World Coins

Fake 1891 Japanese yen identified by ANACS

Detecting Counterfeits column from Jan. 11, 2016, issue of Coin World:

One of the challenges we face at ANACS is making an authentication determination when we have only a single specimen to study. This was not the case with the fake shown here.

ANACS graders inspected the initial Japan 1891 (Meiji 24) silver 1-yen coin that we encountered in a submission, concerning ourselves with its unusual appearance and numerous surface oddities. Then we had the good fortune to see a second 1891 yen from the same set of counterfeit dies, allowing us to catalog all of the matching depressions and defects shared by both fakes.

Both have slightly weak rims, very sharp edge reeding, and dozens of tiny marks on the surfaces. One piece was toned much darker than the other, but both pieces exhibited natural-looking toning patterns that did not set off any alarms. 

Once we had the two coins side-by-side, it became obvious that nearly all of the contact marks and defects were identical on both pieces. If you compare two genuine 1922 Peace dollars in average Uncirculated condition, you will see many light marks, digs and scratches on the surfaces of each coin. None of these marks will be identical on both coins, since they received these contact marks randomly while falling into a bin or banging against each other in a canvas bag.

With counterfeits, these marks are called “depressions” and were usually on the genuine model coin used to produce the fake dies.

Along with all the design details, these contact marks were faithfully transferred over to the counterfeit dies, then reproduced onto every fake struck from this pair of dies. Matching depressions remain one of the best methods for detecting counterfeits, as long as you have multiple examples to accurately map the fake diagnostics.

We show a few of the coins’ matching depressions here. On the obverse, several marks appear between the Japanese character and the dot, in the outer field area at approximately 10:00. On the reverse, a series of marks appears near the point of the horizontal line that appears in the upper center of the design.

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