What is a counterfeit US coin?
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An increasing number of fake US coins are appearing in the hobby market. All of them look exactly like legal tender US coins.

 

What, then, constitutes a counterfeit?

 

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Technically speaking, a counterfeit coin is a not coin because a coin only becomes a coin when it is monetized by the governmental entity issuing it. That said, counterfeits are made with the intention to deceive the buyer into paying for something he or she thinks is genuine. This deception also includes genuine coins that have been altered.

 

For instance my favorite Hawaii 5-0 episode is the $100,000 Nickel episode featuring a 1913 Liberty Head Nickel. In that episode the real coin is stolen through a slight of hand and replaced with genuine coin that has a very carefully engraved altered date. However, the coin only fooled the dealer long enough for the crook to get away.

 

I have been burned in the past by fake coins. Fortunately, the sellers of the coins refunded my money. However, I took it upon myself to educate myself as much as possible to learn the diagnostics of fake coins, but more importantly make myself more familiar with genuine coins. I had a friend once that was a bank teller and she told me they were trained to become familiar with the real thing and by that know a counterfeit by something not seeming quite right.

 

When spending a large sum of money I like to buy certified coins from reputable dealers. Even at that fake coins slip through the cracks leaving me with doing all I can to learn how to fend for myself since I am the one taking the financial hit.

 

Gary

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Good question, especially considering the "fantasy" coins that some dealers offer. But I would think that a "counterfeiting" involves some level of intent to pass the coins off as legal tender.

 

I don't think that's sufficient. Suppose I made you a beautiful copied coin as a gift, told you it was a copy, and made no attempt to pass it off as a genuine coin. Is it not a counterfeit?

 

At some point, you take this beautiful copy and attempt to pass it off as a genuine coin. Does it transform to a counterfeit at the moment you attempt to pass it off? I don't this so - I think it's been a counterfeit since the day it was created.

 

Edited by skippy
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From the US Mint website:

 

The Hobby Protection Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 2101–2106), requires manufacturers of imitation numismatic items to mark plainly and permanently such items with the word "copy." Failure to do so may constitute an unfair or deceptive act or practice pursuant to the Federal Trade Commission Act.

only the United States Mint is authorized to manufacture United States coins. For all of the above reasons, the use of the term "coin" may mislead consumers as to the actual product being offered. Alternative terms such as "replica," "medal" or "medallion" should be used in order to avoid confusion.

Counterfeiting laws fall under the jurisdiction of the United States Secret Service and the United States Department of Justice, and appear at 18 U.S.C. Chapter 25. Existing laws generally cover those coins, tokens, devices, etc. (and their dies) that are intended either for use as genuine currency or are in similitude to United States or foreign coins. The laws apply equally to all coins, including those coins not currently in circulation.

 

Any violation of the above would be a counterfeit.

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An increasing number of fake US coins are appearing in the hobby market. All of them look exactly like legal tender US coins.

 

What, then, constitutes a counterfeit?

An increasing number of illegal immigrants are appearing in the job market. All of them look exactly like legal immigrants.

 

What, then, constitutes an illegal immigrant?

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At the time the "The Hobby Protection Act" was written and enacted, re-strikes with US minted coins, with surplus US Mint coining presses was not an issue. I think it needs to be re-visited.

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Good question, especially considering the "fantasy" coins that some dealers offer. But I would think that a "counterfeiting" involves some level of intent to pass the coins off as legal tender.

That's why I never try to pass my fantasy $100 bills off as legal tender, I just sell them to collectors.

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All of them look exactly like legal tender US coins.

That's subjective, isn't it? Most of the counterfeits I see do not look "exactly" like legal tender, but look "similar".

I could be wrong but I believe that was a premise in his question. If all of them look exactly like legal tender US coins, what, then, constitutes a counterfeit? In other words, we know the answer, if they don't look exactly the same.

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My definition, a coin that is produced or altered for the soul purpose or the intent of deceiving others.

 

How would it be determined whether the person who produced or altered the item had intent to deceive? Or for that matter, (in many cases) who the person was? I don't think intent would make a useful requirement.

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Those posters who propose considering "intent to defraud" as part of the definition of counterfeit will quickly find themselves in a similar position to those attempting to divine intent when considering whether coins are cleaned or not.

 

Intent is difficult to determine and generally impossible to prove, so I don't think it's part of proper definition of "counterfeit".

 

Here's my proposed definition: A counterfeit is any [coin, medal, fantasy] that resembles a genuine mint product and does not bear the stamp "COPY".

 

It's still not a perfect definition. DCarr pieces "resemble" genuine mint products but he apes products that were never issued (e.g. 64 Peace Dollars). I am reluctant to label his work as "counterfeit" even though most people might not know that a 64 Peace Dollar was never issued.

Edited by skippy
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My definition, a coin that is produced or altered for the soul purpose or the intent of deceiving others.

