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Counterfeit detection advances

By Richard Giedroyc

The Royal Canadian Mint is once more demonstrating it is on the cutting edge of technology. The RCM recently unveiled its Bullion DNA Anti-Counterfeiting Technology device, a counter-top device meant to detect fake Gold Maple Leaf and Silver Maple Leaf coins.

This is really innovative stuff. But, wait a minute. Are there so many counterfeit Canadian bullion coins out there that such technology is necessary? No one appears to have any statistics on just how many gold and silver Maple Leaf coins have been encountered that have proved to be counterfeit. Are there so many bad coins this is necessary, or is this new device simply meant to instill sufficient confidence among bullion coin consumers that they might be more comfortable buying Canadian products rather than bullion coins offered by the United States, Great Britain, and other competitors?

The 2014 Canadian silver Maple Leaf is the first issue with the new "DNA" anti-counterfeiting technology.

The 2014 Canadian silver Maple Leaf is the first issue with the new “DNA” anti-counterfeiting technology.

If you read between the lines it appears the detection device may help build more sales than deter counterfeit coin trades. Royal Canadian Mint President and Chief Executive Officer Sandra L. Hanington recently said, “The Royal Canadian Mint is committed to assuring its customers that our family of bullion products stands for unrivaled quality, purity, and security by being a continuous bullion industry innovator.”

Hanington continued, “The addition of Bullion DNA Anti-Counterfeiting Technology to our growing list of bullion security solutions is a game-changer for Royal Canadian Mint bullion dealers and distributors as they and their customers can now certify that new GML and SML coins are genuine, in-store and at the very moment of a transaction.”

If you have ever been in a coin store either buying or selling bullion coins, scrap gold or silver, or silver “rounds” you may have watched the clerk test the item for authenticity. This might involve simply weighing it, conducting a specific gravity test, applying a magnet to the item in question, or taking a trace sample to test with chemicals. The quality of the images on a coin or medal may also help detect a counterfeit. Is a “DNA’”device necessary? Are counterfeiters really that good?

Regarding rare collectible coins the answer may be “yes.’”If this wasn’t true we wouldn’t have a need for the third party certification services. These services also accept modern bullion type coins, but most people submit bullion specific coins for the grade to be assigned rather than due to the authenticity of these coins being in question. An unusually high condition bullion coin may command a higher premium.

The RCM is on to something. It is using what it describes as “encrypted digital code using the Mint’s digital non-destructive activation (DNA) technology” to ensure these coins can’t be successfully copied. What about the many circulation coins that counterfeiters fix their sights on? Would using this technology on especially high denomination circulating coins such as the Japanese 500 yen, European Union 2 euro, and others be perhaps even more important to protect?

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The Aug. 21 Hampshire Chronicle reported counterfeit British £2 coins encountered by former Chris Pines mayor Denise Baker. Baker was quoted as saying, ““It is annoying to think these counterfeiters are getting away with it. The more that people know about it the better.”

Although British law enforcement recently estimated about three percent of the nation’s £1 coins in circulation are counterfeits, no one has a handle on just how many fake £2 coins are out there.

The United States recently encountered Chinese exporters working with US recycling companies to take advantage of the U.S. Mint Mutilated Coin Program by recycling cheaply made counterfeit coins as genuine but mutilated dimes, quarters, and half dollars. The program pays recyclers about $20 per pound, but is supposed to be paying for genuine copper-nickel composition coins.

Laser engravings and machines that can detect them are important to the future of counterfeit detection, but perhaps counterfeit coin detection equipment development should be aimed at coins that will be used as money rather than bullion or collector issues.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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