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Copying Not Same as Counterfeiting

April 25, 1985|DON ALPERT

Question: Your column of April 11 contained two references to photocopies of U.S. bills. I am of the opinion that this is illegal. Would your comment? --W.R.S.

Answer: There's a big difference, of course, between photocopying currency and counterfeiting it. Photocopies are simply reproductions with no intent to defraud. Counterfeits are often so close to the real thing that only experts can tell them apart. Usually, these are designed to deceive the public, rather than collectors. Coins and bills designed to fool numismatists are usually rarities and are called forgeries. Some copies are rather crude, while others are highly sophisticated.

Elaborate designs and more complicated printing procedures have been instituted to thwart counterfeiting. It has been reported that new U.S. currency will be multicolored and will contain metal threads to further frustrate counterfeiters. These bills, already nicknamed Rainbows, have not yet been officially announced.

Just this February, the Treasury Department said it would allow reproductions of U.S. currency to be used in commercial advertisements as long as they were not in color and they were either 25% smaller or 50% larger than the actual size of the bills. Such reproductions have been allowed in the past to accompany news articles. Now, with the advent of home and office copying machines, it's become much easier to photocopy bills for illustration purposes. I am no aware of any prohibition against this practice.

Q: I have a set of questions. Do you think that the book "A Guide Book of United States Coins" by Yeoman represents market value of coins and is of any value? Also, does the book "The Official American Numismatic Assn. Grading Standards for United States Coins" set the standards of grading for the industry? Should it be adhered to? Are there more generally accepted standards? --R.H.

A: The Yeoman book, commonly called the Red Book, is not particularly accurate as a price guide because it comes out annually, and prices are subject to change on a daily basis. However, it is packed full of information and does serve as a guide if you care to chart the progress of coins through the years. Dealers, however, tend to rely more heavily on the Coin Dealer Newsletter, which comes out weekly. It is commonly called the Gray Sheet and is published weekly with bid and ask prices listed with pluses or minuses to indicate the direction active coins are going. The Gray Sheet is available from Department CDN, P.O. Box 11099, Torrance 90510; it costs $50 for six months.

The ANA book was an attempt to standardize grading. It has only been partly successful. There are so many variables that affect a coin's grading--plus human interpretation--that it is virtually impossible to get universal agreement.

Still, the book belongs in every collector's library. While it might not set the standards for the coin hobby, it comes as close as anything there is. Most dealers don't feel that they need any outside help in grading coins. The problem is, they often disagree among themselves. Learn as much as you can about grading, and then rely on your own judgment.

Q: Please tell me what the following are worth: U.S. fractional currency, 1801 50 cents and Series of 1874 10 cents; one silver dollar (paper), Act of Aug. 4, 1886; one silver dollar certified (paper) Series of 1923. We also have some German paper money, 5 marks 1918 and 2 marks 1936. --P.S.

A: Your fractional currency pieces are worth about $5 each and up; the 1886 and 1889 bills are $25 each and up, and the 1923 bill is $15 and up. Your Germ an inflationary money has little or no collector value.

Q: As I was gathering things for a garage sale, I came across coins I had long forgotten. I have a $5 gold piece, 1836; a $1 gold, 1854, and two very small octagon-shaped disks, stamped California Gold. One is date 1853, the other 1857. On the reverse side of each is an Indian head similar to the one on the Indian-head penny. Any information concerning these coins will be much appreciated. --L.M.

A: Be grateful you didn't dispose of them in the garage sale. The $5 and $1 gold pieces are worth $200 each and up; the California gold pieces are $75 each and up./

Q: I have three Mexican 25-peso silver coins. I would like to know what value, if any, they have. On the front they read: Juegos de la XIX Olimpiada Mexico 1968. They have what looks like an Indian jumping and the five Olympic circles. On the back there is an eagle with a snake in its beak. --M.E.

A: Your coins were issued to commemorate the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. They are worth $3.75 each.

Coin News

Few people have the opportunity to see or own a $10,000 note. The Bureau of Engraving & Printing is issuing a souvenir card with the reverse of the Series 1878 note (pictured). The card commemorates the International Paper Money Show, June 14-16, in Memphis. Souvenir cards are $4; a hand-canceled version with the new 22-cent "Flag Over Capitol" stamp is $4.50. Order on 8-by-11-inch paper and print name, mailing address and ZIP code. Request item 912 for mint cards; 913 for hand-canceled cards. Include check or money order payable to BEP, and do not order before June 1. Send to Mail Order Sales, Room 602-11A, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington, D.C. 20228.

Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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