The Ugly Truth About 8 Reales
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Beware the counterfeits, unofficial restrikes and modern forgeries!

 

It's only natural that the world's most popular coins are the target of fraud. For the 8 reales, this has been a problem for over 200 years. Counterfeits, meaning those struck in the same time frame as the genuine issue, used less silver so that the counterfeiter gained by the difference in precious metal. Unofficial restrikes were produced after the genuine issue, were mostly faithful to design as well as silver content, and intended for bullion trade. The modern forgeries are meant to deceive collectors.Dr. John Leonard Riddell, during his appointment as melter and refiner of the New Orleans Mint, cataloged a wide variety of counterfeit 8 reales in "A Monograph of the Silver Dollar: Good and Bad", published in 1845. At the time, 90% of silver dollars circulation in the US were Mexican or the earlier Spanish American issues and he reported that roughtly 1% of these were counterfeits. These can be identified by careful examination of the design details as well as measurement of weight and specific gravity. One of the better known examples of large scale 8 reales counterfeiting was produced in Birmingham, England. The technique of bonding thin silver plating to copper was developed in Sheffield in the mid 1700's and was thereafter adopted to the task of counterfeiting at Birmingham. The initial issue was a tactic in the war with Spain to discredit Spanish bullion. Today, some of these contemporary counterfeits are more valuable than the common genuine issue.It was the overwhelming popularity of Spanish silver coins in the Far East, and specifically with China, that drove various nations, including the US, to restrike portrait 8 reales in the late 1800 and early 1900's. This is a controversial topic to some (see my note on source, below). Silver coins of this type commanded a significant premium to other bullion issues, fineness not withstanding. Advanced forms of die copying became available after 1830 with the result that the best of these restrikes have near perfect details, making authentication extremely difficult. The side of the coin that is often ignored, however, can be the key to spotting the fakes. 8 reales coins, as far back as 1732, have employed edge designs; understanding how they were made and the equipment that was used is highly relevant. Because the design was produced using two parallel dies, the telltale sign is the presence of two areas where the edge design overlaps by a small amount, each exactly opposite the other around the circumference of the coin. Many restrikes can be detected because they only show one area of overlap. Other diagnostics are known and the serious 8 reales collector should become familiar with them. You can imagine the technical advantages the modern forger has over previous generations. And nowadays, replicas do not need to be made in large quantities to make a profit. Perhaps perfect copies can be made, if not now, then in the near future. The trick becomes how to make them appear to be as old as the genuine issue. Modern technology can assist the authenticator, too. One technique that can be employed is X-ray fluorescence (XRF), a non-destructive surface analysis that can determine the makeup of alloys. Until the invention of the MacArthur-Forrest cyanide leaching process in 1887, significant trace elements, unique to the geology of the mine site, were present in all silver alloys. Thus, the trace amounts of gold and platinum from the mines of Mexico are a diagnostic signature for silver alloys of that place and time. Likewise, modern contaminants should never be present in the genuine alloy.If you have an interest in collecting 8 reales, please research the defining characteristics of the various issues. To play it safe, as I mostly have, you can stick to certified coins but remember, a certified coin is not a guarantee of authenticity but only a guarantee of your investment (as far as the TPG's policy defines it).My source for this information comes almost exclusively from the posts of Robert Gurney (aka swamperbob) at coincommunity.com. I especially recommend the "1789 8 Reales" thread. He, Gord Nichols and John Lorenzo plan a book on 8 reales counterfeits that will greatly expand on the topics of this post. If this subject really interests you, please visit the "Update on GNL book on Counterfeits - The Good news" thread and express your enthusiasm about getting this information published.I'll leave you with a few images of an 8 reales that displays the overlap of the edge design that one would expect to see on a genuine portrait 8 reales from Mexico City.~jack

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I'll leave you with a few images of an 8 reales that displays the overlap of the edge design that one would expect to see on a genuine portrait 8 reales from Mexico City.

~jack

 

I look forward to seeing those images since I can not seem to visualize what you are describing.

 

Thanks for the journal entry.

 

Bill

 

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Hi Bill, I think the picture is too large to show on the chat boards but you should be able to see it from the main journals page. ~jack

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Here's the original picture broken down into bite size pieces for chat board consumption. ~jack

148434.jpg.0ada5ec058fcc5b2f522d6a76396b4d4.jpg

148435.jpg.cb8e8fae063eb2eb62f742199e3176fe.jpg

148436.jpg.acc0e320c5d9c7637b02c23fa7c1254a.jpg

148437.jpg.1b96d89f9301572d01d096c2af717779.jpg

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OK.

 

I have a 1888 Libertad 8 Reales and the edge made me wonder on a few occasions whether it was real. It looks slightly different than that edge.

 

Any opinion?

 

1888_Libertad_8_Reales_Edge.jpg

 

 

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Sorry Bill, I don't know how the edge design was applied to that coin but I suspect it was done with equipment that is closer to what is in use today than what was used back in the 18th century. ~jack

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Hi Jack,

An excellent and informative post!! You have to watch out for a lot of these same things with Ottoman Yuzluks, particularly those from the Tripoli West Mint in Libya. I've seen some extremely deceptive and dangerous contemporary forgeries of those that would easily fool a collector new to these coins. And Libyan Yuzluks are no joke pricewise.....they regularly sell for $1000 or more in mid-grade circulated condition when they come up at all. Osmanliparalari.com is a great resource with photos that are very helpful....they actually helped me detect a fake Libya Yuzluk on Ebay, which I reported but it hasn't been taken down. Sometimes I don't know what Ebay does or thinks. But thanks for the great post!! Who knows how many collectors you might save from making a costly mistake with it!

~Tom

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Thanks Tom, I've been noticing a lot more suspect 8 reales showing up on Ebay lately, very likely as a result of the disbanding of the Enhanced Member Reporting Program. Bottom line, we have even less protection from "replica" coins in that venue.

~jack

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