There are a lot of US Mint made commemoratives that could fit that definition. :)

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My definition, a coin that is produced or altered for the soul purpose or the intent of deceiving others.

How would it be determined whether the person who produced or altered the item had intent to deceive? Or for that matter, (in many cases) who the person was? I don't think intent would make a useful requirement.

It's the mens rea of these crimes, Mark. You ought to know that. It can be inferred from the circumstances.

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Those posters who propose considering "intent to defraud" as part of the definition of counterfeit will quickly find themselves in a similar position to those attempting to divine intent when considering whether coins are cleaned or not.

 

Intent is difficult to determine and generally impossible to prove, so I don't think it's part of proper definition of "counterfeit".

 

Here's my proposed definition: A counterfeit is any [coin, medal, fantasy] that resembles a genuine mint product and does not bear the stamp "COPY".

 

No, that would be a copy, not a counterfeit coin. Illegal? Yes, but because it doesn't comply with the Hobby Protection Act, not because it is counterfeit.

 

A counterfeit is created strictly for the purpose of passing as legal tender. Regardless of original intent copies made for collectors--whether in compliance with the HPA or not--are not counterfeits falling under the purview of the Treasury department. Instead, enforcement is handled by the Federal Trade Administration.

 

Under the law, altered coins are not counterfeit either (other than an attempt to raise the face value). The fact that a 1916 dime with an added D could be worth more to an unsuspecting collector does not constitute counterfeiting--instead, it is fraud--and actionable only as such.

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Interesting comments - some of the suggestions lead to the conclusion that "Chinese counterfeits" are not really counterfeit because the makers did not "intend to defraud."

 

BTW: In US and common law, a thing does not have to be "an exact duplicate" to be a counterfeit. (If it were an exact duplicate of a mass produced coin, for example, then one could not distinguish the real from the fake.)

 

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All of them look exactly like legal tender US coins.

That's subjective, isn't it? Most of the counterfeits I see do not look "exactly" like legal tender, but look "similar".

 

Excellent point, James.

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All of them look exactly like legal tender US coins.

That's subjective, isn't it? Most of the counterfeits I see do not look "exactly" like legal tender, but look "similar".

Excellent point, James.

Well then why would Roger ask a dumb question like that? A counterfeit is defined on the differences.

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The question was asked because there was once a clearly understood meaning for "counterfeit coin." (I've never heard of anyone calling the Omega pieces anything except counterfeit; same for the "Henning" nickels, etc., etc.)

 

However, now that clarity seems to be missing, and I was wondering how collectors approached the subject?

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The question was asked because there was once a clearly understood meaning for "counterfeit coin." (I've never heard of anyone calling the Omega pieces anything except counterfeit; same for the "Henning" nickels, etc., etc.)

 

However, now that clarity seems to be missing, and I was wondering how collectors approached the subject?

Well, collectors are rather inexact, there, Roger. The "coin doctoring" hysteria I think contributed a lot to the obscurity. When I was ATS, "AT" coins were considered "counterfeit." Pay attention to the metal. If that's not right, it's counterfeit. How one "approaches" the subject, really, is meaningless.

 

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Instead of using the word "counterfeit" we can just say "not a genuine mint product." That would seem to eliminate any ambiguity.

 

Under the "not a genuine mint product" category, I have two subcategories:

 

1) Contemporary counterfeits, which I find very interesting and highly collectible. (Omega and Henning would fit here.)

 

2) Modern .

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(Omega pieces were not intended to circulate - made only for sale at a profit to collectors. Henning made his fakes, as did others, to pass for real coins.)

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From 18 US Code Chapter 25 Counterfeiting and Forgery:

 

Section 487. Making or possessing counterfeit dies for coins:

 

Whoever, without lawful authority, makes any die, hub, or mold, or any part thereof, either of steel or plaster, or any other substance, in likeness or similitude, as to the design or the inscription thereon, of any die, hub, or mold designated for the coining or making of any of the genuine gold, silver, nickel, bronze, copper, or other coins coined at the mints of the United States.

 

Section 489. Making or possessing likeness of coins:

 

Whoever, within the United States, makes or brings therein from any foreign country, or possesses with intent to sell, give away, or in any other manner uses the same, except under authority of the Secretary of the Treasury or other proper officer of the United States, any token, disk, or device in the likeness or similitude as to design, color, or the inscription thereon of any of the coins of the United States or of any foreign country issued as money, either under the authority of the United States or under the authority of any foreign government shall be fined under this title.

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Omega pieces were not intended to circulate - made only for sale at a profit to collectors.

Roger, what $20 gold coin, imitation or not, is going to circulate? These gold coins were made with the knowledge they're deceptive enough to pass for the real things. That's all that's needed.

 

You're the Omega Man, aren't you? Be honest. :grin:

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Kurtdog - the context was about contemporary counterfeits meant to circulate.

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1) Contemporary counterfeits, which I find very interesting and highly collectible. (Omega and Henning would fit here.)

Henning yes, Omega no. It was not contemporary

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