Fakes, Counterfeits and Suspicious Items (FK)

Falsificaciones y Artículos Sospechosos

Below is a catalog or list of all counterfeits, fakes or suspicious items relating to either Panama or the Canal Zone, that I am aware of. There are certainly more fakes, etc. out there. Please me if you have information regarding a piece which was not included in this catalog.

Summary of Fakes, Counterfeits and Suspicious Items

Counterfeits refers to imitations of items such as coins, bills and badges made with the intent of defrauding the public or collectors into thinking that the imitation is the genuine article, and accepting and paying for it as such. Fakes include counterfeits as well as items which while not being an imitation of a particular genuine article purport to have been issued by a particular government when that is not the case. For example, creating a police badge and claiming it was issued by the government of Panama would be creating a fake. Suspicious items are those which appear to be fakes, but which I am not certain about as yet.

Purpose of this Section

The purpose of this section is to provide Panama and Canal Zone collectors with the information needed to detect and avoid fakes and counterfeits. I abhore, as do many people, the practice of counterfeiting and fraud. I would advise caution in purchasing or bidding on any piece that you know is a counterfeit in order to ensure that you do not put money into a counterfeiter's pocket. I don't have a problem with purchasing, bidding on or collecting counterfeits (especially those made long ago) when the seller describes the item as a counterfeit. Note that some auction sites have policies about selling counterfeits.

How To Avoid Being Swindled

To avoid being swindled, I would suggest the following:

  1. Do the Homework. Research the pieces you would like to purchase or bid on. Read up on them in this catalog or similar catalogs. If you have friends who own a piece you are interested in, see if they will let you look at it. If you are familar with the real item, a counterfeit will not "look right" to you.

  2. Be Patient. If the piece you want is up for sale or up for auction, but something does not seem right, then wait and investigate before buying or bidding. You may miss an opportunity, but you will make far fewer mistakes.

  3. Avoid Suspicious Sellers. If a seller is known to have sold counterfeit material in the past, they may be ignorant of the counterfeiting or they may be unethical dealers, perhaps even counterfeiters. Be very careful dealing with such sellers, in fact I recommend avoiding them altogether. Buying from reputable dealers that you or your friends have used in the past is the safest course.

  4. Do Not Buy Blind. Do not purchase numismatic items sight unseen. It is okay to buy items "on approval" from a reputable dealer if you can easily return them. Otherwise you most likely will be disappointed and your risk of being swindled is much higher.

Common Panama Counterfeits

Counterfeiters fall into two categories - those who wish to defraud the public by passing a base metal coin as a precious metal coin, and those who wish to defraud collectors by passing a substitute for a rare numismatic item. The FK-100.1 (1934 Balboa Counterfeit) is an example of the first kind of counterfeit. Many counterfeits are known of the key 1916 Cinco Centesimos, which is an example of the second type of counterfeiting. At this time, those are the two coins I know to have been counterfeited, but most likely other Panama coins have been counterfeited as well. I would appreciate from anyone who can provide me with other examples of Panama counterfeits.

Beware of Chinese Counterfeiters

I have noticed quite a few counterfeits of crown-size Panama coins (Balboas from the 1930's, 50 Centesimos from 1904, etc.) offered by sellers residing in China. Besides the normal caution of checking the shipping costs from China (expensive!) I highly recommend comparing the photo of the piece against a photo of the genuine item. The counterfeits I have noticed are somewhat crude, and can be detected visually.

Legitimate Imitations

Legitimate imitations clearly mark the item with the word "COPY" or "FACSIMILE" on the coin, medal, badge or other item. Such items are legitimate and are therefore not included in this section.

Historical Note

Counterfeiters started working on Panama coins right from the start. The following excerpt is taken from "The Canal Record", Volume 1, Number 44 dated July 1, 1908:

Bad Money

Capt. George R. Shanton, Chief of Police, directs public attention to a very crude counterfeit of the Panamanian silver dollar, which is being circulated in Panama and the Canal Zone. The police have been directed to caution all business men and, as far as possible, the general public against taking this spurious coin. An effort is being made to locate the counterfeiters.

Numbering System

The fakes have been designated with the letters "FK", and grouped by type. Each group is given a unique number. Within each group, each piece is given a unique number. Permission is hereby granted to anyone to use the numbers below in referring to these tokens, in print or electronic media, by calling them Plowman's FK-x.x at least once, or referencing www.coins-of-panama.com. However, I reserve the right to assign all new numbers. Please contact me when a new number is needed.

Click on the catalog number or description below to go to the full listing for that piece.

Fakes, Counterfeits and Suspicious Items Catalog

ImageFK #Description
Counterfeit Coins
FK-5.1 1916 Cinco Centesimos Counterfeit
FK-50.1 1904 50 Centesimos Counterfeit
FK-100.1 1934 Balboa Counterfeit
Counterfeit, Fake or Suspicious Badges
FK-101.1 Alcadia de Panama Policia Municipal
FK-102.1 G.A.P. Policia Nacional
FK-103.1 FF DD Policia
FK-104.1 Caja de Seguro Social Inspectores
FK-105.1 Canal Zone Panama Railroad Police