This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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A two-pronged approach to root out doctored coins in numismatics has been adopted by the Professional Coin Grading Service, a division of Collector’s Universe.
Technology to detect altered surfaces and a lawsuit filed in late May in federal court for the Central District of California seeks to make those who knowingly submit doctored coins pay the price.
“The PCGS Coin Sniffer™ is the next significant development in our ongoing effort,” says David Hall, co-founder of PCGS and president of Collector’s Universe. “When combined with our existing PCGS Secure Plus service, this new process will make it extremely difficult for altered coins to go undetected.”
The “sniffer” uses energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX), Fournier Transform Infra-Red spectral analysis (FT-IR), Raman Spectroscopy and other similar analytical techniques, PCGS says.
Coin surfaces are analyzed in seconds and foreign substances detected.
“This new process is somewhat similar to what we often see as we are going through security at an airport,” says Don Willis, PCGS president.
PCGS alleges in its lawsuit against several individuals that they engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, breach of contract, conspiracy, unfair competition and fraud for submitting “doctored” coins to PCGS for grading on multiple occasions over a period of years.
Hall said that in 24 years PCGS has paid out over $7 million to buy back its encapsulated coins that “have developed some type of problem due to coin doctoring or some other issue.”
“Occasionally our graders have been deceived by the very clever application of foreign substances only to have these substances eventually spoil the coin and necessitate our buying it back,” Hall continued. “We believe we have compelling evidence against several individuals who, working together and separately, have made a business out of this practice.”
“We firmly believe coin doctoring to alter a coin’s appearance is clearly illegal under the law,” Hall concluded.
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