There is a danger in complacency


By Jay Turner for PCGS ……

Just because something is common, not very expensive, or of modern production doesn’t mean that it will not be a target for counterfeiters looking to profit from people’s complacency concerning the authenticity of such coins. Recently in a submission of modern coins from the PCGS office in Hong Kong, a few South Korea 4292 (1959) 50 Hwan coins were found to not be genuine.

South Korea KE4292 (1959) 50 Hwan PCGS MS65 (Authentic)

South Korea KE4292 (1959) 50 Hwan PCGS MS65 (Authentic)

The coinage of the Republic of Korea, or South Korea, was first issued in 1959 – or 4292, when using the Korean calendar dating system. These coins were denominated 10, 50, and 100 hwan. The monetary system was introduced in 1953 with the exchange of 1 hwan to 100 won; at the time, 6,000 won equaled one United States dollar. These coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in the United States and shipped to South Korea. The 100 hwan was issued only in (1959) and withdrawn from circulation in 1962 with the introduction of the second South Korea won in 1962. The 10 and 50 hwan coins were issued in 4292 (1959) and 4294 (1961). With the introduction of the second South Korean won in 1962 now valuing 1 won at 10 hwan, the 10 and 50 hwan coins would be allowed to continue circulating until their withdrawal from circulation in 1975.

South Korean coinage has become very collectible in South Korea, especially circulation-issue coins. In recent years, some of these early hwan issues have started to see strong demand in high grade, sometimes bringing in excess of $1,000 USD. With a mintage of 24,640,000 coins for 4292 (1959) 50 Hwan coins, they are not rare, however there is a strong collector demand, and that demand has led to the production of counterfeits.

Counterfeit South Korea (1959) 50 Hwan, PCGS

Counterfeit South Korea (1959) 50 Hwan

The counterfeit 4292 (1959) 50 Hwan coins encountered in this incident are those made with dies produced by copying the design, not transferring the design. A transfer die is created using a host coin, meaning that the design is correct and often produces a counterfeit that is difficult to detect.

This South Korean counterfeit is produced with dies that mimic the design, but it isn’t correct. The most glaring difference between the authentic coin and the counterfeit is the water. On authentic coins, the water is shallow with fine, narrowly spaced-out lines in some areas. The counterfeit features consistent bold and deep widely spaced line designs. The area where the ores meet the water is particularly telling, with the authentic coin having shallow, weak water and the counterfeit exhibiting strong waves. The turtle boat design is also vastly different, with the authentic example having weak, shallow details and the counterfeit having well-defined, rounded design details along with a doubled flag, which isn’t doubled on the authentic example. The counterfeit also has heavy die polish lines and gouges in the fields, giving off a different, brighter luster than that of authentic examples.

Side-by-side views of authentic (left) and counterfeit (right) South Korea 1959 50 hwan coins - PCGS

Side-by-side views of authentic (left) and counterfeit (right) coins

When examining the differences against an authentic coin, the counterfeit quickly falls apart under scrutiny. Yet, being it is such a common coin, often not questioned for its authenticity, it wouldn’t be surprising for even experts to miss this counterfeit. As demand and value increases for collectibles, people will continue to try exploiting the process of making their new pieces and selling them as authentic. We should always be careful, even with something perceived as common.

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  1. There are many fewer 50-Hwan coins in existence.

    The Korean Mint melted large numbers of them after the 1962 currency reform and used the metal to make the first 50-Won coins in 1972. They did the same thing for the 100-Hwan, the metal for which was used to make the first 100-Won coins in 1970


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