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How to learn to detect counterfeit notes


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I've wondering how one learns to detect counterfeit notes?


I'm curious in general if there are any techniques that are universally applicable to banknote counterfeit detection. Surely people at PMG aren't expects in every single world currency, so what sort of ways to they check the authenticity of a note?


More specifically, I've been collecting the hyperinflation notes of Zimbabwe recently.The anti-counterfeiting features obvious to me on those notes are:

-foil strip

-patterns visible when held up to light

-small UV threads randomly dispersed on note

-distinct features only visible under magnification (and thus presumably harder to replicate with printers?)


I've never seen a fake note or even really seen a credible report online of fake ones existing so I have nothing to compare the notes to. Every note I see has the features above when examined closely. There are some small inconsistencies. Miscuts are pretty common and I've even noticed whole bundles of notes that are larger than they should be by about a millimeter. Some notes seem thicker than others.


Basically, is visual confirmation that all the above mentioned things are present a good sign that the note is real? Are those prohibitively expensive enough to replicate to make it in practical to produce fake notes by the brick? Should I be worried by other note irregularities if all of the above features are fine?


Any input on this topic would be greatly appreciated!


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Good topic idea. I'll be watching this one myself. Welcome to CoinPeople. Hope you enjoy it here.

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Other things to consider for notes in general besides those four already noted:

5. paper type

6. embedded metal strips

7. Planchettes and fibers

8. Ink type

9. Printing type

10. Serial number font / style


in regards to TPG companies, the larger TPGs have specialists on their rosters who perform the evaluations, though most generalists can get a pretty good feel for things.


Similarly, anyone working in a bank cage quickly learns to recognize various types of currencies, traveller's cheques, banker's checks/drafts and the multitudes of personal and commercial checks from around the world that it can become almost second nature, even when encountering an item they haven't seen before.

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Searching these forums and the internet, it seems like a lot of known counterfeits found in the wild are pretty unsophisticated and can be detected with the naked eye when put next to an authentic note. Cheap chinese knockoffs by someone trying to make a quick buck in china or whatever.


Is it thus safe to assume that if someone were to start up a counterfeiting scheme targeting a specific note series, there would be at the very least some trials and tribulations where earlier fakes were discovered and made widely publicly known before more sophisticated fakes show up?


Anyone know of any reports of any fake notes from anywhere that pass a visual inspection with a loupe? What about reports where UV threads are replicated in fakes?


Is the fact that anything like this is really hard to find on google proof that I'm just overly paranoid, or am I just searching for the wrong things?

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I think neither. I think that no one has made a significant inventory of fake notes. Whether that be because there's no demand or it's too much of an obstacle or no one has taken the mantle yet.

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Here are two of the same Zimbabwe notes that are different sizes. I believe the larger one is the "correct"/more common size. So I guess the smaller note is the "questionable" one here. The smaller one was from a bundle of all similarly sized smaller notes.


Here's a high res scan of the two notes next to each other, black lines drawn by me to emphasize size difference:



(note that while misalignment and mis-cut corners, etc in these notes are pretty common, mis-sized notes are less common though this is not the first time i've ran into them.)


While all the minute elaborate details of both the notes are basically identical, the black ink on the bottom smaller note is noticeably lighter, and the color seems off in a few places (my extreme colorblindness is hurting my ability to analyze this).


Both notes hare small randomly distributed uv threads and specks that are visible under blacklight. The smaller note has noticeably less, but it's not necessarily an alarmingly small amount and might just be due to random variance.


How confident should I be that both notes are genuine?

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I'd say extremely confident.


*Slightly* (e.g. 1mm or so) oversize and undersized notes are not much of a concern since they do happen.


Since a note can easily be cut / trimmed to make it undersize at any point in time after printing, it could just as easily be a trimmed note.


In general, though, I find that inflationary era notes generally due to their nature (need to have lots of new notes put into circulation) tend to have lower QC and larger variations in shades, etc.

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To add to that, I have a set of Yugoslav and Zimbabwe notes that are 100% genuine, however there are printing issues (margins offset, different size, print at an angle, slightly different colors). This is quite common.

I have read that in the case of Zimbabwe they had issues finding replacement parts to keep the presses running, since they were under sanctions (same as Yugoslavia). They would not throw out the batch with small issues, also what is the point? - the money will be worthless in few days, the paper will be more worth :).

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