The Cuban 1937 peso is a scarce issue for collectors.
Despite a large mintage of 11.5 million coins, very few genuine
pieces survive, and in higher grades, this date typically brings a
solid four-figure price.
Also referred to as the “ABC Pesos” (named after the ABC Party
that was in power at the time), Cuban silver 1-peso coins were struck
by the United States Mint from 1934 to 1939. The same planchets that
were used for U.S. silver dollars were used for the Cuba 1-peso coins.
Similar to the treatment of U.S. silver dollars, nearly all of the
Cuban pesos were stored in vaults, and many were eventually melted,
never having been used in actual circulation.
ANACS recently had the opportunity to inspect two examples of the
Cuban 1937 peso. The first coin was in typical condition for this
issue — lightly worn and mishandled. The second example had an odd
look to it, and after a few minutes of research it became obvious why
it looked “funny.” The last digit had been removed from a genuine
peso, and a fake 7 had been carefully added to a genuine peso of a
On a genuine 1937 peso, the 7 in the date has a specific shape.
Both the crossbar and the upright of the 7 flare out — the left end of
the crossbar and the bottom of the upright are wider than the upper
right portion of the digit.
Also, there is very little space between the 3 and the 7 in the date.
When you compare this description to the fake 7, the alteration is
easy to spot. The width of the upright and crossbar of the added 7 is
uniform throughout, and there is much more space between the 3 and the
7 on the fake coin. Under strong magnification, the color and texture
of the added 7 appears to be different than the other digits in the
date, but the average collector armed only with a loupe will not be
able to spot this diagnostic.
As is often the case in numismatics, when there is a profit
motive, counterfeiters and alteration experts will take advantage. In
this case, changing a $50 coin to a $1,000 coin with a simple date
alteration is certainly worth their time and effort. As collectors, we
need to be aware of situations like this one, and arm ourselves
accordingly to avoid being burned.
Michael Fahey is a senior numismatist at ANACS in Denver, Colo.