Skip to main content

Counterfeit coins becoming problem

  • Author:
  • Publish date:

By Richard Giedroyc

The good news is that fewer counterfeit euro coins were detected in 2015 than during the previous year. The bad news is that the European Union stands alone. There are plenty of other countries where counterfeit coins are becoming more of a problem.

Counterfeit money in Germany increased by 42 percent during 2015; however, most of it was euro-denominated bank notes. The approximate 86,500 cases were about double that of 2011. Detected counterfeit coins were down by 25 percent during the same period. A total of 112,000 bogus bank notes with a value of about 5.5 million euro (about $6.73 million US) were identified last year.

England's new one pound coin features advance anti-counterfeiting elements.

England's new one pound coin features advance anti-counterfeiting elements.

This is much better news than was reported by the United Kingdom. The British Royal Mint has already begun production of a new 12-sided 1-pound coin due to a rash of bogus coins. The 1-pound is currently considered to be the most highly counterfeited coin in the world. The newer version of the coin is slated to be released in 2017 and incorporates new anti-counterfeiting technology for which the BRM received an international patent in 2011. The patent is for a special fluorescent taggants that is electroplated onto the coinage blanks. The mint has reported it is mixing the taggants in with multiple layers of electroplating to avoid the material from wearing away in circulation.

The BRM technology is compatible with high-speed counting systems if the systems are equipped with readers that flash light of a specific wavelength at each coin. This wavelength is reflected by fluorescent particles embedded in each coin.

Plans call for withdrawing and demonetizing the current 1-pound coin within six months of the release of its replacement. The only potential problem on the horizon is that counterfeiters might try to steal some of the micro-tagged samples, then replicate them, although without knowing the exact chemical makeup this will be challenging.

The Royal Canadian Mint has also experienced threats to its coinage, this being primarily to its bullion coin program. As a result the RCM began adding micro-engraving to its one-ounce gold Maple Leaf coins beginning in 2013. This was followed by similar technology being added to the silver Maple Leaf coins the following year. The field of the silver coin was changed from being flat to having finely cut radial lines.

Anti-counterfeiting technology has been added to Canadian circulation $1 and $2 coins as well. A single micro mark appears on the $1 coin, while two latent images and a lettered edge has been added to the ringed bimetal $2. The RCM patented its “multi-ply plated steel” technology that has been applied to these coins.

The Perth Mint in Western Australia is also concerned about its bullion coins possibly being counterfeited. The recently released one-ounce silver Kangaroo coins now carry a micro “A” in the left leg of the first “A” in the word Australia on the reverse. At the time this article is being written, the Perth Mint is contemplating adding similar features to its other bullion coins.

Perhaps the greatest concern right now is the counterfeit coins originating in China. The jury is out regarding just how good these fake coins are, but nonetheless they are challenging to detect.

Identifying counterfeit coins works best when viewing them up close. Check out this USB digital microscope today!

Identifying counterfeit coins works best when viewing them up close. Check out this USB digital microscope today!

According to the May 5 Internet issue of, “Chinese crooks are minting fakes in large quantities and selling them on the Internet. And unlike the fakes of yesteryear, which were often made of precious metals but altered to appear more rare, many of today’s fakes are coins that are commonly sold for their precious metal content. But these are constructed of cheap alloys like tungsten, lead and zinc, with just enough gold to give them color.”

The article continues, “Trade publications have noted that back-street factories in China are busily making thousands of copies of popular coins such as the American Silver Eagles, Canadian Maple Leafs and U.S. Buffalo coins. They’re then marketed by Asian coin dealers.”

MoneyWatch concludes, “In today’s counterfeit-crazy market, it’s best to buy in person from an established dealer you know and trust.”

On April 22 Radio KVRR in Fargo, N.D., took a different view, saying, “Experts say more and more counterfeit gold coins are fooling even some of the best coin shop dealers.”

The bottom line? The world’s second oldest profession is still thriving. Be you a mint, a coin dealer, a collector or a consumer, you still need to pay attention to your cash.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
>> Subscribe today or get your >> Digital Subscription

More Collecting Resources
• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900, 8th Edition is your guide to images, prices and information on the century's coins.
• Start becoming a coin collector today with this popular course, Coin Collecting 101.