Counterfeit Coin Newsletter No.4
COUNTERFEIT COIN NEWSLETTER Robert Matthews Coin Authentication
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No. 4 July 2005

EDITORIAL
Coin Information

Welcome

Previous readers will note there have been some small presentational changes to the newsletter. A number of e-mails since the last newsletter have made me realise the wide variety of people reading the newsletter. To improve the reading experience, a link has been introduced for each item on the contents page. This will mean that those only interested in one area of counterfeiting will not have to scroll through all the contents. The linking method used does not appear to function on Opera browsers. More comments, corrections etc. will be welcome

Links

Since the last edition of this newsletter there has been a continuous stream of news concerning counterfeit coins. The problem for the editor has been which items to choose and which items to leave until another edition. The second part of the article on the development of the scientific techniques of counterfeit coin examination has been held over. This has allowed the inclusion of the two new sections mentioned in the next paragraph and the inclusion of the most important news items.

Contact Webmaster

Started in this edition is "IN PRINT" an attempt to briefly review some of the counterfeit coin books and articles that have appeared in print over the previous 12 months. Also new is a series describing on-line resources for the counterfeit coin student. This is started with the world famous Cambridge University, Fitzwilliam Museum Collection.

CONTENTS NEWS

No revival for the Counterfeit Coin Bulletin

Dr.Ursala Kampman, Secretary of the International Bureau for the Suppression of Counterfeit Coin (IBSCC), has informed the editor that the IAPN took its decision about the future of the Bulletin during its last General Assembly. "It was decided to give up completely the printed way." Counterfeit information will be available via the Internet but usually only to members.

They do plan to issue a series of occasional press releases, "on common counterfeits it feels the numismatic community should be more aware of". They also hope to publish these press releases on their home page, www.iapn-coins.org, although it must be said that at the moment the public areas of this site do not appear to be very up to date.

The first of the series of press releases, on a Celtic coin, has been issued. This describes a variety of the Cheriton gold stater. Robert Van Arsdell initially queried this counterfeit coin in 1993. Subsequently about forty similar pieces were identified in the 1990s. A full version of the press release has been posted on the web by "Coin World News".

The well-known Celtic coin dealer, Chris Rudd compiled this press release. It states, "In order to minimise the risk of suspected British Celtic coins being wrongly condemned they may be assessed by up to five members of the Celtic Research and Authentication Panel: Dr.Phillip de Jersey, Dr.John Sills, Dr.Peter Northover, Geof Cottam and Christopher Rudd."

Authoritative public rulings on contentious pieces are to be welcomed. It is understandable that the IAPN feels the need to protect its membership income by retaining up to the minute information on counterfeits only for its coin dealer members but this does not serve the general numismatic community well. Fortunately this community is a large and diverse group and other sources of information are becoming available.

Comparison of a genuine 500-yen coin and a counterfeit

Comparison of a genuine 500-yen coin (left) and a counterfeit 500-yen (right)

The Japanese 500-Yen coin

The Japanese 500-Yen coin, introduced in 2000
Weight: 7.0g
Diameter: 26.5mm
Alloy: nickel brass
(Cu 72%, Zn 20%, Ni 8%)

Japan is hit by a spate of 500-yen counterfeits

Japanese reports indicate that between the 22nd and 27th January 2005 up to 20,000 counterfeit 500-yen coins were deposited via ATMs in 24 post offices in Tokyo and two other prefectures. The money was immediately withdrawn in the form of banknotes from the various accounts credited with the counterfeit coins. It appears the Japanese Post Office halted transactions on the accounts because of the extremely large deposits of 500-yen coins. This was not before an estimated 5 million yen had been withdrawn. The Japanese Post Office has suspended use of these automatic-telling machines.

Three men are suspected of passing the coins. At least two are in custody, one being arrested in early February and the other in March. Close circuit television recordings identified them.

