Counterfeit Detection: Altered or Genuine?

Posted on 7/21/2020

Can you spot which note is a genuine error and which one is counterfeit?

This month we are doing something a little different. Here are two Canadian notes that were recently submitted to PMG. Each note has the same error – Missing Serial Number(s). One is a genuine error while the other has been tampered with. Can you tell which one is which?

Canada BC-37b, 1954, Modified Portrait
Click image to enlarge.

Canada BC-38b, 1954, Modified Portrait
Click image to enlarge.

If you haven’t made up your mind, here are some closer images of the serial number area: One should appear above the C at the beginning of CANADA, and another should appear above the A at the end.

Close up of Canada BC-37b (left); Close-up of Canada BC-38b (right)
Click images to enlarge.

Now that we’ve examined the note and looked more closely at the area in question (the same basic steps that our grading team would do here), you may have guessed what comes next – ultraviolet light. It’s very important to use UV on any note that you are examining. This will give you a better sense as to what is going on. It’s better to use UV in a dark room, or with the lights off. This will enable you to see the UV in better light (pun intended). As a safety measure, do not look at the UV directly with your eyes as it may cause damage.

Canada BC-37b, under UV (left); Canada BC-38b, under UV (right)
Click images to enlarge.

There is already doubt about the authenticity of the error for BC-38b. In the left image (BC-37b), the only things that are illuminating are the planchettes. Meanwhile, in the image of BC-38b (the right image), an orange-red glow is smeared just about where the serial number would be. Here is the other side of BC-38b: Remember, only one serial number is missing. We can compare the two sides to make sure the reaction is the same.

Canada BC-38b, left side under UV
Click image to enlarge.

Now, there is even more doubt about the genuineness of the error. Here we have zero orange-red smearing. The planchettes are a little harder to see, but they are still there. Let’s view these two notes under one more lighting condition to see if anything else will convince us that BC-38b is the altered note.

Canada, BC-37b, under special lighting
Click image to enlarge.

Canada BC-38b, right side under special lighting (left);
Canada BC-38b, left side under special lighting (right)
Click images to enlarge.

Again, there are no traces of ink or anything that particularly sticks out in BC-37b. This error appears to be legitimate. A true missing serial number error. However, BC-38b has the same problems that we saw under UV. There is a smear of ink left. This is the trace ink left behind after someone wiped off the serial number to make it look like an error.

It’s unfortunate that someone altered a perfectly fine note. If you are a lover of error notes but aren’t sure if they are real, send them to PMG for authentication and grading. Not a member? Learn how to join here.

It is important for collectors to do their research when purchasing banknotes; however, for those without a personal library of numismatic references, PMG graders will always endeavor to give notes the careful research that they require. As always, any note encapsulated by PMG is backed by our PMG Guarantee of grade and authenticity.

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