Surge of suspected fakes hits cities across Canada since fall, collector finds

Law enforcement slow to investigate, RCM has ‘no law enforcement authority’

By Jesse Robitaille

Counterfeit coin expert Mike Marshall has been fighting fakery in Canadian numismatics for nearly 15 years.

In recent months, his sights have been set on a string of suspected counterfeit $2 coins reported in cities and towns, big and small, across the country.

Marshall, a resident of Quinte West, a city just west of Belleville, Ont., has been collecting data on counterfeit toonies since last summer, when dozens of fakes hit Toronto businesses (“Dozens of counterfeit toonies allegedly passed in Toronto,” CCN Vol. 58 #10).

Last July, a Toronto supermarket employee reportedly found 75 counterfeit $2 circulation coins, ranging in date from 1996-2011, in one cash register. The employee didn’t identify themselves to CCN, communicating only through a private chat on the online forum Reddit, in fear of retaliation from the counterfeiters.

Based on his findings since last summer, Marshall now estimates about two per cent of the $2 coins in circulation are counterfeit. He said he has checked hundreds of toonie rolls – tens of thousands of coins altogether – and found several readily visible “markers,” including a major one, the polar bear’s right paw, on the reverse. Like the original horde discovered in Toronto, most of the fakes are being passed at unaware small businesses or redistributed in rolls from local banks, he added.

“I believe there are more counterfeit toonies out there right now than there is counterfeit paper money in history combined,” said Marshall, who has found several complete sets of the five known dates, including 1996, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006. “What that tells me is they have a network along the (Highway) 401.”

At the time of printing, the latest fakes Marshall found – on March 16 – had “full mint lustre, and yet it was in a circulated roll.”

“It’s targeted, it’s specific and they’re good at it.”

The fakes are reportedly focused in Vancouver, B.C., Gatineau, Qué., plus Ottawa and North York in Ontario; however, they’re also reported in more rural areas, including Wakefield, Qué., a village of about 2,000 people, and Bridgenorth, Ont., a hamlet of about 3,000 people.

“Even these little out-of-the-way places have them, but Gatineau, Qué., has got the deepest supply of them outside of North York,” said Marshall, who added people are being “very, very delicate” because of concerns about who is making the fakes.

Both major busts in recent years have had ties to organized crime, Marshall added.

“People are being very reserved.”

Over 10 days earlier this year, Marshall’s coin collecting colleague checked “2,000 random toonies” in Gatineau and found one per cent were counterfeit.

“That’s a big number.”

More recently, on March 3, he met with a reporter from his local newspaper, the Belleville Intelligencer, at a bank in Trenton, Ont. Marshall exchanged $300 in banknotes for six toonie rolls, each with 25 $2 coins, and then opened them with the reporter behind the bank. Three “newly minted” fakes were among the 150 coins in the rolls – a rate of two per cent.

A few days later, on March 8, Marshall once again visited his local bank, where he exchanged cash for six rolls of toonies, he said.

“I didn’t even get out of the bank and I had a counterfeit already because there was one right on the end of the roll,” he added. “Just ludicrous.”

IDENTIFYING THE FAKES

The suspected fake $2 coins have a different appearance, weight and typeface compared to genuine examples.

“I can identify the markers to you in seconds,” said Marshall, who added there are “at least four reverse dies being used.”

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