The authorities stated the counterfeits were made of a copper, nickel and zinc alloy similar but not the same as the genuine 500-yen coins. The counterfeits were reported as being slightly "lighter" than usual and the 500-yen mark inside the two large 0's of the design were blurred. The counterfeits were marked "Heisi 13" which is the year 2001. These counterfeits were considered to be very similar to those found by Customs in a parcel from China in April 2004 (see Counterfeit Coin Newsletter No.2). It is alleged that a parcel from China to Japan and addressed to one of the accused passed through Customs in the middle of January 2005.

These events occurred just before the Japanese National Police Agency announced a nearly 40% reduction in the number of counterfeit 500-yen coins found in 2004. Only 1,590 counterfeit coins were found.

In a joint meeting Japan's Finance Ministry and police agreed that the government should make a request to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association. They urged them to improve the capabilities of sensors in their products to tackle the increasing number of counterfeits discovered.

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Typical Internet auction sycee, authenticity: unknown

Photograph of a typical Internet auction sycee, authenticity:unknown

"Coin World" investigation uncovers Chinese sycee ramp

Sycee are silver Chinese ingots which acted as a medium of exchange before the coming of coinage and were still being produced and used up to about seventy years ago. An example of a sycee and a brief history can be viewed on the British Museum Compass website. A British Museum publication, "A catalogue of Sycee in the British Museum: Chinese currency ingots 1750-1933" by J.Cribb, was published in 1992.

Dr. Rita Laws, a freelance writer and researcher, approached the USA based "Coin World" with concerns about the number of fake sycee being sold in on-line auctions. Dr.Laws estimated that only about 10 to 20 percent of the sycee being sold on sites such as eBay were made of silver. She further estimated that of these perhaps only 10 percent were not modern, see "Fakes abound in online sales" by Rita Laws.

Beth Deisher, editor "Coin World", organised a through going investigation of the situation. This was described in her editorial. Dr. Laws bought on-line, six sycee, representing the various types available. They ranged in price from $12.98 to $118.50.

Kenneth E. Bresett, a sycee scholar, and Fred N. Holabird, a mining geologist, then examined the “sycee” independently. Kenneth E. Bresett considered only one of the six sycees to be genuine. This was then confirmed by Fred N. Holabird who found only one contained a significant amount of silver. Even this silver sycee had no provenance or marks to demonstrate to the non-expert whether it was genuine.

"Coin World" is to be congratulated on putting the effort and resources in to this investigation. eBay must improve their policing of areas such as this. It is not sufficient for them to wait for complaints; in problem areas they should have a pro-active audit system in place. If they do not show more corporate responsibility they will find themselves shrinking as fast as they grew.

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No.of counterfeit euro coins found in circulation
 2002 to 2005

No.of counterfeit euro coins found in circulation 2002 to 2005

Is the battle against the counterfeiting of euro coins being lost?

In January 2005 the European Anti-Fraud Office [OLAF] published the number of counterfeit euro coins withdrawn by banks etc. from circulation in 2004. These totalled 74,564 against 26,191 withdrawn in 2003, a 285 percent increase. The graph to the left shows the breakdown of the counterfeits by denomination. 87 percent of the counterfeits were of the 2-euro coin. As in previous years the German national side was the most copied followed by the French and Spanish sides. Counterfeit coins copying the national sides of all the euro members have now been found. The German Federal Bank reported the withdrawal of a small number of 20-cent euro counterfeits. These counterfeits did not appear in the central European figures. Also in 2004 85,119 counterfeit coins were seized before they entered circulation.

In the context of 56 billion euro coins in circulation the number of counterfeits withdrawn by the banks is very small. However there does appear to be a difference in the tone between the OLAF press release and its full report on, The Protection of Euro Coins in 2004. This appears to point to some concerns behind the scenes that the situation is not fully under control. The press release makes use of a number of mantras familiar from previous years.

"The total number of counterfeit euro coins found in circulation is still far lower than the overall number of counterfeit coins of legacy currencies before the introduction of the euro."

"These counterfeits should be generally rejected by properly adjusted vending and other coin-operated machines."

