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There are reportedly a hundred mints in China rapidly producing counterfeit United States coins that are  infiltrating our borders hoping to find a home with some unsuspecting  US collector.  Most of these coins are coming from the two southern Chinese provinces of Fujian and Guangdong.  This problem has been going at an ever increasing rate since the end of 2007 and earlier.  However, now that the Chinese have technology and minting presses from the US,  this problem will force us to a “New Educational Level” to prevent and protect collectors and dealers from buying these worthless reproductions of our historic numismatic past. 

The Chinese are busy making everything from Colonials, Half Cents, Large Cents, Indian Head Cents, Buffalo Nickels, Standing Liberty Quarters, Morgan, Peace and Trade Dollars, all dominations of Gold coins and paper money.  Their technology is rapidly is improving rapidly improving as well as mastering the color of our early copper coins. 

One of their newest entries is the production of “error coins”,  an area in which they know very well the passion US collectors have for these unique items.   And to be honest, they are getting better and better at producing these counterfeits.  The machinery they are using is becoming, if not already, state of the art.  Their dies are improving, the strikes are improving and with copper coins, they are moving rapidly to getting the color right.

To make life a little more complicated, the Chinese have now introduced counterfeit PCGS and NGC holders into our marketplace.  At present, it appears that these counterfeit holders, as you would expect, contain counterfeit coins, however, that is likely to change in the near future if it hasn’t already.  At some point they will be putting authentic over-graded coins in these holders.  For example, an AU-50 1909 S VDB in a PCGS or NGC holder graded MS 63.  Or just as easily it could be a Fine 1877 Indian Head Cent graded EF 40 or EF 45.  The point is that there is a lot of money to be made by using this combination of authentic coin and counterfeit holder.  Grade inflation is already a major problem as we continue to evolve within the arena of market grading.

I guess these events reminds us all that it wise to buy the coin and not the holder…..buy the book,  then the coin.  In this case, buy a good book on  detecting counterfeit coins (see book list below).  Our best protection regarding these commonly counterfeit rarities is to know the die characteristic of the  authentic coin and not worry so much about what the counterfeit coin looks like.  If you are looking at a 1909 S VDB Lincoln and the “S” mint mark does not have the characteristics of the authentic “S”…..you most likely have a bad coin.  There are exceptions.  Some counterfeiters have been able to duplicate the “S” mint mark on the 1909 S VDB Lincoln so secondary characteristics of the die are required.  Don’t depend on one particular die characteristic but look at two or three to be conclusive.   Know what the real coin looks like  and have a good reference library and you will be able to discard as many counterfeits as they through your way.   Just remember, a second opinion is always important when dealing with counterfeits.  Fine a dealer you can work with and that you have confidence in to help you. 

The best people to help you are people that have had extensive interactions (on site classes) with the ANA (Colorado Springs), the ANS (New York City), Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG), NLG (Numismatic Literary Guild), professional grading services such as PCGS, NGC and ANACS.  These are the people with the greatest amount of experience that can help you the most.

Upcoming educational events on the topic of Chinese Counterfeit coins.

Facing the Chinese Counterfeiting Threat – August 4, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; August 5, 1-5 p.m. Counterfeit coins and slabs made in the People’s Republic of China are pouring into the marketplace in unprecedented numbers. Access to Western technology means that the counterfeiters are able to produce high-quality fakes. In this two-day seminar, learn to protect yourself by becoming a smart online customer, and learn how to use simple, inexpensive tools to authenticate your own coins. Instructors: Susan Headley, numismatic journalist and counterfeit expert; Beth Deisher, editor, Coin World; and Dr. Gregory Dubay, noted Chinese counterfeit expert.
ANA Member Price: $149 through July 1; $169 after.

Links to Coin World articles describing the Chinese Counterfeit activity can be found on the Web through Google. 

THE FOLLOWING LIST OF BOOKS ON COUNTERFEIT DETECTION WILL HELP YOU GET STARTED WITH A NICE LIBRARY FOR DEALING WITH THIS PROBLEM.

