COUNTERFEIT COIN NEWSLETTER Robert Matthews Coin Authentication
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No. 6 July 2006

EDITORIAL
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As before, this edition of the newsletter attempts to include as much news about the counterfeiting of coins as is possible. It includes news from two areas not previously covered, the counterfeiting of transportation tokens and modern collector coins. Many British readers have requested more details on the counterfeiting of the one-pound coin. This edition includes some new information of the number of counterfeits being withdrawn by the Royal Mint annually. For those seeking more information it is hope to introduce a series of files on the subject before the next newsletter. However, it is not intended to introduce answers to the most frequent Google search question, "How to make fake pound coins".

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The editor of "Coin News" recently wrote against the proliferation of reproduction coins. This newsletter very much supports his call. Please do not buy these items. It encourages their production and sale. They may be correctly described and possibly marked on their first sale. However they often have their identity accidentally or deliberately lost and many are later sold as genuine.

CONTENTS

EDITORIAL


NEWS

The number of counterfeit British one-pound coins withdrawn from circulation remains low

"middle.earth" suspended from eBay for selling reproduction Celtic coins as genuine


USA source of counterfeit Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) tokens

COUNTERFEITING SNIPPETS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Collector coin

Circulation coin


ON-LINE RESOURCES

A puzzling "mule" coin from the Parabita Hoard


IN PRINT

"NOT KOSHER: Forgeries of Ancient Jewish and Biblical Coins"

NEWS

The number of counterfeit British one-pound coins withdrawn from circulation remains low

The British Royal Mint released to the editor the annual number of one-pound counterfeit coins withdrawn by the banks over the last five years. These figures shown no significant increase in withdrawals since Royal Mint surveys in 2002 and 2003 showed that just less than 1 per cent of circulating one-pound coins were counterfeit.

YearNo. counterfeit coins withdrawn*
2001162,000
200281,500
2003133,000
2004135,000
200586,500

[*This is, "the number of one-pound coins declared as counterfeit by the banks and returned to the Royal Mint". It traditionally includes any counterfeits seized by the police and sent to the Royal Mint for destruction. This figure does not include counterfeits included with worn and damaged coins sent to the Royal Mint by the banks for recycling.]

The average withdrawal rate over the five-year period is 119,600. In December 2004 1,410 million one-pound coins had been issued into circulation. One per cent of counterfeit coins in circulation means about 14 million counterfeits. At the current withdrawal rate it would take more than 120 years to remove the current counterfeits from circulation. It would appear that the banks and coin handlers are failing to meet the challenge being presented to them by the counterfeiters.

A typical cast lead-based counterfeit one-pound coin

The photographs show an example of a typical cast, coated, lead-based counterfeit one-pound coin. Correspondent Yuan Shen received this in change in London in 2004. Click on the image to see an enlargement.

[Sources; The Royal Mint; House of Commons Hansard; Yuan Heng]

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Celtic Stater, ancient or modern copy?

Below is a photograph of a good looking copy of a stater found by metal detector hobbyist, Craig Boult, at a Weekend-Wanderers Club dig in Hertfordshire, England. The coin weight is 4.25g.

A stater found by Craig Boult

This coin is described on the club website. A British Museum specialist said he was in two minds as to whether it was an ancient contemporary plated copy; or a modern copy. He said in this case it was most likely to be the former. It was clearly plated, and the weight of a genuine Gallo-Belgic E stater should be about 6.0-6.5g. Gallo-Belgic E staters date to around the Gallic War period, perhaps 60 - 50 BC.

Reproduced with the kind permission of Craig Boult and the Weekend-Wanderers.

"middle.earth" suspended from eBay for selling reproduction Celtic coins as genuine

The sale of Celtic coins on eBay has been less troubled by counterfeits than sales of many other of the coin classes, for example Roman and Greek coins. In March, academic Dr. Philip de Jersey of the Celtic Coin Index identified "middle.earth" as auctioning as genuine, reproductions of four Celtic coins and two Anglo-Saxon coins. These reproductions appear to have originated from www.museumreproduction.co.uk. This company legally sells, clearly marked and described reproductions of many different types of coins. Dr. de Jersey stated that these six items sold for a total of $1,073 against their probable worth of $15. After representations eBay suspended "middle.earth" from using their site.

This seller had been previously been blacklisted by the controversial CoinForgeryDiscussionList, Yahoo group. Cliff Laubstein co-moderator of the group has described "middle.earth" as one of a number of eBay members who sell cast counterfeits of ancient coins.

Dr. de Jersey reported that the principle behind "middle.earth", the USA based "Michael Hibbs", had started two new websites to sell his items. The one site is named "celticcoinindex.com". This site has placed the name "Philip de Jersey" in its index for web search engines. Dr. de Jersey runs the Oxford University based Celtic Coin Index that catalogues all finds of Celtic coins in the UK. The genuine site now has a warning about any confusion with this copycat site on its home page.