A representative of the German vending industry has been quoted as saying that there are now more counterfeit coins in circulation in Germany than there were counterfeit marks previously. This would tend to point to only the massive counterfeiting of the French 10 franc before the creation of the euro currency allowing OLAF to use the sentence about "legacy currencies".

The counterfeits found were judged to be of a good visual quality and in line with the dimensions and weight of genuine euro coins. No comments have been made about the materials used.

The 2-euro coin German national side

The most counterfeited coin remains the 2-euro with the German national side.

The German vending machine industry has been urging the abolition of the euros' national sides. Apparently the national side differences are making discrimination of counterfeit coins difficult. The OLAF report urges the full implementation of coin sorting at a national level. It also reports on technical consultations on, "the techniques for counterfeit coin detection in coin sorting machines" and "the risk that counterfeit coins may cause vending machines". In the editors opinion this indicates a serious lack of common technical standards and modern investment in sorting and coin discrimination mechanisms across the continent. This makes the sentence about "properly adjusted vending ...machines", platitudinous claptrap.

Three illegal mints were dismantled in 2004, one in Spain and two in Italy. This compares with the three dismantled in 2003, two in Italy, one in Portugal, and the two in 2002, both in Italy. The report states, "none of the major classes of counterfeit coins has been dismantled yet". It then speculates that at least ten illegal mints are producing these counterfeits and probably have put into circulation at least ten million counterfeit coins. This seems a very conservative estimate. The Spanish illegal mint seized in early 2004 was believed to have produced about 2 million counterfeits since 2002. These appear to have not been judged a major class of counterfeit.

Unlike previous years, and despite a number of enquires by the editor, Europol have not published any figures on the numbers of counterfeiting cases or counterfeit arrests.

The title to this item asked the question, "Is the battle against the counterfeiting of the euro being lost". Examine the facts:

(i) There are significant numbers of counterfeit euro coins circulating and not being detected. This is a failure of either the systems or technologies of coin sorting and counting at the national levels.

(ii) There are some indications that the currently installed vending machines are not detecting most of these counterfeits.

(iii) Some counterfeiting operations have been stopped but the sources of the main classes of counterfeits in circulation have not.

I am afraid to say that the moment the answer to the question posed appears to be, yes.

[The editor would be grateful to receive any information on euro counterfeits from readers including reports of court cases, photographs or loans of any counterfeits found in circulation etc.]

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Photograph of the obverse of a probable modern
 counterfeit of an Edward I farthing

Photograph of the obverse of a probable modern counterfeit of an Edward I farthing

Photograph of the reverse of a probable modern
 counterfeit of an Edward I farthing

Photograph of the reverse of a probable modern counterfeit of an Edward I farthing

Photographs by permission of Brad Shepherd

Modern counterfeits of Edward I medieval English farthings on sale

Brad Shepherd, who has an excellent website on medieval English farthings, e-mailed the editor about at least three Edward I modern, counterfeit farthings that have been on sale recently. He has bought two of these and posted details on his website. The diagnostics shown by Brad Shepherd appear convincing. He states:
(i) the pieces have the same obverse reverse orientations;
(ii) the flan shapes are identical;
(iii) the off striking is identical;
(iv) there are identical die faults;
(v) identical dimple in the beading above the N of DON [reverse top right hand side].

In the editor's opinion a number of these items would tend to point to a cast as opposed to a struck counterfeit.

Edward I was one of the Plantagenet royal dynasty. He was king of England between 1272 and 1307. From 1279 a new silver coinage was introduced. The penny remained the main denomination but a groat [four pennies] was probably minted for the first time and the smaller denominations of the halfpenny and farthing [a quarter of a penny] were also minted. Grueber in his, "Handbook of the Coins of Great Britain and Ireland in the British Museum" stated that the earlier pennies weighed 22.5grains [1.458g] but this was changed later in the reign to 22.25grs [1.441g]. After the later part of 1280 the farthings weighed 5.51grs [0.357g].

