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Counterfeit Money

( Originally Published 1918 )

A counterfeit bank note is a facsimile of the genuine, or as nearly like it as it is possible to make it. A spurious note is one whose designs are different from the genuine, and is intended to pass in places where the genuine is unknown. An altered note is one that is altered from a lower to a higher denomination; or on a broken bank, having the name or locality changed for that of some reputable bank. A cut note is one made from pieces cut from a number of good bills. A little strip is cut from one genuine note, a little larger strip from another, and the strip cut from the first is placed in the place of it, and so on, until, by skillful cutting, one extra bill out of about every ten is made.

Rules for Detecting Counterfeit Coins

A spurious gold coin may sometimes be detected by the dull sound it makes when thrown upon the counter. Its size and weight serve as an additional test, a spurious gold coin usually being made larger than a genuine coin of the same denomination in order to give it the necessary weight. The milling or edge-work usually is imperfect, owing to the fact that the counterfeit coin is generally cast in a mold, while the genuine coin is stamped and cut with a die. All counterfeit coins have a greasy feel when rubbed between the fingers and thumb. But the most dangerous counterfeit gold coins are made from a die, and sometimes can only be detected by the acid test. Strong nitric acid, 6 1/2 drachms; muriatic acid, 1/4 drachm; water, 5 drachms, constitute the acid mixture necessary for the test. If the edge of a coin be scratched with a knife and exposed to a drop of this mixture, the color will change instantly if the coin is counterfeit, and if the coin is genuine the acid will have no effect upon it.

Genuine gold coins of large denominations are frequently debased by processes known as sweating, plugging, and filling. Sweating is done by means of abrasion, filing, or an acid bath. Plugging is done by boring a hole in the coin and filling the place with some base metal, which is then plated over with gold. Filling is done by sawing or splitting the coin into two thin pieces, removing the interior, filling in with base' metal, joining the pieces together again, and then re-milling and plating the edges. But this process has the weakness of being detectable upon slight examination, requiring no expert skill.

Silver. Most counterfeit silver coins are made from Babbitt metal, and are almost always molded. Glass is sometimes mixed with the metal to give the coins a ringing sound. This often makes them so brittle that they are shattered when thrown upon the counter. Their imperfect edges and greasy feel usually reveal them to be counterfeit. When they are made from a die, however, and antimony and lead are used in their composition, the acid test is generally required to detect their true character.

Five-cent Pieces (nickels) have been extensively counterfeited, but usually are easily detected, being made of pewter or some other soft composition.

How to Detect Counterfeit Bills

Counterfeiters rarely, if ever, get the imprint or engraver's name perfect. The shading in the background of the vignette and over and around the letters forming the name of the bank on a good bill is even and perfect; on a counterfeit it is uneven and imperfect.

Examine the vignette or picture at the top of the note closely. If the note be genuine, the faces have a life-like expression, the eyes are well-defined, showing the pupil and the white distinctly, the drapery or dress fits well, looks easy and natural, and shows the folds very plainly; in short, the entire figure harmonizes. The sky is clear, or transparent, soft or even, not scratchy, and all the different objects have a finished appearance. In the genuine note all the small figures in the background are perfectly executed.

Examine the lettering. In a genuine bill it is absolutely perfect. There has never been a counterfeit put out but was more or less defective in the lettering.

Examine the medallion rulings and the circular ornaments around the figure carefully, and see if they are uniform, regular and smooth. If there are two medallions on a note, designed to be alike, they are exactly alike, as they are from the same original die. The work is done by a geometrical lathe, a machine of great cost, which produces fine, ornamental circles of such exquisite uniformity and perfection that it is almost impossible for a counterfeiter to produce a good imitation. A microscope is a great aid in examining the finer work.

Examine the signature of the president and the cashier. In some counterfeits they are lithographed facsimiles, inked over with a pen, giving them the appearance of being stamped. The stroke has a dead color and rough edge, and the pen does not always follow the hair-stroke curve exactly. The genuine signatures, being written with a pen, look more or less glossy, and the stroke has a smooth edge.

The paper of a counterfeit United States note is always of an inferior quality, while the government has the best and most perfect system of manufacturing the highest grade of paper. The first notes printed on this paper, in 1869, had silk fiber distributed promiscuously all through the paper, then came notes having silk threads running through them lengthwise near the top and bottom, and later on notes having distinctive bands of fibers distributed across and near their ends. By holding the bills up to the light you can easily see the fibers or threads in each bill. This is one of the best tests of a genuine bill, because no counterfeiter has ever yet been able to imitate the paper of the bills in this respect, nor is likely anyone will.

Bank notes that have been altered by what is called the "pasting process" can be detected by holding them to the light. The parts pasted on will then be easily discovered. If any alteration has been made by substituting letters or figures for others that have been erased, the denomination-in the center of the note, if carefully examined, letter by letter, will be found to be blurred and improperly formed, and the parallel lines irregular and imperfect.

The texture of the paper between the letters is frequently destroyed. This defect can be discovered by comparing the paper between the letters with that immediately above and below them. Sometimes the ink of the altered part is different from the rest of the note.

The ink used in genuine notes is very difficult to imitate. It gives a clear, glossy impression, while counterfeiter's ink looks dull, smutty and muddy.

The numbers on the genuine bills are printed in either red or blue ink of a permanent brilliancy, so that no matter how dim the rest of the bill has become, the numbering always stands out clear and distinct.

These rules are especially approved by New York bankers.

One should be careful not to be imposed upon by a stranger seeking the accommodation of having one large bill exchanged for several small ones.

One should acquire the habit of looking sharply at a bill before taking it, especially from a stranger, and, more especially, at a place of amusement, or where there is a special tendency to haste and liability to imposition.

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