The editor contacted the site owner and asked him why he had used this name. He replied, "As for why I called it the celticcoinindex and put de Jersey's name as a megatag was because he began the dispute with me. I had no dispute with Phillip de Jersey at all. The name was available so I bought the website more I guess to have a bit of fun."

Unfortunately in a Google search for the "Celtic Coin Index", the copycat site appears directly below the genuine site on the first page. Dr. de Jersey was asked if this copycat site caused any problems? He replied, "Not so far..it's not well put together and I hope most people would very quickly realise it's just a scam."

"Michael Hibbs" describes the coins for sale on his sites thus, "Each of the coins is 100% genuine.....anyone who buys can send the coin off for further authentication. If the coin is proven fake then we will be more than happy to reimburse the cost". What coin collectors have to ask themselves is; do you want to deal with somebody who allegedly sells reproduction coins as genuine and believes it is "a bit of fun" to attempt to counterfeit the website of an important numismatic resource?

[Sources: CoinForgeryDiscussionList Yahoo group; Clifford Laubstein; ebay; Celtic Coin Index; Dr Philip de Jersey; celticcoinindex.com; "Michael Hibbs"]

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The obverse side of a TTC token

A TTC token

Material: aluminium;
Weight: 0.6g;
Diameter: 17mm

The reverse side of a TTC token

Images reproduced with kind permission from exonumist.com

USA source of counterfeit Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) tokens

The loss-making, Canadian Toronto Transit Commission is responsible for the operation of the buses, underground and other public transport systems in the city. For some time it has been troubled by the counterfeiting of the tokens, tickets and passes needed for travel on the system. In 2004, "the eye-opener", Ryerson University student newspaper reported on the sale of illegal TTC tokens on the university campus. They reported that packets of 50 tokens were being sold for 70 Canadian dollars $25 less than their face value.

Also in 2004, "Pulse24" reported that three brothers were arrested for the manufacture and sale of counterfeit tokens. The police seized examples of these counterfeit tokens, the raw material needed to manufacture them and the equipment required to stamp them. They also seized a homemade plaque marking the minting of the 400,000 token. They stated this was the second large TTC counterfeit token operation stopped in 2004.

This operation was dwarfed by the alleged scale of another counterfeiting operation, stopped by a series arrests in Canada and the USA in February 2006. In this operation it is alleged that a Massachusetts casino chip manufacturer produced the counterfeit tokens and shipped them to an address in Niagara Falls. The tokens were then smuggled across the border into Canada. In Toronto sellers allegedly controlled by Jamaican gangsters sold the counterfeits on the street. The police described the counterfeits as being of very high quality.

The FBI in a press release estimated that the operation involved 5 million counterfeit tokens over two years. This represented an approximate loss of $10 million in Canadian currency. The final arrests of five people were carried out with the co-operation of the Massachusetts casino token manufacturer who produced 500,000 tokens for the authorities to use in a "sting" operation. Three of those arrested were brothers. At present, it is unclear whether the manufacturing company will face any criminal charges.

[Sources: the eye-opener, Pulse24.com, FBI Media release, Toronto Transit Commission press release, TheStar.com, Toronto Sun, globeandmail.com, N.Y.Times, The Buffalo News, boston.com, UPI]

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COUNTERFEITING SNIPPETS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Collector coin

Dispute over authentication of an Athenian Dekadrachm

"Arthur Brand" is one of the wild men of the anti-counterfeiting movement. In internet postings he can be offensive and abusive to those who disagree with him. He often makes allegation that he cannot or will not back-up with solid proof. Reading some of his contributions often makes the editor feel he is in a bar listening to some enjoyable but scurrilous gossip that may be true or just as likely is an urban legend. Some of his language may have to be condemned but some of the items he brings to light cannot be ignored.

He has posted onto the Michel van Rijn website a straightforward description of a dispute between the Classic Numismatic Group [CNG] and the International Bureau for the Suppression of Counterfeit Coins [IBSCC]. According to "Brand's" account an Athenian Dekadrachm, with an estimate value of $250,000, was submitted to the IBSCC for authentication. They refused authentication and issued a "condemnation-certificate". CNG replied with an opinion from Frank Kovacs that the coin was genuine. After an "exchanges of views" between the parties the coin was neither condemned nor authenticated by the IBSCC. The site contains a good quality photograph of the coin at the centre of the alleged dispute. "Brand" further alleges that the coin was made by counterfeiters from Milan who specialise in medieval counterfeits.

Chinese and Asian counterfeiting appear to keep on increasing

Doug Andrews contacted the editor about a column he was planning on Philippine's counterfeiting in "Coin World". He commented about the "high upswing" in counterfeit coins in the Philippines including USA trade, seated and Morgan dollars, a few Philippines rarities and possibly Japanese yen. He says that the counterfeits are moving from the streets and flea markets into the more established auction houses.

