Counterfeit Detection: Shedding Light on a Faked Error Note

Posted on 1/22/2020

The PMG note alteration article for January features a UV light and other techniques.

After last month’s look at a world error note, this month we examine a United States Federal Reserve Note.

Any purported error note that PMG receives will undergo heavy scrutiny for the simple reason that an error makes a note rarer and therefore more valuable.

A genuine error: This is one of the highest graded 1915-E notes.
Five are known in this grade.

The subject of our inquiry is purported to be an insufficient-inking error.

The above note is supposed to be an insufficient-inking error, which occurs when press operators don’t fill the ink reservoirs during the printing process. The lack of ink, causes the print to look faint. Often it also causes pieces of the note design to be missing (see below).

But even if the ink is insufficient, the paper will show signs of embossing from contact with the printing plate. (If the ink reservoir runs out of ink completely, it causes  a missing print error.

A genuine insufficient inking error.

One of the easiest tools to obtain and use and one that everyone can and should use is a UV light. This light often will show flaws that may otherwise be hidden.

The subject note under UV light.

This UV image isn’t normal. There should be a consistent UV glow across this note.  Even more problematic is the location of the dark area on the UV image – in the center of the note. This is primarily the area that should show a lack of ink.

Let’s look at another area of the note.

The print should be sharp even if some areas of the note lack ink.

The text “is legal tender... public and private” appears to be smudged and running. This isn’t what you should see in the case of a genuine insufficient-ink error, because all of the black text and/or designs on this note should still be crisp and sharp.

A closeup of the “U.”

So this note shows a lot of evidence that it is not a genuine error. But don’t worry if it wasn’t apparent to you at first, because determining whether an error is genuine can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for.

PMG’s graders have the experience and equipment to catch faked errors. In addition, collectors can be assured that any note encapsulated by PMG is backed by the PMG Guarantee of grade and authenticity.

Article List:

Counterfeit Detection: Deciding Whether an Error Is Genuine

PMG Counterfeit Detection Series Wins NLG Award at ANA

Error Is Human: Part I

Error Is Human: Part II

Counterfeit Detection: Phony Specimens Are of No Value

Counterfeit Detection: Altered 1862 Legal Tender

Counterfeit Detection: Altered $5 Note from a US Bank

Counterfeit Detection: What’s Wrong With That Watermark?

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