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Mint stops cashing in counterfeits

In another example of “quick” government action, on Oct. 29 the Federal Register published a notice that the Mint was suspending its 104-year-old coin exchange program for six months.

The news first broke last March that recycling firms were using Chinese counterfeits to take advantage of the program, which redeemed bent and partial coins.

Among the allegations published six months ago on www.nj.com was that the Mint had redeemed more mutilated half dollars from Chinese sources than have ever been minted in the history of the United States.

I guess that would be a tip-off that something is wrong.

The Mint will use the six months to “assess the security of the program and develop additional safeguards, as necessary, to ensure the integrity of United States coinage.”

ChinaDaily.com said, “In a March 20 District Court filing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, the government is seeking the forfeiture of $5.46 million in proceeds seized from three US-based companies involved in sending damaged coins to the Mint for payment.”

So much for the commonly held belief that counterfeiting coins is not worth the bother.

The sum of $5.46 million, even divided three ways as was alleged, amounts to some serious money.

Apparently federal officials suspected something was wrong as long ago as 2009, according to both articles, when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection noticed an increase in the amount of mutilated coins coming through the Port of Los Angeles.

Bottom line is that not only have American jobs been outsourced, but American crime apparently has been outsourced as well.

What’s a self-respecting American counterfeiter supposed to do to support himself against Chinese competition?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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