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Counterfeit.  A copy of a monetary or numismatic item made without authority and with intent to deceive or defraud the public or collectors. Counterfeits of current coins of all countries – and particularly the country you are in – are illegal to own; possession or passing such objects are subject to confiscation and arrest. Counterfeits of gold coins in recent years were made to sell to bullion hoarders, speculators and dealers, though the coins no longer circulate. Counterfeits of ancient coins, however, as with perhaps all demonetized coins, are a gray area; if contemporary copies (made near the time of their use) they are historical objects and are certainly satisfactory to be studied. On the other hand, if they are recent copies, made to deceive collectors of these coins, they are forgeries. All counterfeits are private imitations and are the vilest forms of copies.  See copies and replicas, fake.

Throughout history whatever man has made as money, an has attempted to

counterfeit. The attempt to thwart the illegal act has taken many forms. When coins were struck by the screw press in the 16th and 17th century in many countries it was illegal for a private individual to own a screw press. As coin technology improved, it was illegal to pass on the information of how coins were struck. Knowledge of the collar and upsetting became closely guarded secrets at national mints. The finest engravers were employed to create dies with the thought that their work could not be duplicated. Yet counterfeiting persists throughout history as an example of man's illicit foibiles.


Counterfeit detection.  The first attempts of discerning the false from the true was the use of human physical senses: sight, touch, smell and sound. A suspect piece was examined closely for color, workmanship, correct dimensions, eyeball inspection. It had to "feel" right, not be a cast piece with a greasy feel. It had to smell right. Also it had to pass a ring test, bounced on a hard surface, it had to ring true. From these rather crude tests have evolved more sophisticated testing.

What appears as a challenge for counterfeit detectors is met head on with science, and scientific detection always wins. Now we have laboratory testing of great sophistication that can differentiate the true from the false.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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