Not long ago, the proud owner of a 1930 penny brought his prized possession to a prominent Sydney dealer seeking a valuation to confirm the many thousands of dollars he had just paid for the coin.
Imagine the consternation on the gentleman's face when the dealer's terse, considered opinion was - 'six months to a year, with time off for good behaviour ! '.
This particular instance is not an isolated one. Several times each year, forged or tampered Australian numismatic items surface. In many cases, the work is of such a high standard that only an expert, who regularly handles bona-fide examples of the item, could be expected to spot the forgery.
The moral of the story is clear. When purchasing, ensure that you know and trust the person you are dealing with. A reputable dealer, particularly with high value rare items, will provide you with a written guarantee as to the authenticity of the item, accompanied by a detailed photographic record.
The following table sets out some of the known, high quality, Australian forgeries and tampered coins which have been sold as the real item in recent years:
Forgeries are not just a recent phenomenon. The Sydney Morning Herald, on December 19, 1849, reported that 'on Saturday night, two bad half-crows were passed on a man named Timothy Farrell, whilst selling vegetables in George Street. The men who passed the spurious coins were not taken into custody'.
In the depression, a florin would feed a family for many days while a five shilling coin represented a full week's wages and more. Enterprising individuals, without gainful employment found many ingenious methods to manufacture replicas of the then circulating coinage. Most of these forgeries (known as contemporary forgeries) were of types which are not considered rare in numismatic terms today and therefore attract little attention or publicity.