Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Scary Counterfeit Coins From China

The December 1st and 8th issues of Coin World describe the work of a counterfeiter of US and foreign coins operating in China. China is well known for its production of counterfeits of early Chinese coins. These are rather easy to counterfeit because the original production techniques (casting) are easy to replicate with crude equipment. This is an entirely different sort of operation.

Here is how Coin World describes it:

Asked how he manages to produce such convincing counterfeits, Jinghuashei explains that he uses genuine examples for his models.

He downloads digital information about the genuine coin into a computerized coins sculpturing system via laser beam input. The laser system scans the coin using a method of triangulation, taking constant readings from thousands of different data points, producing a three-dimensional model of the coin that is extremely accurate.

If needed he has the ability to "clean up" the digital model to remove blemishes or distinguishing diagnostics that were on the original coin such as contact marks, die chips, die polishing marks or even flow lines on a struck coin.

He notes that everything is done with a view to making the die that is produced as spotless as possible so that nothing will give away the coin struck from it as a counterfeit.

The next step in the process is to render the three-dimensional computer file into an actual coin die. A laser die-cutting process carves the image into a steel surface, which is added to a base (die shank) and then the coin is ready to be placed into the coin presses to strike actual pieces.

Coin World, Dec. 8, 2008, at 92. The article then goes on to note that the counterfeiter even has old coin presses that do a good job of replicating strikings of earlier coins. The one problem the counterfeiter has is that he is dependent on outside suppliers for metal and thus has not been able to exactly replicate the composition of the coins (and hence their weight). Although he says he stamps the word "replica" them, the Coin World reporter was unable to spot the term on all his coins.

The counterfeiter indicates that his work is quite legal in China and he doubts the US Government will ever prosecute him. He regularly sells on eBay. He states he produces about 100,000 fake Chinese coins per month (both ancient and modern) and about 1000 fake US coins per month. Even better, he offers such fake US coins in fake US albums or even fake PSGS slabs!

Of course, this is only one such operation in China. It is indeed ironic that China has purportedly asked the US to impose import restrictions on genuine Chinese coins, but has apparently done little, if anything, at all to stop the export of deceptive fakes to the United States.

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