 1.  Fivaz, Bill; United States Gold.  Counterfeit Detection Guide.     Whitman Publishing , LLC, 3101 Clairmont Road, Suite C, Atlanta, GA  30329. (2005)

2.  Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection. Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) Staff.  Second Edition.  (2004)

3.  Larson, Charles M.; Numismatic Forgery.  (2004)

4.  Fivaz, Bill; Counterfeit Detection Guide.  (2001)

5.  Counterfeit Detection: A Reprint from the Numismatist, Vol I.  American Numismatic Association, Box 2366,  Colorado Springs, CO 80901. (1983)

6.  Counterfeit Detection: A Reprint from the Numismatist, Vol II.  American Numismatic Association, 818 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. (1988)

7.  Hancock, Virgil; Spanbauer, Larry; Standard Catalog of Counterfeit and Altered United States Coins. Sanford J. Durst, Numismatic Publications, New York, N.Y. (1979)

8.  Devine, John; Detecting Counterfeit Gold Coins, Book II; Heigh-Ho Printing Co., 3477 Old Conejo Road C-7, Newbury Park, CA 91320. (1977; Sixteenth Printing in 1980)

9.  Taxay, Don; Counterfeit & Unofficial Misstruck U.S. Coins.  (1976)

10. Devine, John; Detecting Counterfeit Coins, Book I; Heigh-Ho Printing Co., 3477 Old Conejo Road, Newbury Park, CA 91320. (1975)

11. Dieffenbacher, Alfred; Counterfeit Gold Coins, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Fully Illustrated); Dieffenbackher Coin BTD.  Montreal, Canada.  (1963)

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As you know, it’s hard to know what you might find when looking into a dealers showcase these days.  Recently I found two beautifully toned Milled Bust Pillar Dollars, both from the Mexico City Mint.  One from 1808 and the second from 1820.  While often referred to as a Pillar Dollar these coins are more accurately called Milled Bust Spanish Dollars.  The obverse of the 1808 example illustrates the bust of Charles IV while the reverse has the Pillars of Hercules, so familiar from the earlier Cobs.

There were a total of  twelve colonial mints located in; Mexico City, Santo Domingo, Lima, La Plata, Potosi, Panama City, Cartegena, Bogota, Cuzco, Guatemala, Santiago and Popayan.  These twelve mints produced a total of five different types of silver reales.  They were, pillar, shield, pillar and waves, milled pillar and milled bust (above 1808).  These were produced during Spain’s amazing 300 years of colonial rule.

The milled bust coins, also referred to as bust or portrait dollars,  were minted at the Mexico City mint from 1772 until 1821, when Mexico won its independence from Spain.  Like the milled pillar dollar, bust dollars circulated throughout the world, even serving as legal currency in the United States until 1857.   Mexico City coins are easily identified by their mintmark, an M with a small o above.

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The Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) Selected 

Roger W. Burdette’s

Renaissance of American Coinage, 1905-1908 

as the single work having the greatest potential impact on Numismatics published in 2007.

 

This year the Clemy Award went to Gene Hessler.

 

There were also a series of awards listed as “BEST SPECIALIZED BOOKs”, which covered topics such as: United States Coins; World Coins; US Paper Money: Obsolete Paper Money; World Paper Money; Tokens and Medals; Numismatic Investments as well as several others worthy topics.  The winners in these catagories are certainly names most numismatist and certainly bibliophiles would recognize.

Below we list a few of many favorites, they are all great. 

 “Current Cabinet Activities,” Robert W. Hoge, ANS Magazine

 Coin Chemistry, by Weimar W. White        

“The Joys Of Collecting,” Q. David Bowers, Coin World

 

 ADDITIONAL AWARD WINNERS 

 

 

 

CLEMENT F. BAILEY MEMORIAL AWARD

BEST NEW WRITER

Cindy Brake, Coin World

 

JAMES L. MILLER MEMORIAL AWARD

John Andrew, Coin World

 “A Time-Honoured Burden”

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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The Meyer Selected Rarities Sale opens for preview on July 29 and 30 at the Baltimore convention center in Baltimore at Sheridan Downey’s bourse tables 931-933 during normal bourse floor hours of PNG day (July 29) and the American Numismatic Association Convention on July 30.  This is a mail and sealed bid sale and closing is Wednesday July 30, 2008.

 

There are 44 lots listed in Sheridan’s catalogue and it is loaded with rarities, finest know examples (1814 Single Leaf, PCGS MS 63), UNIQUE issues (1806 O.128), plate coins (1832 O. 123, Overton Plate Coin, 1 of 5) and on and on.  This is a tremendous opportunity for the true connoisseur.  The pedigrees are simply historical in numismatics and finally; the catalogue itself is an immediate collectible for the early half dollar collectors.

