The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 38, September 17, 2017, Article 30


As mentioned in the previous article in this issue, Dave Schenkman wrote a series of articles on fakes and fantasies for the TAMS Journal. One of the articles dealt with a fantasy Confederate ID tag. Dave kindly provided the text for publication here. -Editor

David E. Schenkman

"If it looks too good to be true, it probably is." Most of us have heard this saying at one time or another, and never is it more pertinent then when contemplating the purchase of an exotic token or medal relating to the Civil War. In recent years this segment of the hobby has been plagued with fantasy items.

Pieces similar to the example illustrated herein have been around for two or three years now. I first encountered one when it was offered in a numismatic auction, described as a "Rare Confederate ID Tag. Engraved on the reverse of a well worn 1861 New Orleans Mint half dollar. Pierced at the top for suspension. The coin is slightly dished."

Following the description, the cataloger commented as follows: "collectors always have to be wary of hand engraved items because of the obvious opportunity for chicanery. However, the engraving on this piece appears to be period. It has been examined by several `experts' in Civil War dog tags and the like, and the consensus seems to be that this is a genuine piece made as an id tag in the post-war period."

Although the auctioneer was fooled at first, after publication of the catalog he determined that the piece was not genuine and withdrew it from the sale. Since that time many, many collectors have been deceived by these "CSA ID Tags."

It is easy to understand why fantasies such as this are so attractive to collectors. They look old and are extremely deceptive. And, practically no Civil War era metallic items exist from the Confederate States, so they are quite desirable.

Imagine yourself at an antique mall or flea market, wandering down the aisles, when suddenly you spot a dirty coin holder. Picking it up, you are reading the inscription when the owner comes over. You ask him about it and he replies that he recently purchased it in an estate sale (some of the stores I've heard are much more elaborate than that). He doesn't know much about coins and tokens, but needs money and will sell it for just ninety dollars. You quickly pay him and walk away, thinking that you've made the buy of a lifetime.

During the past two years I've received several letters and phone calls from the purchasers of pieces such as this. In some cases I haven't been able to convince them that they have been taken. People seem to believe what they want to believe, and I guess it isn't easy for anyone to come to grips with the fact that he's been cheated.

The illustrated piece was donated to the Token and Medal Society's reference collection by Robert L. Williams. It is an 1860-O silver dollar (actually it is a counterfeit coin, as are all those I've examined) with the letters CSA on the reverse, across the eagle's shield. Around the eagle it reads, in incuse script, LT. COL DORSEY PERACLER / 1 ST NORTH CAROLINA REGIMENT (the surname might be PERADEN or something similar).

The maker of the fantasies punches a crude square hole in them, near the edge. I assume his intent is to give them the appearance of authenticity, since they are supposed to be soldiers' identification tags. Obviously his strategy works. Last year I was sent one of these items by a coin collector who had purchased it for sixty dollars at an antique show. He became suspicious after reading a column I wrote in another publication, and wanted me to authenticate it. The inscription on the piece is COL. JOSEPH MAYO JR. / C.S.A. / 3 RD . VA. INF. I was amused to see, when I examined it closely, that Miss Liberty is smoking a pipe. It is faint, and can be easily overlooked, but it definitely is there.

Kraljevich E-sylum ad27 Crude Eagles

Wayne Homren, Editor

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