Fake silver dollar-sized coins have become a specialty of the
counterfeiters operating in Asia. U.S. Trade dollars, Bust dollars and
Seated dollars have been targeted, as well as Spanish Colonial 8-real
coins, European talers, Japanese yen and Trade dollars, and a huge
variety of Chinese dollar coins.
Many of these fakes were struck from hand-cut dies, where the
person producing the fake dies was using a photograph of a genuine
coin as a model. This type of counterfeit is usually fairly easy to
identify, especially if a collector has a genuine coin to compare to
the suspect piece. Differences in the style of date digits or
lettering are usually the first things to check.
The counterfeit shown here is a step up in counterfeit quality. A
genuine 1799 8-real coin was used as a model coin when the fake dies
were produced, so all the details of the coin are accurate. It appears
that the model coin was either a “ground find” or a “sea salvage”
coin, and the roughness from corrosion and etching on the genuine coin
transferred over to the fake.
While a counterfeit coin struck from transfer dies is typically a
much more deceptive fake, the transfer die process has its own set of
problems. Any defects on the surface of the genuine model coin, such
as contact marks, scratches, digs and dents, will faithfully transfer
over to the fake dies. Every fake coin struck from these dies will
then exhibit identical marks, referred to as “depressions” by authenticators.
ANACS has a huge file of these counterfeit markers that we use to
identify counterfeit coins. Since it is virtually impossible for two
genuine coins to display identical contact marks and scratches,
depressions are an excellent diagnostic.
The fake shown here exhibits a number of depressions on its
surfaces. On the M of FM (the assayer’s initials) a depression appears
at the top left of the M, and another on the bottom of the right base
of the M, overlapping into the field. On ET (part of HISPAN ET IND
REX, a depression touches the bottom left of the E, and another
appears in the field below the left pendant of the T.
Even though these depressions make authentication easy, this fake
is definitely better than most. The weight is accurate, the edge
design is correct and the overall appearance is identical to a genuine
coin that has been in the ground or the ocean.
Michael Fahey is a senior numismatist at ANACS in Denver, Colo.