involved".
4 May 2009, "This is Stanworth" reported that a twenty-year old Birmingham man was arrested after allegedly fleeing from the Tamworth branch of the National Provincial Bank where he had attempted to change a £500 bag of counterfeit one-pound coins.
28 May 2009, "The Liverpool Echo" reported on a court case that saw the conviction of a local businessman and another man described as his "foot soldier". In 2006 the businessman used his six petrol stations to laundered up to £200,000 of counterfeit one-pound coins into accounts at the NatWest Bank. A drum of counterfeit one-pound coins was found at a storage room at the businessman's home. The police found £22,500 fake coins in bags of the home of the "foot soldier", who was responsible for bagging and depositing the money. The prosecution stated that the practice of using steel drums to contain one-pound coin counterfeits was proved when police stopped a van containing identical drums near Heathrow airport. They contained £400,000 in fake coins. Although Hounslow is near Heathrow airport, see CCN10, it seems informative that the airport was used to describe the location rather than just London. The businessman was gaoled for two years and the "foot soldier" for eight months.
29 May 2009, "Kent on Line" reported the arrest of four men after a raid on an illegal mint making fake one-pound coins on a farm just outside Sittingbourne, Kent. Three of the men were charged with possessing, producing and manufacturing counterfeit coins. The forth was bailed pending further enquiries. Police confirmed that, "thousands of pounds of counterfeit coins and a press machine were found". The farmer who owned the barn involved said that it had been rented out to the same person for five or six years.
[Sources: The Independent, BBC News, Ken Peters, AGI News, Toscana TV, Arezzo Notizie, La Nazione, IGN, Evening Standard, Mail Online, This is Tamworth, Liverpool Echo, This is Kent, Kent News]
Return to Contents.
COUNTERFEITING SNIPPETS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
CIRCULATION COINFigures for Hong Kong $10 counterfeit coin withdrawals in 2008 released
In answer to a Legislative Council question in March 2009, Professor K C Chan, the HK Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, stated that 58,601 counterfeit $10 coins were withdrawn by the authorities in 2008. This continues the reduction in $10 counterfeit coins identified and withdrawn in recent years i.e. 2006: 92,998; 2007: 72,550. This reduction has not however prevented unease in Hong Kong about the level of counterfeiting. The questioner the Hon Albert Chan noted that he had had a number of complaints from public light bus drivers about the counterfeit coins they were receiving. He pressed for the complete replacement of the $10 coin with the $10 note. Professor K C Chan stated that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority [HKMA] had found that, "the market demand for the $10 coin as a means of exchange in day-to-day retail transactions has increased over the past few years, in particular in wet(?) markets and other small-value transactions." The HKMA had no plan to withdraw the $10 coins.
[Source: news.gov.hk Press Release LCQ12; see also CCN 10, "Hong Kong circulation coin counterfeiting"]
The total number of counterfeit euro coins removed from circulation in 2008 was 7% down at 195,900 compared with 2007. This would appear to be an encouraging result. However the EU Commission Report, "The Protection of Euro Coins in 2008" qualifies these results by saying, "..the numbers of counterfeits removed declined sharply mainly in Member States in which coin authentication does not take place systematically, and where, therefore, detection of counterfeits is much more subject to variations." The report says that Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands had reached high levels in the implementation of authentication procedures. It would appear that a large number of Member States are falling below the required levels in authenticating coin in circulation.
The EU Commission also reported that one illegal Austrian mint was dismantled in 2008 and the Italian Carabinieri arrested 6 people, "involved in the distribution of a particularly sophisticated class of 2-euro counterfeit." In total 11,203 counterfeit euro coins were detected by police etc. before circulation. Six classes of counterfeit were responsible for 75% of all counterfeits found in circulation. Except for one, no illegal mint has been dismantled for any of those classes. A brief press report described the finding of 10,000 fake euro coins by Turkish police on an Iranian bus.
In January 2009 the Chinese State Council launched a crack down on counterfeiting. Two banknote counterfeiters were sentenced to death in June 2009. In August 2009 Guangdong police seized 1.5 tons of fake coins.
A late 2008, report from Japan describes 100-yen fake coins that had been put into circulation by a seaman who apparently obtained the counterfeits in China.
