Counterfeiting of money is one of the oldest crimes in history. It was a serious problem during the 19th century when banks issued their own currency. At the time of the Civil War, it was estimated that one-third of all currency in circulation was counterfeit.
At that time, there were approximately 1,600 state banks designing and printing their own notes. Each note carried a different design, making it difficult to distinguish the 4,000 varieties of counterfeits from the 7,000 varieties of genuine notes.
It was anticipated that the adoption of a national currency in 1863 would solve the counterfeiting problem. However, the national currency was soon counterfeited so extensively it became necessary for the Government to take enforcement measures. On July 5, 1865, the United States Secret Service was established to suppress counterfeiting.
How To Detect Counterfeit Money
Look at the money you receive. Compare a suspect note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying attention to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities.
Portrait The genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background, which is often too dark or mottled.
Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct, and sharp. The counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt, or broken saw-tooth points.
Border The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.
Serial Numbers Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury Seal. On a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.
Paper Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper. Close inspection reveals, however, that on the counterfeit note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of United States currency.
What About Counterfeit Coins?
Genuine coins are struck (stamped out) by special machinery. Most counterfeit coins are made by pouring liquid metal into molds or dies. This procedure often leaves die marks, such as cracks or pimples of metal on the counterfeit coin.
Today counterfeit coins are made primarily to simulate rare coins which are of value to collectors. Sometimes this is done by altering genuine coins to increase their numismatic value. The most common changes are the removal, addition, or alteration of the coin's date or mint marks.
If you suspect you are in possession of a counterfeit or altered coin, compare it with a genuine one of the same value.
If it is above five cents in value, it should have corrugated outer edges, referred to as “reeding.” Reeding on genuine coins is even and distinct. The counterfeit coin's reeding may be uneven, crooked, or missing altogether.