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Scary Photos and It's Not Halloween
December 03, 2010

What’s scarier, experts who have a difficult time detecting an especially good Chinese counterfeit, or people who call themselves average collectors who can’t spot a badly done fake when it is in their hands?

I think it is the latter. There are more of them.

I received a letter and a packet of photos. In it, the writer tells the story about having gotten the whole group for just $20. He sent them to me. He wants F. Michael Fazzari, an authenticator who writes a Numismatic News column to take a look at them.

The photos are of early American coins. They are exceedingly bad fakes. This reader did not notice?

They had everything from crooked letters to irregular rims. I expect they were light in weight compared to regular coins, too, judging from the photos. No counterfeiter worth his salt would waste precious metal or good copper on such terribly done fakes.

Why did this reader not notice that these are fake?

I did not use any sophisticated analysis techniques. You could compare these photos to black and white photos in a 30-year-old guide book and still figure it out.

I know there are collectors who don’t want to buy books. Using the $20 to buy a copy of Coin Digest or other popular reference book would be better use of the money.

I also wonder what else this particular average collector doesn’t know and it scares me.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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