Edward I's coins designs were based on the traditional designs of the time. The obverse contained a full-face effigy of the crowned King. The reverse consisted of a cross. This was the long form type introduced by Edward's predecessor Henry III. The flans of some of these coins can be more oval than round in shape. An inexpensive recently published reference book on the types of the farthings from this period is: "The Farthings and Halfpennies of Edward I and II" by P. & B. Withers. It is obtainable from Galata Print, UK price £12 plus postage.

There was considerable contemporary copying of the pennies of Edward I. Foreign continental copies often from the low countries were called esterlings and by a series of other names. Ken Peters describes in, "The Counterfeit Coin Story", how initially these were made to the correct weight and sterling silver standard [92.5% silver]. However these counterfeits became lighter in weight and the silver content dropped to as low as 50 percent. Brad Shepherd states that there was very little contemporary counterfeiting of the farthings.

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COUNTERFEITING SNIPPETS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Circulation Coin

China

The People's Bank of China announced that there has been a sharp rise in the seizures of counterfeit currency in 2004. Although counterfeit notes were the main concern, police in Huan Province "busted" five counterfeit coin factories seizing 260,000 one-yuan coins.

United Kingdom

A magician's one-pound coin found in circulation The magician's coin broken up to show the hollow inside with a magnetic plate The two pieces of the magician's coin
 turned to show the one penny reverse and one-pound obverse

The photographs above show an example of a magician's one-pound coin. A young boy found this coin circulating in South Wales. The one-pound coin has been machined to have either a conventional reverse side or a penny side. A small magnetic plate inserted into the hollow interior holds the coin together. Technically it is illegal to deface a coin in this manner. However coins of this type can be found openly for sale on the Internet.

Israel

Examples of counterfeit Iraeli 10 New Sheqalim 
coins

Shown left are some examples of Israeli 10 New Sheqalim [10 NIS] counterfeit coins. This photograph is reproduced with permission from the Worldwide Bi-metallic Collectors Club site, and was contributed by Jack Hepler. This coin was first issued by Israel in 1995. It has been difficult to find any statistics about the current level of counterfeiting of the coin, for example a search of the Bank of Israel website yielded no results for either "counterfeit" or "forged coins".

Older anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a significant counterfeiting problem. The Jerusalem Post reported in 1999 the charging of a man with counterfeiting the 10 NIS, but it has not been possible to obtain any further details of this case. The Israeli Police, Division of Identification and Forensic Science reported that in 2000 it had examined "50 cases of forged coins". It is unclear if these were connected with the 1999 case.

It is hoped to be able to give details of the examination of two counterfeit coins from Israel in a later newsletter.

Malaysia

Some of the counterfeiting equipment
 found in the March 2005 raidTo the left is a photograph of some of the counterfeiting equipment seized by Malaysian police in March 2005. They disturbed a counterfeiter as he "cooked" 900 counterfeit RM1 coins in oil. It would appear this was the first step in ageing the recently stamped counterfeits. The next step would have been to wash the blackened counterfeits in bleach. The police claimed to have also seized about 10,000 coin templates, presumably coin blanks and a hydraulic coining press. The counterfeits were being sold for about RM700 for 1,000. Within a fortnight the 20 year old counterfeiter was tried, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Five other suspects evaded the police.

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Collectors Coin

Sicily

Italian newspapers report the discovery of an illegal mint and 1,500 counterfeits of ancient coins at Enna, Sicilly. The English language reports have been very brief but those in Italian are believed to describe copies of coins from Greece and Rome [republican and imperial].

United States of America

1896-O dollar for sale on an Internet auction
 July 2005

1896-O dollar for sale on an Internet auction July 2005

In April 2005 the USA coin grading company, PCGS, issued a press release announcing their opinion that the "Micro O" Morgan silver dollar varieties of 1896-O, 1900-O and 1902-O are probably contemporary counterfeits. Silver dollar specialist, Leroy Van Allen has concurred with this opinion in separate research. PCGS have promised to reimburse the market value to any of these coins previously slabbed by the company. The main diagnostic feature leading to PCGS giving this opinion are a number of common defects on the reverse of all three dates of the coins.

