Counterfeit Detection: Iraq Pick# 14

Posted on 5/19/2020

While viewing this note from Iraq under specialized lighting, the PMG team noticed the right quarter of the note had been replaced entirely.

An unfortunate truth for collectors of paper money is this: Paper is an easily damaged material. It can be ripped and torn, stained, dampened and dried. Any number of substances and circumstances can cause a banknote to lose quality and therefore value. Sometimes, a collector may try to repair their notes to make this damage less evident. However, this can actually lower the value of the note, and in some cases, it can even make the note ungradable by PMG standards.

Altered Iraq note (Pick# 14)
Click image to enlarge.

The above note (Iraq Pick# 14) was recently submitted to PMG for grading. At a glance, one can see that there has been some damage to the note over time; viewing the note under special light sources, such as UV, only highlights these flaws.

Altered Iraq note under UV lighting
Click image to enlarge.

The darker patches that show up under UV help our graders determine where repair work has been done on the note. In general, some amount of repair work is considered acceptable, though it will negatively affect the grade; however, a problem arises when a note is repaired to the extent that large portions of it are no longer original to the note, making it impossible to authenticate. Such was the case here—and an observant collector can probably already see where something is a bit off about the serial number in the top right corner…

Close-up of altered serial number on Iraq note
Click image to enlarge.

A closer look at the serial number in question under a specialized light source shows the problem a bit more clearly: the digits have all been altered, and the original numbers are now visible underneath. However, why would someone alter a mismatched serial number to make it match?

Close-up of right edge alteration on Iraq note
Click image to enlarge.

Close-up of right edge alteration on Iraq note
Click image to enlarge.

The answer can be found in the print and underprint about a quarter of the way from the right edge of the note. All along this line, the design has been redrawn—well enough that it isn’t particularly noticeable from a distance, but up close, the work appears crude and clearly does not match the rest of the print. Here, the graders had their answer: the right quarter of this note had been replaced entirely. Then, in order to try to pass off the added portion as original, the serial number on the right was changed to match the serial number on the left. As a result, the note was deemed altered and returned to the submitter unencapsulated.

Detecting a potential alteration can be incredibly difficult, especially on a note that has been damaged and/or repaired. However, collectors can be assured that PMG graders will look closely at notes in all manner of conditions and, as always, notes encapsulated by PMG are backed by the PMG Guarantee of grade and authenticity.

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