In a similar vein in March's "Coin World", Michael Fahey reported that Asian counterfeiters have turned their attention to Mexican 8-reals from the late 1700s.

Spurious Guernsey 2006 coins surface

A series of bimetallic coins have appeared that purport to have been issued by the proper authorities in Guernsey. They indicate a two-pound value and state they are from the Bailiwick of Guernsey. These fakes have no official standing. The designs appear to have been based on the millennium coins issued by Guernsey and made at the British Royal Mint. The first four, shown below, claim to be a series on "The House of Normandy". Another series of eight coins is on "The House of Plantagenet". A British coin dealer is quoted in "Coin News" as having bought some coins of this type from a dealer in the Far East. The source is not surprising.

 

The set of four spurious Guernsey 2006 coins

The spurious Guernsey 2006 coins. Photograph reproduced from WBCC website, photograph submitted to them by Xiao Dong

 

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The Israel 5 NIS coin

The obverse and reverse of the twelve-sided 5 NIS coin
Alloy: 75/25 cupro-nickel
Weight: 8.2g
Diameter: 24mm
Thickness: 2.40mm

Circulation coin

Bank of Israel warns of counterfeit 5 NIS coins

In June the Bank of Israel issued a press release warning that a number of counterfeit 5 NIS coins had been found in circulation. The press release described three main elements that identify the counterfeits. These are:

The inner part of the counterfeit coin is made of a pink metal and scratching with a sharp object will reveal this pink colour.

The word ישראל is missing from the emblem of the State of Israel on the obverse side of the coin, and this can be seen with a magnifying glass.

On a genuine NIS 5 coin, the square at the base of the capital of the column on the obverse side has double lines on each side; the counterfeit coin does not have double lines.

These featured would tend to indicate that the counterfeits are plated [nickel?] on a copper alloy and are not straight copies of a genuine coin.

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Euro counterfeiting update

In January the annual figures for the number of counterfeit euro coins withdrawn from circulation were published. This showed an increase from 74,564 counterfeits to 95,959 counterfeits withdrawn. An additional 3.557 counterfeits were seized by the police prior to them entering circulation.

 

The annual number of counterfeit euro coins withdrawn from circulation 2002-2005

The annual number of counterfeit euro coins withdrawn from circulation 2002-2005. Click the image to see a larger, clearer image.

 

At the end of March the European Commission published the annual report on the counterfeiting of the euro coins and activities of European Testing and Scientific Centre, ETSC. The report stated that, "Counterfeit coins overall improved in quality and sophistication. They are of a good visual quality". It also said, "the counterfeits are globally similar to the genuine euro coins in dimensions and weight. The electrical and magnetic parameters are generally different but increasingly close to those of the genuine euro coins."

As reported in previous editions of this newsletter, "three illegal mints were dismantled in 2005 in Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria. Since the introduction of the euro currency in 2002, eleven counterfeit coins workshops have been dismantled: six in Italy and one each in Portugal, Spain, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria". Analysis conducted by ETSC concluded that, "the majority of counterfeit workshops remain in operation, among which the ones producing the most frequently encountered types of counterfeit."

The report also discusses problems with the use of the Turkish New Lira coins introduced in January 2005. The main problem appears to be not visually but in coin operated machines.

Interpol has described its participation in the compilation of a "European Counterfeit Currency Manual". It is planned to have this completed by the end of the year. It is unclear whether this will only deal with bank notes and how widely it will be distributed.

Finally, in April, Italian police dismantled a counterfeiters' workshop making 2-euro and 50 euro-cent counterfeit coins. Police estimated the operation was making up to 5,000 counterfeits a day.

Briefly

There have been recent reports of counterfeit coins appearing in India, Korea, Malaysia [now it is the 50 sen] and Singapore. There have also been a number of reports of counterfeit, altered and foreign coins being used in automatic coin machines in a number of these countries.

Keith of exonumist.com tells me there are some very high quality fakes of the New York City transit tokens in circulation. He does not display any of these on his excellent token web-site but does illustrate a lower grade, lead-based counterfeit.

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ON-LINE RESOURCES

A puzzling "mule" coin from the Parabita Hoard

Giuseppe Giovannelli and colleagues have posted onto the web an interesting scientific paper. It describes the material examination of a coin that was part of a hoard found in 1948 near Parabita, Southern Italy. The coin is described as a mule with mismatched sides, both related to Western Greek coinage. The obverse belongs to Campano-Tarentino didrachms of the middle of the 3rd century B.C. The reverse is linked to Tarentine didrachms minted in 333-331 B.C. After their examination the authors concluded that the coin is a probably a contemporary counterfeit produced with a technology previously not known to exist in this era.