D.W.L.Lange director of research for another USA grading company, DGC, has stated that within a short time of DGC starting [1997] to examine VAMs [Van Allen-Mallis Morgan dollar varieties] they decided these three "Micro O" dates were almost certainly fakes. He stated from that time all examples submitted to NGC were returned as being of questionable authenticity. He further stated that this was known in the VAM collecting community.

Unfortunately these opinions still do not appear to have reached all coin collectors as the image to the left of a 1896-O dollar on offer on an internet auction in July 2005 shows.

Ancients I

Barry Murphy has posted on his website a photo comparison of five suspected Pertinax denarii counterfeits. The page does not contain any text or descriptions. The coins are from a variety of sources, including on-line sales and auctions. Authentication purely by photographs has to be treated with extreme care. However the comparisons are such that the coins appear to be cast copies, whether one is the original seed coin is not possible to establish just by photographs.

Mr.Murphy's home page is at http://bpmurphy.ancients.info/. Although this is a site still evolving it contains a lot of images and descriptions of some varieties of Greek coins.

Copy of David R. Sear's Forgery Report

David R. Sear's Forgery Report on the Mylasa medallion

Image reproduced by kind permission of Bruce Antonelli

Ancients II

Bruce Antonelli highlighted, on the CFDL Yahoo group, a Caria Mylasa Geta Caesar(198-209AD) bronze medallion which was for sale on eBay. He believed it was remarkably similar to a medallion that he had purchased last year. He had submitted the coin to David Sear's USA based, Ancient Coin Certification Service. Mr. Sear's opinion was that the medallion was a modern forgery. He stated it was stylistically quite unconvincing. Summarising he wrote: "All in all this is a clumsy and unskilled attempt to reproduce an important early 3rd century issue of this Carian city".

Mr.Antonelli was able to obtain return the medallion and obtain a refund. His concern was whether this recent eBay auction was for the same counterfeit or another copy produced by the counterfeiter. Examples of hopefully genuine material from this period can be viewed at CoinArchives.com.

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Example of a Fitzwilliam Museum coin data file

This shows an example of a Fitzwilliam Museum coin data file

View of a contemporary forgery of a gulden of Herman IV of
 Hess(1480-1508)

View of a contemporary forgery of a gulden of Herman IV of Hess(1480-1508)

Both images reproduced by kind permission of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University

ON-LINE RESOURCES

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University

Great Britain has three world-renowned numismatic museums. In this newsletter we will look at one of these, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University. The keeper of the Department of Coins and Medals at the museum is Dr. Mark Blackburn. He is also the current president of the British Numismatic Society.

The department estimates it has about 192,000 coinage related items in its collection. These items range from Ancient Greek to 19th century British coins. It houses a significant numismatic library that contains over 100,000 auction and fixed price catalogues. The department also has an active research programme and is able to accommodate a number of visiting scholars and students.

Unfortunately even for those based in Britain a visit to Cambridge requires a significant commitment in time and money. The museum website can often remove the need for a visit. It contains a database of a portion of the collection; a listing of the catalogue holdings; the Early Medieval Corpus Project that is a database of British single coin finds originating from AD 410 to 1180; and the Sylloge Nummorium Graecorum Catalogue, a database of Greek coins held in eleven different British Collections.

The museum lists a collection of about one thousand items under the heading forgeries and electrotypes. Only a small number of these can be examined on-line. Currently the museum has a database of over twenty-four thousand coinage items that can be examined on-line. These are mainly ancient and medieval coins. The on-line database is to be significantly increased in the near future.

Each individual item is described by mint and ruler; type of item, e.g. coin; denomination; material; dimensions, e.g. diameter and weight; usually die axis; and provenance. The item is usually illustrated with views of both the obverse and reverse sides of the coins.

There is a general museum search facility that allows a very precise description of the item being sought. It is not very clear from the search form but a simple keyword search is possible. Searching the museum database for counterfeit yields no results! The item descriptions are variable so that keyword searches for forgery, fake, imitation, false, reproduction and pseudo all produce a small number of results. The largest grouping was the fifteen items found under imitation. It is planned to have a specific numismatic search facility available by the end of 2005.