 

To view lots please use this Link.

 

Very Well Done Sheridan, Very Well Done Indead.

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Civil War Tokens

THE RATTLESNAKE TOKEN!

 

Collecting Civil War tokens is an interesting pursuit just loaded with history of the Great War between the States.  Regular issues of US coinage was hoarded during the Civil War and this dramatically restricted merchants ability to make small change.  In response to this situation, many of the  merchants had tokens made to give out as change in their stores.  If you ordered the least expensive tokens you would receive a combination of two existing dies, usually of a Patriotic nature or similar to a US cent.  We refer to these tokens as  Patriotic Civil War Tokens

 

If on the other hand you had more to spend for tokens you could have custom dies prepared with specific information relating to your business (i.e. location, occupation, specialties, etc.) these are referred to as Civil War Store Cards.  These tokens are often refered to as Tradesmen Tokens.

 

Given the above information, it is not surprising that collectors in general classify Civil War tokens as either Patriotic or Store Cards (there are others we will cover later).  Now get ready; there were some 50,000,000 or more of these tokens issued!  Approximately 10,000 different varieties have been recorded! This area of numismatics represents an abundance of affordable small pieces of copper that represent a very important part of the fabric that makes this country what it is today.  There are almost endless ways of assembling Civil War Tokens (CWT) by variety or topic for the collector.   Want a history lesson of the early 1860’s…..this is a wonderful place to begin.

 

Patriotic tokens are anonymous, as mentioned above, struck from stock dies for general circulation. These tokens have patriotic themes – ARMY & NAVY, THE FLAG OF OUR UNION, LIBERTY AND NO SLAVERY, etc. – but some “Copperhead” tokens were issued with designs critical of the war, such as MILLIONS FOR CONTRACTORS/NOT ONE CENT FOR THE WIDOWS.

 

Store cards were made with their issuers and generally carry an advertisement for the issuers business.  One of my favors are the tokens bearing a mortar and pestle, relating to medicinal agents of the time.  However, other items like trunks, stoves, a stein of beer, animals and many more were used.  On the other hand, many show simply a stock die such as an Indian head, eagle, or patriotic theme.

 

In reality, cent-size copper tokens were first issued before the Civil War.  There are examples of issues as early as 1858 and 1861,  These pre-Civil War tokens are usually collected together with the genuine article due to the difficulty of confidently separating them and the long exiting collecting tradition. Some of the more recent catalogues do identify many of them as “non- contemporary” issues.

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Now with that background for those not familiar Civil War Token collecting, lets get on to the main subject of this article, the “Rattlesnake Token”.   This token is appealing for several reasons but formost is its symbolism as far back as colonial times in this country( i.e. at least 1750 or so).  The rattlesnake was the favorite animal emblem of the Americans even before the Revolution.  Moreover, no one can misinterpret either the partial or full phrase,  “LIBERTY OR DEATH: DONT TRED ON ME”, found of the flags of 1775 along with either coiled, or full length rattlers decorating the sacred hand woven material this all resided on.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

On the Obverse: The Union Must and Shall Be Preserved.

 

On the Reverse: “Beware”, shown above the snake with the date 1863 beneath.

This die marriage is 136/397.

 

The rattlesnake has been a favorite symbol of independence throughout America’s history. It was first adopted as a uniquely American ICON by early patriots such as Benjamin Franklin. The rattlesnake represented American unity. For example, individually, its rattles have no sound, but united, they can be heard by all. Moreover, while it does not strike unless threatened, once provoked, the deadly rattlesnake will never surrenders. 

Opponents of the Civil War were also known as “Copperheads”) and criticized Lincoln for refusing to compromise on the slavery issue.

 

The Civil War Token we are interested in falls into “Patriotic” series. The firebrand design of the Gadsden Flag serves as a reminder of the birth of our nation and the spirit that carried it to freedom. The bright yellow banner bears an ominous coiled rattlesnake with the warning “Don’t Tread on Me.”

 

Confederate iron rattlesnake waist belt buckle very similar to the one in Mullinax’s Confederate Belt Buckles & Plates book, expanded edition, page 114, plate 201.

 

UPDATES TO FOLLOW.

 

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