Giovannelli and one other of the authors are from the University of Rome 'La Sapienza' and the others are from the University of Lecca. They used x-ray diffraction spectroscopy, electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray spectrometry to examine the coin non-destructively. The examination showed the coin was made mainly of a lead antimony alloy covered with an intermediate coating of copper and a top coating of silver. The authors state that the structure of the silver layer, "exhibits a cauliflower granular morphology". They state this is typical of layers produced by electrochemical processes. The technology for such processes was not known to exist at that time.

The scientific paper was due to be presented at a symposium in May 2006. In the paper the authors briefly propose that the electroplating technique used was electrochemical displacement rather than the more common electroplating technique of applying an electrical current between two electrodes immersed in a polar liquid, usually water based. The immersion displacement technique proposed consists of a metal artefact placed into a water-based solution of a salt containing another metal. With the correct choice of metals and salt, some of the metal in solution can then be deposited onto the artefact. This is caused by metal from the artifact displacing some of the metal in the solution.

A news article on Giovanni's work can be found at the Discovery Channel site. It also contains images of the coin and details of the proposed electroplating mechanism not in the original paper.

There is no indication as to whether this paper had been subject to examination by an independent referee prior to its being published on the web. Apart from the validity of the scientific conclusions it is difficult to be confident about the provenance of this coin. The authors do not reference any published source describing the conditions of the finding of the coins from this 1948 hoard. This lack of a description of the circumstances of the find and of the security of the coin's subsequent storage over fifty years means the paper's conclusions must be treated with caution.

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A tantalising glimpse of nineteenth century collector coin counterfeiting

The editor could not resist bringing this small item to readers attention. Google books have reproduced a page from "The Gentleman's Magazine", London, 1843. This contains a warning from the Numismatic Society to antique dealers etc. The Numismatic Society was founded in 1837 and would later become the Royal Numismatic Society.

The warning said, "a person not far from Hastings" had cut dies and struck counterfeits of Edward VI, Phillip and Mary etc. coins. It further relates, "This person or the notorious Singleton has counterfeited the Anglo-Saxon coins found at Cuerdale and is now selling them in various parts of the kingdom". It is a tantalising glimpse into the counterfeiting of collector coins in the nineteenth century. This passage is also referred to by Ken Peters in his, "The Counterfeit Coin Story". Apart from the general warning put out about "the notorious Singleton", he has only managed to publish a few biographical details on this gentleman.

Not Kosher: Forgeries of Ancient Jewish and Biblical Coins by David Hendin

IN PRINT

"NOT KOSHER: Forgeries of Ancient Jewish and Biblical Coins" by David Hendin, published by Amphora, New York 2005
Hardback, 224 pages, UK price approximately £28

David Hendin has studied Biblical and ancient Jewish coins for more than thirty years. He previously published, a "Guide to Biblical Coins" which is now in its fourth edition and claimed to be the best selling reference book on this series of coins. In 2003 he was awarded the American Numismatic Association's Presidential Award.

Hendin describes how he has thought about writing this book for 35 years. It consists of 46 pages of well-written text introducing and describing the various aspects of the subject. The remainder of the book is a catalogue of more than 550 counterfeit coins. The counterfeits come from Hendin's own extensive collection, and also include examples from the counterfeit collections of the ANA, the ANS, the British Museum, the Kadman Numismatic Museum, Tel Aviv, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem and numerous dealers and collectors, including such luminaries in the battle against counterfeiting as Frank Kovacs.

The pieces included range from museum reproductions, including some sold by the Smithsonian Museum, fantasy pieces such as the "false shekels", Rosa reproductions and cast tourist souvenirs to dangerous Lebanese counterfeits. The ability of Hendin to include this amount and range of material is undoubtedly one of the strengths of the book.

David Hendin at his microscope

David Hendin at his microscope.
Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Alexander Hendin

The obverse, reverse and edge of each piece are briefly described. The descriptions include the diameter, weight, die axis, colour of the alloy and the probable production method. The location of the piece is noted and actual size, black and white photographs of each side are placed on the facing page to the description. Some of the pieces also have enlarged [usually x2] photographs. The book would have been improved by the inclusion of more of these enlarged photographs.

The pieces are numbered according to the catalogue numbers in Hendin's "Guide to Biblical Coins" with the addition of an F in front of the number. Fantasy pieces with no reference to existing coins are numbered starting with F1. This means to obtain the most from this book one probably need's Hendin's previous book.

Biblical coins are completely outside the reviewer's area of expertise but he considered this to be a gem of a book. For those interested in counterfeit coins browsing the catalogue will bring many nuggets of information and dare one say it, pleasure. For collectors starting out in this area, the book should be a constant reference source and it will be invaluable even to the experienced collector, dealer and academic. It is to be hoped that this book will prompt other experts to publish similar catalogues in their area of interest.

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Copyright Robert Matthews 2006

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