Counterfeit Coins - the Difference Between Canada and Australia

The 2011 ANDA trade show was held in Perth over the past weekend, in addition to the standard fare of coins and notes on offer, a number of seminars on numismatics and related subjects were held.camel

One of the seminars was presented by myself and Steele Waterman (presently the ANDA President) on the subject of counterfeit coins.

Setting aside my rather clumsy analogy of a tethered camel, the seminar went fairly well - I think the folks that came along were able to learn more about the risks involved with buying Australian pre-decimal coins, and specifically what to look for to determine if a coin is a spark erosion counterfeit or not. I've recorded a slightly briefer version via a screencast and have uploaded it to YouTube - if neither of those words make any sense to you, disregard them and just click the screen below, it'll be like watching TV on your computer.

Please keep in mind that this technology is pretty new to me - I thought it'd be pleasant to have some ambient music playing in the background, however I misjudged the volume I had Cat Steven's "Tea for the Tillerman" playing at in the background, and it is a little distracting. Do let me know what you think of it.

The reason I mention this seminar today is not because it happened on the weekend, but because I saw a link to a section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) website that deals with counterfeit coins in that country.

One of the points that Steele and I made in our seminar is the fact that although there are laws governing the production and sale of counterfeit coins in Australia, the laws are unfortunately not always enforced, and that's putting it mildly. This is why we (buyers of coins) need to be on our toes with each and every purchase, no matter who we might be doing business with.

It turns out that the situation is rather different in Canada however - the RCMP has taken a very pro-active stance against the counterfeiting of collectible coins, and as a result there are no counterfeits, replicas or copies of Canadian coins on the Canadian eBay site. According to the RCMP website: "Upon consultation with the RCMP, eBay cooperated fully with the RCMP’s request to remove all current listings from the Canada and USA sites."

In addition to that measure, the RCMP also created a series of web pages showing collectors what to look for when determining the authenticity of any Canadian coin they might be interested in purchasing, either on eBay or elsewhere. This is a fantastic resource - not only does it provide truly useful information in a convenient manner that most collectors are able to access, it has to assure Canadian collectors that the law is indeed on their side, and that it's only a matter of time before any crooks out there making or flogging counterfeit coins get caught.

I'm not confident that Australian collectors yet enjoy the same level of support from our own equivalent government agency - the Australian Federal Police (AFP). There's ample evidence that anyone foolish enough to try and produce or utter counterfeit currency (ie circulating "paper" money) in Australia has the full force of the law come down on them fairly swiftly - as it should.

As far as I'm aware however, the AFP has not yet requested that all counterfeit Australian coins be removed from eBay's Australian website - whereas there were only 10 coins on the equivalent section of the Canadian eBay site when I wrote this article (none of them were Canadian coins either, simply US or foreign coins), there were 104 coins in the "Replicas" section of the Australian eBay site - nearly all of them Australian!

Nor is there a section on the AFP website educating collectors in the red flags that one should keep an eye out for when determining the authenticity of a collectible Australian coin.

Sgt. Tony FARAHBAKHCHIAN, the RCMP Pacific Region Counterfeit Coordinator stated in 2009 that prior to the removal of counterfeit Canadian coins from eBay, "a substantial number of these counterfeits have already made their way into private collections..." (emphasis mine). We've had nearly two years of extra activity here in Australia, so you can imagine just how many of these cheap & nasty duds are milling around in Australian collections now.

The very limited information I've received back from the AFP on matters like this is that like any other police force in the world, they have a finite amount of resources, and simply can't spend the time following complaints about what is unfortunately relatively low-level fraud like this up. I don't think any police officer joins the force to overlook crime of any kind or magnitude up, but they can only do what they can do.

The AFP does have a web page dedicated to explaining the laws governing Australian counterfeit currency, however the short section covering counterfeit coins simply refers enquiries to the Royal Australian Mint website - not exactly a lot of help for the uncertain collector looking for some help in determining whether a particular coin is genuine or not!

ANDA would certainly be happy to play a role in removing counterfeit Australian coins from eBay's Australian website, however our efforts along these lines haven't been particularly fruitful in the past - do you think this should happen? Or is it OK for people to buy these "coins" if they so choose?