The current on-line collection does not offer any significant reference material on modern counterfeits. However by providing images and physical measurements on usually well provenanced coins it provides the necessary information on genuine coins required by the counterfeit investigator.

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Numismatic Forgery by Charles M.Larson

Numismatic Forgery
by Charles M.Larson

IN PRINT

Numismatic Forgery (Book)

Author Charles M. Larson, ISBN 0-9742371-2-4, published 2004 by Zyrus Press, P.O. Box 17810, Irvine, CA 92623, 1-888-622-7823. UK Price £12.

This book is a lively written “cook book” on how to “forge” coins. It is a wide ranging but not comprehensive overview of collector coin counterfeiting very much written from an American viewpoint. In his foreword, H. Robert Campbell past president of the ANA, states, “It’s high time we all realised the potential of being fooled…. This work is a giant first step in that direction”.

The book is a paperback with a large number of variable quality back and white photographs. It explains the practicalities of altering coins, producing cast counterfeits and producing dies for striking counterfeit coins. I felt that it was too detailed in some areas. The chapter on explosive impact copying certainly explained far more about the mechanics of shotguns than I wanted to know.

One major quibble I have is the attempt to make the term counterfeit only apply to false circulating coins and forgery to false collector coins. A counterfeit means, according to my Oxford Compact Dictionary, not genuine, a forgery, an imitation. The terms are synonymous with each other and their use is mainly down to personal preference.

For those interested in the various counterfeiting techniques and how to detect counterfeit coins this would be a valuable addition to their library.

Two False Crowns of James IV (of Scotland)

Lord Stewartby; Numismatic Circular, August 2004, vol. CXII, no. 4, pp 233
[4 x b&w photo.s 2.2 x 2.2cm each]

This densely written article described a Scottish James IV crown that belonged to the Marshall collection. The bulk of this collection was sold by Spink on 31 March 2004. The coin is an exact duplicate, including characteristic buckling, of one held in the forgery tray at Spink since 1976. These gold counterfeits probably originated in the 19th century.

Texture analysis of ancient coins with TOF neutron diffraction

Yanxia Xie, L.Lutterotti, H.R.Wenk and F.Kovacs, Journal of Material Science, vol. 39, 2004, pp 3329-3337
[10 x diagrams including one b&w illustration of two coins]

This scientific paper describes an unsuccessful attempt to discriminate by neutron diffraction between two hemibiols from Mesembria in the Thrace Black Sea region. One of the coins was considered to be authentic and the other a modern forgery prepared in Varna, Bulgaria. Both coins had a similar crystal structures and both were considered to have been produced by striking between dies. One warning, the authors state, "neutron exposure may alter the isotopic composition of artifacts significantly to make them unsuitable for later investigations."

This paper is only for those with a good scientific background being mainly concerned with improving the scientific technique rather than the coins described.

A Forgery of a Basilikon of Andronicus III (A.D. 1328-1341)

S.Bendall, Numismatic Circular, December 2004, vol. CXII, no.6, pp 377
[4 x b&w photo.s 3.7 x 3.7cm each]

The article states that few modern forgeries of Byzantine Palaeologan coins exist. Bendall describes and illustrates a strong contender for this description: a light series basilikon of Andronicus III that has recently appeared in a dealer’s catalogue. The contention is made purely on stylist grounds as no die matches have been found.

Coin Register 2003

British Numismatic Journal, vol. 74, 2004, pp 227-228

The following finds were described and illustrated:

Item 346 Short Cross, cut half penny. Iohan or Continental imitation.
Item 347 ‘Henry III’, copper-alloy counterfeit.
Item 350 ‘Edward IV’, counterfeit halfgroat. [not illustrated]
Item 351 ‘Charles I’, counterfeit halfcrown.
Item 352 ‘Charles I’, counterfeit shilling.
Item 356 Plated forgery of Carolingian, Louis the Pious silver denier.
Item 358 Carolingian contemporary forgery of Charles the Bald silver denier.

Some of the photographs used are of poor quality.

Copyright Robert Matthews 2005

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