Identifying A Contemporary Counterfeit Note

By: Handini

Contemporary Counterfeits are an interesting area of numismatics. While it is illegal to own counterfeit US currency, because it's still legal tender, counterfeits of obsolete currency are sometimes worth more than the actual note (if they were in circulation when the note was in circulation and are rarer than the original) and are legal to own.

This post does not involve modern day replicas and copies but more with counterfeits produced when the notes were actually in circulation.

Here are a couple of early notes from the Bank Of Cape Fear, NC.

$5 Bank Of Cape Fear branch at Wilmington, NC (1817)
Pennell 100
Image Contribution: Handini 

$50 Bank Of Cape Fear at Wilmington, NC (1817)
Pennell 290
Image Contribution: Handini

Both of these notes are dated 1917, and both have the president's signature of John London, albeit his signatures are not identical. R. Bradley's signature is seen as the cashier in the $5 note and W. Anderson's signature is seen as the cashier in the $50 note. The bank couldn't have had two different cashiers the same year unless one quit and the other took over.

So the $5 is in better shape and the $50 is in worse condition, as far as the circulation each note has experienced and disregarding the missing piece of the $50. While an expert will know that the $5 is crudely printed compared to the original, one who may not be able to identify it based on the printing can look at the historical records and identify who the cashier of the bank was back in 1817.

The following website,, lists the names of the presidents and cashiers during the lifespan of the Bank of Cape Fear for it's Wilmington Branch and the other branches that existed throughout the State of North Carolina. It is evident that John London was the president from 1811 - 1816, Richard Bradley was the cashier from 1811 - 1815, and William Anderson was the cashier from 1815 - 1827.

While William Anderson was the cashier in 1817 and Richard Bradley was not, John London was the president until his death in 1816, and John Rutherford London was the president from 1823 - 1832. Could both notes be counterfeit? If they were then they may have been produced by different counterfeiters.

The 1817 $5 Bank of Cape Fear note is listed as Haxby NC90-C80. The C80 designation, instead of G80, proves that it is a counterfeit note, showing a picture of the counterfeit variety in Haxby also helped by matching the signatures, and the banking records confirm that Richard Bradley was not the cashier in 1817. The 1817 $50 Bank Of Cape Fear note is listed as Haxby NC90-G146. It cannot be Haxby NC90-C146, which would be the counterfeit variety, because the counterfeit variety, according to Haxby, is dated in 1816. The $50 shown above however, is a counterfeit and unlisted in Haxby since John London was not the president in 1817.

Many thanks to Ron at for his insight.

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