Fakes permeate the market, and these pages

It wasn’t planned this way, but the counterfeit theme is prevalent in this issue of Canadian Coin News.

First, there is the last of our special three-part series on counterfeit coins in Canada, which I will discuss a little later. Then, there is the story in our regular “Almost Uncirculated” feature on how police in Israel busted a massive coin-forgery operation.

According to the Times of Israel, police said the crooks had planned to flood the Israeli market with half a million 10-shekel coins a day. “On Sunday (April 19), police, who had been following the suspects for some time, swooped down on a building in the central region of the county and caught two members of the gang in the act of producing the NIS 10 coins ($2.50),” the Times’ story states. According to police, the gang had enough machinery and material to “engineer up to half a million coins every day, worth the equivalent of $1.27 million.”

The counterfeit theme continues with an interesting article written by CCN’s Jesse Robitaille, who sat in on the Ontario Numismatic Association’s recent educational symposium on the security features of Canadian banknotes. Vanessa Collins, a senior analyst with the Bank of Canada’s Ontario regional office, gave a behind-the-scenes perspective on how our central bank is dedicated and determined to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters.

She provided several revealing facts, including: “In 2004, Canada was number one of all industrialized countries in the world for counterfeit bills with $13.5 million seized,” she said. “Most people are surprised to hear those counterfeits were mostly produced in Canada. In 2008, it was counterfeit $100 bills coming out of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).”

Counterfeit money in Canada continues to decline thanks to the security features of our polymer banknotes. As reported in the story, Collins said the Bank of Canada seized only $2.5 million worth of counterfeit banknotes last year – an 81.5 per cent drop since 2004.

This issue also reminds us counterfeiting is a centuries-old crime. Tim Grawey – our columnist on Colonial Tokens – writes in this issue on “The curse of counterfeits in Lower Canada.”

“There is little doubt that Lower Canada (Quebec) was a mecca of counterfeiting in the early 19th century,” he begins his column. “Extensive imitations were made of Tiffin tokens (Breton No. 960), Bust and Harp tokens (Breton No. 1012) and Spread Eagle tokens (Breton No. 994) among others, with much of this production occurring right in the lower province.”

He shares surprising revelations that show an alarming number of counterfeit and imitation tokens were circulated in Lower Canada. It’s a fascinating read.

The “curse” of counterfeits continues to this day, as so richly detailed in our series on fake coins. We had hoped the third story would present the RCMP and the Ministry of Finance as our champions against counterfeiting. However, by press time, the RCMP did not return our calls and the finance ministry, which oversees the Royal Canadian Mint, declined comment and referred the matter to the Mint.

Royal Canadian Numismatic Association president Bret Evans said his organization has discussed this growing concern with the Mint and RCMP. However, the Mounties have declined requests to devoting a dedicated officer to work with the numismatic community in fighting counterfeits, like they have in the past.

I urge the RCNA not to give up. Instead, join forces with other numismatic organizations like CAND (Canadian Association of Numismatic Dealers) and our coin clubs across Canada to lobby the government, the RCMP and the Mint to step up efforts in Canada to stem the flow of counterfeits being sold to Canadian collectors.

Meanwhile, the safest advice for collectors is to buy your coins from dealers and businesses you know, both in person and online.

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