In a restricted access session those attending the 2008 Mint Directors Conference had presentations including the following: "Counterfeit and unfit coins in MDC countries" - speaker, Yannis Xenakis, European Commission/OLAF; "Methods for authentication of circulating coins" - speaker, Beverley Lepine, Royal Canadian Mint; "Example: Coin authentication in Belgium" - speaker, Romain Coenen, Royal Belgium Mint.
Reports appeared of counterfeit coins in Malaysia, Pakistan and Uganda and counterfeit casino tokens in Australia.
Return to Contents.
The General Manager of the Pobjoy Mint emailed with photographs of a fake, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands proof £2 coin that is being sold on the internet. It is not a direct copy of an existing coin but no coin such as this has been authorised for issue by the tiny, southern Atlantic Ocean state of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. It is similar to the fake 2006 Guernsey £2 coins reported in CCN6. Altogether it is believed seven types of these coins have appeared on the internet with the same obverse side and with well-known British landmarks shown on the reverse.
[Source: Pobjoy Mint]
The Stack's Schaumburg auction on 25th June contained a very interesting collection of South American counterfeit circulating coins from the Michael K. Ringo collection. The seventy-one lots had nominal dates from 1740 to 1821 with a number undated. The nominal denominations ranged from half escudos to eight escudos. The counterfeits were made from a wide range of metals from gold, platinum, silver/gilt, silver, copper, brass and copper-nickel. Some had been cast and some struck. A number had been struck using lower value coins as the feed stock. The lots sold from $173 to $6,325. The highest amount paid was for Lot 44, a 1740 R Lima-style contemporary imitation eight escudos, made from a gold alloy and graded extremely fine. There were three counterfeits made of platinum sold. One was fully gilded but the other two had no remaining gilding. However one of these had a series of light scratches that suggested to the cataloguer a previous attempt to remove a gilt covering. The main references consulted by the cataloguer were Ferran and Xavier Calico's "The Onza Main Book" [covers 8-escudos coins] and John Kleeberg's monogram for the 1998 ANS Coinage of the Americas Conference (COAC), on the circulating counterfeits of the bust type.
The records of these seventy-one lots constitute a significant resource for those interested in counterfeiting during this period.
Obverse side of lot 42, Schaumburg Sale. The catalogue described the piece as: "1801 contemporary counterfeit two escudos. Madrid Mint. FM assayer. Platinum gilt. Extremely Fine."
Reverse side of lot 42, Schaumburg Sale. The price realised was $1,092.50. Both of these photographs are reproduced with the kind permission of Stacks
August 2009, China's Public Security Ministry warned about fake coins pretending to have been issued to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.
A Russian report details the finding of hoard in Moscow. The hoard contained fake copies of Alsatian thalers thought to have been coined in Upper Alsac, France.
In a "coinlink" article originally published in "COINage", copyright Thomas K. DeLorey, it is stated that perhaps up to 90% of USA Indian Peace Medals [issued between 1790 to 1890] are counterfeit.
Return to Contents
MY COIN DIARY
4th January. I bought a copy of Challis' A New History of the Royal Mint" on eBay today. It had a slight water mark on the front cover and so only cost me £42. I have been seeking a cheap copy of this book for some time but have not seen anything less than £95. On Amazon the only copy for sale was priced at £158. Over the last six or seven years I have acquired quite a collection of literature about the Royal Mint. This book will sit on my bookshelves alongside two editions of "The Royal Mint An Outline History" [1970 and 1977 editions], a copy of Graham Dyer's "The Royal Mint An Illustrated History", "The Mint" by Sir John Craig, "Coinage" an extract from the Encyclopaedia Britannia , "The Mint: its system, operation and locality." [an extract from an 1880 almanac], finally I am about a third of the way to collecting all of the Royal Mint Annual Reports between 1870 and 1976/77 [when it just became a financial report]. I still am looking for a copy of Samuel Pepys diary entry describing his visit to the Royal Mint, Ansell's 1860s "A Treatise on Coining" [see below] and a copy of the second part of the twentieth century's "Apprentice's Handbook".
23 February, I bought a day pass to "The Times" archives. Regular readers may be gradually realising I am fascinated by coining and counterfeiting in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. For £4.95p sterling I was able to lose myself in "The Times" court reports etc. It is an invaluable resource for research. I have previously used "The Scotsman" archives for news reports from this period. Although there is some duplication between these two newspapers they usually complement each other, reporting different news items or presenting different slants to an item.
