By Jesse Robitaille
This is the final part of a three-part series on Canadian counterfeit coins.
As counterfeit coins continue to plague the hobby, some claim the powers that be – including the Royal Canadian Mint, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Ministry of Finance – aren’t doing enough to fight back.
With no one taking charge and hundreds of counterfeit Canadian coins turning up on online markets every day, collectors – and their valuable, culturally significant investments – are all but forgotten.
The last line of defense for collectors of Canadian non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) – or collector coins – is Trenton, Ont.’s Mike Marshall, a well-known counterfeit coin researcher and educator. After a decade of advancing technology and increasing overseas counterfeit production, he said the problem now threatens the investments of all Canadian coin collectors.
“What’s really scary is that no one among the powers that be is getting involved,” said Marshall.
Alex Reeves, senior communications manager for the Mint, said the investigation of counterfeiting activity is a law enforcement responsibility and monitoring said activity is outside the Mint’s mandate.
“We do take the issue of counterfeiting very seriously and such activity is addressed (once detected) with the assistance of domestic and international law enforcement authorities,” he said.
Since the Mint takes the issue of counterfeiting “very seriously”, there were more questions to be asked. But after pressing Reeves to elaborate, his response was this: “You have the Mint’s position on the subject of counterfeiting and please understand that we never discuss the nature of our relationship with law enforcement for security reasons.”
With the Mint’s counterfeiting mandate now entirely laid out, the next source to chase down was the law enforcement agency responsible for fighting counterfeits, the RCMP.
Unfortunately, after weeks of phone calls and e-mails, the RCMP couldn’t provide an answer by the time of printing. However, the RCMP’s national counterfeit co-ordinator, Sue MacLean, said the issue of counterfeit NCLT is not covered under the mandate of the national counterfeit coordination strategy but under the intellectual property rights (IPR) portfolio.
According to the RCMP website, IPR crime, which includes copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting, is increasing worldwide, and it’s creating big losses for legitimate industry, the economy and the Government of Canada.
What’s more, the penalties for violating IPR laws are stiff.
“Under the Copyright Act, the maximum penalties for unauthorized manufacturing, importation or distribution of copyrighted products are a $1 million fine and five years in prison.”
Bret Evans, president of the RCNA, said Canada’s national coin club is opposed to counterfeit circulating and NCLT coins and banknotes, which its members are not allowed to trade in.
“Trading and owning counterfeit coins is a criminal offence and a matter for local law enforcement officials,” said Evans, adding RCNA executives have discussed the matter with both the Mint and the RCMP.
“At this time, the RCMP has declined to dedicate a member to the numismatic community but has personnel tasked to fight counterfeiting in detachments across Canada and urges collectors who encounter fake coins to report them.”