Counterfeit Detection: Altered Dates

This month's edition shows how counterfeiters will do just about anything to alter a note, even if the profits are small.

Last month, we discussed how certain Chinese notes can be worth much more to collectors if they have a replacement prefix, leading counterfeiters to find ways to alter serial numbers. This month, we will look at how similar alterations can be performed to the date of a note to make them appear more valuable.

The Chinese 50 Yüan note with Pick #888 is a popular piece that is available in two varieties: the a-variety, released in 1980, and the b-variety, released in 1990. They are each relatively common, and neither variety is usually worth a large amount of money.

The 1980 variety, however, does tend to command a higher price than the 1990, and at some point, counterfeiters discovered that it was not too difficult to change a "9" to an "8" and immediately have a note that was worth more than what they had paid for it.

An altered date on a Chinese 50 Yüan note (Pick #888b)

One such note was recently submitted to PMG’s US office. Though the date is credible at a distance, simply looking at it through a loupe or high magnification reveals many imperfections: the edges of the "8" appear uneven, and the underprint was damaged by whatever process was used to remove the "9" that was originally there. (A disturbance in the underprint is a common tell-tale sign of an alteration, as counterfeiters are less likely or able to properly maintain such minute details.) Alternative light sources can show that the ink on the "8" is completely different from the ink that was used on the other digits.

The underprint was damaged by whatever process was used to remove the "9" that was originally printed.

Luckily, even for the average collector, there are many ways to detect this particular alteration—in fact, Pick makes note of a few tips. When the b-variety of this note was released in 1990, certain security features were added, including UV-reactive ink and a security thread.

Therefore, if a Chinese #888a note (1980) has a security thread, or if a quick check with a UV light reveals a vivid yellow "WUSHI" and "50" on the face of the note, then it is a good idea to take a closer look at the date, as this note was likely altered. For a quick reference, the images below show what the genuine a- and b-varieties of this note should each look like under UV and backlighting.

A genuine Pick #888a (1980) under UV lighting, with no UV features; a genuine Pick #888b (1990) under UV lighting, with UV features.

A genuine Pick #888a (1980) under backlighting, with no security thread; a genuine Pick #888b (1990), with security thread at right.

As you can see with the altered dates on these Pick numbers, counterfeiters will do just about anything to make a quick profit, making the expertise and technology behind PMG certification more important than ever before.

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