An article by Björn Schöpe in the November 7, 2013 issue of CoinsWeekly discusses the life of famed forger Joseph-Samuel Farinet. Here's an excerpt.
In the 1870s the Swiss Cantonal Bank of Valais experienced a crisis after a serious row of bad speculations. The inhabitants of the Valais therefore had not much confidence in paper money issued by the Bank. They preferred coins – even though they were forged. This psychological starting situation came in handy for a cunning Italian forger who had flown from his native country into the impenetrable valleys of southern Switzerland evading thus police: Joseph-Samuel Farinet.
Farinet was born son to a blacksmith in the Aosta Valley in 1845 a fact which may have favoured his coining talents. Anyway, he was productive in the Valais for quite a long period.
His forged coins are said to be excellent and he is often compared with Robin Hood. However, his donations to the poor probably were not without ulterior motives:
In the end he needed help not only with the production (personally he used to make only the dies while others made the coins in various hidden places) but also a broad solidarity among the population. Thanks to that he would move quite freely and without fearing the authorities. Nevertheless having been jailed a couple of times he always succeeded in escaping – among others he was supported by one of his many mistresses. In the course of a decade reportedly the 20 Rappen pieces which had become his speciality and were thus called also ‘Farinets’ after their maker constituted about one third of all coins circulating in the Valais!
As with his English equivalent Robin Hood just after Farinet’s mysterious death he started to become a true legend. In the 1930s a book and a film of his life were successful and today one may still see numerous intriguing objects concerning the forger’s life and numismatic products in the local forgery museum.
I wasn't familiar with Farinet's story before reading this article. Be sure to read the full version online.
To read the complete article, see:
Farinet: Legendary forger in Valais
Wayne Homren, Editor
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