This month I tracked down a volume of "The Strand" magazine for 1894 in my local university library. It contained an article on coining that was full of informative engravings. These engravings were based on items of counterfeiting equipment held by the Metropolitan Police. The text could be almost described as "teach yourself counterfeiting". The magazine justified this by saying, "We are informed that years of practice are necessary to come up to the standard counterfeit coin of today".
3 April I spent the morning filming an interview for BBC News. The BBC item was mainly based on reaction to Andy Brown of Willings telling the BBC that a Willings survey of the number of counterfeit £1 coins circulating had found a much larger number than that found by the Royal Mint. The item was broadcast on 8th April at which time I was out of the country [see below]. I arrived home to find eight out-of-date telephone messages from various media representatives on my answer phone.
My wife and I spent a three day break just before Easter at Ravenna. This small Italian city is somewhat of a backwater now but in the fifth and sixth century A.D. it was one of the major cities of Italy. The city rose to prominence when the Emperor Augustus made it the base of a massive fleet. It was conquered by the Ostrogoth leader Theodoric in 493 A.D. who made it his capital. Theodoric built a number of Arian churches for his people. In the middle of the sixth century A.D. the city was captured by the Byzantines and in 554 A.D. became the capital of the Prefecture of Italy. Ravenna's prominence was only to last a short while and soon it entered a long period of obscurity. Ironically this helped to protect and preserve a number of magnificent mosaics in the various ecclesiastical buildings of the city. Because of these mosaics UNESCO has now designated eight of Ravenna's ecclesiastical buildings as constituting a World Heritage Site.
The Piazzo Del Popolo in the centre of Ravenna
The central mosaic of the cupola of the Battistero Delgi Ariane [Arian Baptistry]. The Baptistry dates from the late fifth century A.D. This beautiful central mosiac shows the baptism of Christ.
In a visit to the National Museum at Ravenna I was surprised to find an excellent numismatic gallery. This contained a large collection of material with the coins stood on their edges in thin cases allowing both sides to be viewed. There were written descriptions with each coin including weight and diameter. Although a gallery just full of musty, rather old, coin cases may seem old fashion to some, to me it was altogether one of the best presented numismatic displays I have seen. It was rather disappointing that in the twenty to thirty minutes I sent viewing the items I was the only visitor. The museum guard would not allow me to take any photographs in this gallery. However I was allowed to photograph a display of "medals" in another gallery, two of these photographs are shown below. Unfortunately, as in so many other medium size continental museums, I could not find for sale a catalogue or even a small booklet describing the numismatic collection.
A display of 15th and 16th century "medals" in the Ravenna National Museum [click here to see a larger photograph]
The index to the "medals" shown on the left [click here to see a larger photograph]
This month I at last managed to buy a copy of "Ansell on Coining". It was originally published as an article in "Tomlinson's Cyclopedia" in 1862. George F. Ansell was a clerk at the Royal Mint and was responsible for introducing the treatment for a batch of brittle gold received by the Mint in 1859. Gold produced by his process was used to produce the well-known "Ansell sovereigns". Ansell had a few copies of the article printed separately for private circulation. My purchase is one of these copies. It is board covered with 31 pages of text and some wonderful woodcut illustrations. Some of these are likely to find their way into future editions of this newsletter.
This book(?) contains a handwritten dedication from Ansell at its front. I received much kind assistance in deciphering the handwritten dedication from contributors to the British coin discussion forum http://coinsgbforum.com/. I believe it is dedicated to Robert Hunt FRS [1807-1887], a scientist and early photographer, mainly responsible for the collection and editing of "Mining Statistic of the United Kingdom".
The front cover of "Ansell on Coining".
The handwritten inscription at the front of "Ansell on Coining". [Click on this image to see a larger one.]
A section of the text where Ansell describes possible means by which Simon's 1663 Petition Crown was edge lettered.. [Click on the image to see a larger one]
29 June, Radio Scotland interviewed me live on their lunch time programme about the 20 pence coins accidently issued by the Royal Mint with no date. I said that they were selling for about £30 to £40 on eBay. This was accurate for the previous week. Little did I know that these coins were to be swept up in media hysteria. Soon these coins accompanied by many scams and fakes were selling on-line for hundreds of pounds or more. I am convinced that when the dust settles in a couple of months or even a year or two, they will return to selling for less than £40.
