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Dies used to make counterfeit coins - From About.comMark Naber, founder of, answers a few questions about collectable coin forgeries and the purpose of

How bad is the risk of buying counterfeits?

This really is quite a complicated question, depending on what you buy, what venue you buy through and your expertise in the area you collect and your ability to identify the tell tale signs of counterfeits. The dealer and geographical location of where your buy your coins will also impact the risk of buying a counterfeit. For example, if you are inexperienced collector looking for bargains on EBay from unknown dealers, in places such as China, you will almost certainly purchase counterfeits. On the other end of spectrum if you are experienced and buying from reputable dealers whom are experienced in that area, your risk is very low. Knowledge of what you are buying and whom you are buying through is the key to lowering risk. This is nothing new to most seasoned collectors, but it is unfortunate to see new collectors falling into these traps.

What would you advise new collectors to do?

The best advice I would give new collectors is to start small and slowly gain the knowledge as you go. By small I mean don’t spend much – let your spending habits slowly increase along with your expertise. Buy from reputable dealers whom specialise in what you wish to collect, join relevant clubs and discussion boards on the internet and learn; there is a wealth of information nowadays thanks to the internet. There is also a rule of thumb that one should spend 5%-10% of your annual collection budget upon books about coins and coin forgeries. The most risky thing a new collector can do is look for bargains without adequate knowledge. The old saying applies – If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

How does ForgeryNetwork fit in?

Essentially ForgeryNetwork is a database of counterfeit images and associated information. Its most valuable use is for users seeking examples of counterfeits of a certain type. Before any coin is purchased online, users should check the database for known counterfeits of the same type and look closely for similarities. Identical coins indicate a possible counterfeit. This is quite a science, but briefly, look for matching defects and if you have these you have grounds to be suspicious, warranting further investigation or giving the coin under consideration a miss. The same basic principle applies to ancients and modern coins alike, although the science itself varies. I will go into this a little later.

Where are your counterfeits sourced from?

We currently have just over 10,000 entries. About half of this amount are acknowledged fakes, this mostly made up of images from the IAPN (International Association of Professional Numismatists) Bulletin of Counterfeits. A further two thousand or so are internet published fakes or coins sold as reproductions or forgeries. The remainder have mostly been identified as fake, through the process of matching identical defects. We commonly refer to this as twinning. Essentially, it is highly unlikely to have two genuine coins with the same defects; this is especially so with ancient coins, because of constant die wear and the need for re-engraving the dies. Identical coin defects, identical post-strike or identical non-die related defects are a sure sign of possible casting in both ancients and modern. Most of these have come about through internet discussion boards and private collectors uploading these. Others have been identified through abnormal style and/or die matches being sold by known internet fake sellers.

How do you ensure the information is accurate?

In the last couple of years we have introduced moderators. This ensures reasonable evidence is provided before any item is publicly displayed as a forgery. If there is any doubt, nowadays, we will display it as suspect or uncertain or even not approve the entry for public display if it appears to be dubious. We currently have three moderators including myself, but we are looking for further moderators, particular those with expertise in counterfeits of modern coins or ancient/medieval Asian coins. Also, we carefully review any challenges to forgery determinations, either by email or by in the user comment field. A challenge usually changes a forgery determination to suspicious, until more additional evidence is procured.

Who is behind ForgeryNetwork?

ForgeryNetwork is more of a concept than an entity. We don’t have any substantial backing and are not a business as such – we are truly independent. I started the web site back in 2005 as I believed there needed to be a public database of fake coins in the marketplace. I could see a proliferation of fakes occurring through online auctions such as EBay and never really could find the appropriate information easily. There were a number of small databases and fake pages, but no serious effort had been made to counter the problem, so I took up the task of developing a site and compiling the information that was within the public domain. The next step was appealing to all the fellow collectors out there, to support this effort. We thus far have had reasonable support, with a few contributors doing tremendous voluntary work uploading and identifying these counterfeits. We are still a small operation, with no full-time staff or any regular funding. We have survived on donations and the sale of space to some advertisers. On this note we believe we can give extremely good value to our advertisers for these reasons and because the use of the site has increased dramatically in recent times as it has really become of age.

What is the future for the site?

There is an ever increasing need for this site, as more and more of the hobby goes on line. Counterfeiting is currently on the increase, especially in places like China and their methods are consistently improving. We have number of plans for the site, including a major upgrade of the site and building further general pools of information, but funding is proving to be difficult to get. Any funding we do get will go straight into these developments of the site and covering basic costs such as hosting.

What is the future of the hobby as far as counterfeits are concerned?

This is very difficult question. We have to remember counterfeiting has been around as long as coins have been struck. Although serious collecting is relative recent phenomena in terms of numismatic history, we can only assume while forgery techniques improve, counterfeit detection techniques will improve concurrently. We believe databases such as this, are part of the technologies that will counteract the increasingly sophisticated counterfeiters. We are optimistic about the future of our great hobby, but recognize we have some great challenges ahead of us. We believe education is the greatest strength in combating numismatic fraud. We hope to help educate the average collector and hope you will all support our efforts in this.

We are going to arrange monthly overviews and informational articles on counterfeits. If you wish to support the ForgeryNetwork effort, either by contributing fakes, articles, information, patronage or advertising on the site please email Mark Naber at

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