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Threat or Menace?


mmarotta
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If you have been around the hobby for a while, you come across fakes. According to PCGS – probably with some humor, but not far from the mark, there are twice as many fake 1916-D Mercury Dimes as real ones. Fakes have always been with us. Fakery has always been a problem in every area of commerce. The blind horse that knew its way around its farm, and so passed a buyer’s inspection, is legendary. Today our hobby is suffering a plague of 19th century coins being counterfeited in China. In addition, a continuing undertow of fake ancients drags down the credibility of dealers and their wares. We must remain clear on the fact that these phony materials have no place in our hobby.

 

In our hobby, apologists for fakery claim that counterfeits are collectible and they misstate the historical record to bolster their assertions.

 

Do not be deceived. Fakes are bad. When something is false, it suffers from internal inconsistencies and proposes logical fallacies. External facts are lacking and known facts dispute the claims. Phonies only mimic genuine items. These falsehoods lead to no new ideas, no new applications, no better understandings. The bottom line is that counterfeit collectibles are numismatic fallacies. It is bad enough when a collector is cheated, but the problem is wider than that.

 

A page from the 1966 Red Book is an example of how destructive fakes are, and not just to our hobby. These phony pioneer gold pieces have been condemned. It is not merely that some collectors paid too much for gold. The entire HISTORY of the American frontier West was altered. For almost 30 years, we lived in some kind of artificially contrived alternate universe. These forgeries were accepted into the standard reference books and so they diminish the reliability of those references. These fantasy piece found their way into the Smithsonian Museum where they were only recently condemned by curator Richard Doty.

 

At a Coinage of the Americas Conference in 1998, John Kleeberg discussed fake half dollars that had found their way into the ANS collection where they were catalogued as genuine.

 

Fakes populate our common experiential world with false data. The bottom line is that bad things are bad. They start out that way. They remain so. No sophistry can gild them into acceptability.

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If you have been around the hobby for a while, you come across fakes.

 

....This is very true. Some are aware of coming across fakes and yet others may be blissfully unaware that their collection may actually contain fakes. There is no substitue for knowledge and people should (wherever possible) invest in knowledge.

 

 

In our hobby, apologists for fakery claim that counterfeits are collectible and they misstate the historical record to bolster their assertions.

 

There is an underlying assertion in this statement of yours that `if you collect fakes, then you are an apologist for fakery'. I collect examples of fakes, but am no `apologist for fakery'. Many people collect fakes, and I suspect very few to be `apologists for fakery' I would be more than happy to pursue any arguement you wish to have on the matter if that is indeed the ill founded assertion you appear to be making.

 

Do not be deceived. Fakes are bad.

 

....and you should not be deceived. All generalities are bad...... including this one.

 

`Ignorance is bad'; `Greed is bad'; `People who pontificate about fakes are bad'.

 

At a Coinage of the Americas Conference in 1998, John Kleeberg discussed fake half dollars that had found their way into the ANS collection where they were catalogued as genuine.

 

Fakes populate our common experiential world with false data. The bottom line is that bad things are bad. They start out that way. They remain so. No sophistry can gild them into acceptability.

 

Ah....`sophistry'. Now there's a worthy topic. In my humble opinion, no sophistry I have come across to date will ever render the collecting of fakes as being something `unclean'.

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There is an underlying assertion in this statement of yours that `if you collect fakes, then you are an apologist for fakery'. I collect examples of fakes, but am no `apologist for fakery'. Many people collect fakes, and I suspect very few to be `apologists for fakery' I would be more than happy to pursue any arguement you wish to have on the matter if that is indeed the ill founded assertion you appear to be making.

There is a well-known series of counterfeit Russian copper 5 kopeck coins made in the late 1700's by the Swedish mint at Avesta. Although technically speaking these are fakes, they are well documented, and extremely rare, so they are much sought after by ambitious collectors (who would not touch other fakes with the proverbial 10-foot pole).

 

In fact, there are very clever "fakes of the fake" Russian Avesta counterfeits as was recently shown by sigistenz on this forum (also illustrated in the most recent Journal of the Russian Numismatic Society):

False Avesta 5 kopek

 

All generalities are bad...... including this one.

That's funny! :lol:

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I collect examples of fakes, but am no `apologist for fakery'. ... `Ignorance is bad'; `Greed is bad'; `People who pontificate about fakes are bad'. ... In my humble opinion, no sophistry I have come across to date will ever render the collecting of fakes as being something `unclean'.

 

Ian, you know that I hold you in high esteem. I confess that I, too, have fakes. Some I bought to destroy for an ANA Theater presentation. See my avatar here. Others, I acquired when I first joined the hobby: they were interesting oddities. My understanding became fixed as a result of the "Franklin Hoard" Western Assay Bars. The most recent influx of Chinese fakes is only yet another wave of pollution washing through the hobby. They are no different than copies of Bashlow copies of Continental Dollars. And I regard the Bashlow copies as undesirable fakes. The same is true of Montroville Dickeson's 1876 knock-offs.

 

On the other hand, at another Coinage of the Americas Conference, Eric P. Newman spoke about the counterfeit coppers ("Bungtown" coins) of colonial times that circulated widely and even into the 1830s in the western counties of Virginia. Similarly, "blacksmith tokens" of Canada were crudely made copies that served a commercial purpose: small change was needed and they were it. After the invasion of Iraq, Kurd towns relied on a certain issue of Saddam Hussein, the last before he fell, essentially worthless which nonetheless served as markers and counters in daily commerce. In William Gibson's "cyberpunk" stories, people use demonetized "New Yen" notes for the same purposes. In those cases, actual use in commerce as money validated (validates still) the objects.

 

However, the so-called "bogos" counterfeit Bust Half Dollars, were never intended as a commercial medium, but always were fakes of US silver coins, intended to deceive and swindle. As such they are contraband under law and can be -- and should be -- seized without a warrant or compensation.

 

I have a friend who restored an old Mustang. Auto restoration has the same problems -- and if you are happy with your car, replica radio knobs and all -- that's all that counts.

 

So, despite my strong beginning and principled stance, I do not have any easy answers for the many gray areas. The problem, though, is that it becomes difficult to separate convenience from complicity.

 

I believe that it is beter to begin with the assumption that fakes are bad and then allow the exceptions, rather than to assume that fakes are all right, and condemn only the egregious examples.

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I believe that it is beter to begin with the assumption that fakes are bad and then allow the exceptions, rather than to assume that fakes are all right, and condemn only the egregious examples.

 

There was a time when you would lose your head or some other part of the anatomy if caught either forging coins or trying to pass forgeries off as being genuine. Call me a sentimental boring old fart hankering after `the good old days', but I think the big mistake was removing that sanction for forgers of any form of legal tender or instrument of 'exchange'.

 

When it comes to the `collectables' marketplace, there is no doubt that modern sophisticated production techniques mean that forgeries of collectable coins are passing for genuine. It is indeed `scary' , but the only real way to counter is to ensure you keep your own knowledge and understanding up to speed........and not be afraid to actually look at them up close.

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