2 July, my PC fails. This is the start of a series of IT problems that seem to take an eternity to overcome. Unfortunately this means this newsletter will have to appear late as I depart on my holidays on the 9th August.
Return to Contents.
Forum Ancient Coins and Revue Numismatique
It is not this Newsletter's usual practice to feature commercial websites but because the Forum Ancient Coins site offers some almost unique features for those interested in counterfeit ancient coins an exception has been made. Its discussion forum is varied and well informed. However the website's best features are the fake coin reports. These not only contain a multitude of reports on individual counterfeit coins but a large amount of ancillary information on well-known counterfeiters, techniques of counterfeiting and diagnosing counterfeits. The owner of the website does rigorously moderate the contributions. Specifically ensuring the site rule that, it is the coin that is discussed and not the supplier, is adhered to at all times. For those prepared to abide by the rules this is a very useful site.
Fake Antiochos II Drachm of Ai Khanoum Mint, from a Fake Coin Report generated by Lloyd Taylor. [Photograph reproduced by the kind permission of Joe Sermarini, Forum Ancient Coins.]
Lloyd Taylor has a thoughtful "Fake Coin Report" [File 288/889] that deals with the fake Antiochos II Drachm of Ai Khanoum Mint shown on the left. He references an article by G.K Jenkins, "A Group of Bactrian Forgeries", Revue Numismatique, 1965, Volume 6, Number 7, pages 51-57, and gives a link. This article is on the French Persée website. This site contains the text from the Société Francaise De Numismatique's annual scholarly journal, "Revue Numismatic", from 1958 to 2005. Most of the articles are in French but there are the occasional ones in another language such as English and some later articles have English abstracts. This is a very interesting resource but unfortunately the casual browser is not able to access any of the plates accompanying these articles.
Return to Contents.
No suitable books for review were examined.
"The application of LA-ICP-MS in the examination of the thin plating layers found in late Roman coins" by C.Vlachou-Mogire, B.Stern and J.G.McDonnell, NIMIPR Section B, December 2007,vol. 265, issue 2, pp 558-568
Only an abstract of this paper has been viewed at ScienceDirect. The authors used the techniques described to prove the presence of mercury in the thin layers of plate on the coins examined. They believe this proves the use of silver amalgam as the plating technique used for these coins.
Coin Register No. 48a-b, British Numismatic Journal, Vol. 78, 2008, pp 269
This brief entry, with photographs, describes two lead tablets with the impression of Valens (364-378). They were found by Tom Redmagne and donated to the British Museum. One suggestion as to the function of these plates is the manufacture of counterfeit silver cliché siliquae.
"Do-it yourself Specific Gravity Test" by Brian Silliman, Numismatist, July 2009, pp 98-99
Brian Silliman describes a simple, specific gravity testing set-up.
"Forensic Examination of Counterfeit New Turkish Lira Bimetallic Coins" by Ismail Cakir；H. Bulent Uner, Asian Journal of Chemistry, 2009, Vol. 21, no.4
Again only the abstract of this paper has been able to be viewed. It describes the examination and SEM/EDS analysis of 100 genuine and 100 counterfeit Turkish 1YTL coins.
"Detecting forgeries among ancient gold objects using the U,Th–4He dating method", by O. Eugster, J. Kramers and U. Krähenbühl, Archaeometry, 2009, vol. 51, issue 4, pp. 672-681 [published online 17 July 2008].
Again only the abstract has been viewed at present. This technique, if confirmed as accurate and reliable, offers a dating procedure for ancient gold items that has been long sort. The radioactive decay series uranium/thorium produces 4He. The uranium, thorium and 4He were measured by a specially designed ultrasensitive mass spectrometer. This allows the estimation of the last time the gold alloy was melted. This radioactive decay technique has previously been used in geology but it does require confidence that no 4He has been lost from the object during its manufacture and lifetime. The editor does not know many specific details of this procedure [such as how large a sample of gold is consumed?] but is excited by its possibilities.
"John J. Ford's 1950s Correspondence and The "Franklin Hoard"" by Karl Moulton, 2009
The 2nd August 2009 edition of "The E-Sylum", Vol.12, No.31 publishes a press release from this author giving details of his book. Interestingly it claims to contain listings of all the spurious material from the "Franklin Hoard", produced by Paul Franklin and sold by John Ford. Unfortunately, with a pre-publication price of $350 going up to $395 after 1st October 2009, this will be one book the editor will not be buying.
Return to Contents.
Prior to 1905 Britain allowed the free movement of foreign nationals into the country. This led to many political refugees fleeing prosecution in their own country travelling to England with most settling into the melting pot of the East End of London. These refugees included many anarchists and other radicals. A number of court cases from this time point to some of these refugees using coin counterfeiting as a method of raising money to live and in financing people and possibly political movements in their homelands.
Italian anarchist, Errico Malatesta1, born 1853, died 1932 was one of the leading anarchists based in London. He lived in the capital spasmodically between 1881 and 1919 and helped to organise the London Congress of the Second International in 1896. In 1912 he was found guilty of criminal libel at the Old Bailey2 and sentenced to three months imprisonment and recommended for expulsion. The expulsion was overruled by the Home Secretary after a campaign by political activists including Keir Hardie, MP3. In a police statement at the trial, Malatesta was described thus, ”He is known as the leader of militant Anarchists in this country—in fact, in the world. Many of his former colleagues have passed through this court and had penal servitude for coining.” Malatesta appears to have been subjected to close police scrutiny after 1900. So it is doubtful that he would have been able to engage in any practical aspect of counterfeiting coins without being detected and charged. There is no evidence available to tell whether he was involved in co-ordinating or directing the counterfeiting of coins.
It is possible to identify Old Bailey counterfeit coin cases involving anarchists in 19014, 1906 and 19115. A 1910 case6 saw the conviction of a Sam Schomberg , described as a traveller, for possessing the mould of a Belgium two-franc piece. No mention was recorded whether Schomberg had anarchist sympathies but because of the counterfeiting of the Belgian coin he probably can be classified with these other cases.
The 19067 Old Bailey case involved cast counterfeit coins. This resulted in the conviction of Paul Robert, a French national, for having in his possession a mould containing the impressions of a French two-franc piece. In what appeared to be a very well equipped counterfeiting workshop at 5 Warren Street, he was found in possession of counterfeit shillings and florins, some silver plated and some not. Also found were counterfeit French five franc pieces and Belgium two franc and five franc counterfeits. Detective Inspector Sexton gave evidence that Robert was the secretary of “Anarchist Propaganda” in London. He also stated a former member of “Anarchist Propaganda”, known as “Tombat”, had been sentenced the previous January to seven year in the same court for counterfeiting and circulating false money. Unfortunately it has not been possible to find any record of “Tombat” or this court case. Robert was sentenced to seven years and certified for expulsion under the Aliens Act.
In 1911 at Slough, “The Times” recorded the court case8 of Ernest Grenout, a French national and assistant master at Taplow Grammar School. He was convicted of stealing a pair of shoes and a box of tooth powder. In court the police stated that, “In April this year the prisoner was arrested in France, together with 10 others, on a charge of possessing counterfeit coins and counterfeit Belgian five-franc notes. In his possession was correspondence from men in London in connection with one of the largest seizures ever made of counterfeit coins and notes....The police also found a quantity of Anarchist Literature in his possession and an automatic pistol..”. It has not been possible to find a connection between this evidence and any other evidence of the “seizure” of counterfeit coins and notes. Grenout was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment and recommended for deportation.
After 1912 and certainly after the massive disruption of World War One no more British court cases have been found of foreign nationals with anarchist beliefs being convicted of coinage offences. In the inter-war years the radical political agenda largely moved on to be fought out by the communists and the fascists.
[A classic fictional treatment of an anarchist in London in this period is Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent".]
1Anarchist Archives, http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives, 16 April 2009
2Reference Number: t19120514-46 Old Bailey Proceedings Online (http://www.oldbaileyonline.org 16 April 2009)
3Hansard, House of Commons 22 May 1912 vol 38 cc 1931-2
4The Times, 15 June 1901
5Reference Number: t19111205-46 Old Bailey Proceedings Online (http://www.oldbaileyonline.org 17 November 2008)
6Reference Number: t19100426-39 Old Bailey Proceedings Online (http://www.oldbaileyonline.org 22 May 2008)
7Reference Number: t19060911-61 Old Bailey Proceedings Online (http://www.oldbaileyonline.org 22 May 2008)
8The Times, 9 November 1911 page 3