Saturday, July 9, 2016

Coin Security


I saw a tweet from PCGS the other day about the new security measures they put into their holders. They use microprinting  and a QR code to verify authenticity. I appreciate that they are trying. With all of the counterfeit coins turning up, better security is a necessity.

However, with the level of technology that currently exists, I feel like a tech-forward company like PCGS could do better. Here's why:

The U.S. Postal Service (always at the forefront of technology) began using microprinting in 1992. The U.S. Mint added it to the $20 bill in 2004. Now, in 2016, it has been incorporated into PCGS holders.

I admire PCGS for their use of technology, their online presence is fantastic, and their website is top-notch. That's why the microprinting struck me as odd. I mean, sure, the PCGS holders are better off, but it seems a little last century.

QR Code
I love QR codes. They are easy to use, contain a good amount of information, and increase web traffic. All good things. The way it works with a PCGS holder is you snap a photo of the code with your smartphone and it will let you know if the coin is authentic.

While QR codes are an awesome marketing tool, I'm not sure they are a good security measure. Anyone can create a QR code. To get a PCGS QR, all you would have to do is crack open the slab, and put the paper insert on a scanner, scan the code, and you permanently have a copy in your computer to reprint as you wish.

Or! Create your own PCGS QR code by scanning a real one and see what website it directs you to. Copy the URL (web address) and paste it into a QR creator
like this one. Boom! Your very own opportunity to create fake PCGS paper inserts.

I assume the codes are specific to each graded coin, so our hypothetical counterfeiter would need to match the coin to the correct type/year/mint mark for a fake code to be effective. However, if they are manufacturing fakes, that shouldn't prove difficult. They would simply make the coins they have codes for.

My Suggestion
Add a digital security measure, like a card reader. To get into the office where I work, I have a security card that I wave near a card reader and it unlocks the door. I'm sure many of you have seen these before, they're quite common.

The technology exists, and is currently in use, to allow your smartphone to act as a card reader. For instance, with the proper software, you can wave your phone past a special reader to pay in some stores. PCGS could deploy an app (they're great at apps) to allow a smartphone to be a security reader. In tandem with this, they could put a little encrypted digital security device in each slab. To verify a coin's authenticity, just open the PCGS Security app and wave your phone over the coin.

Obviously, this idea wouldn't work online, especially if buying graded coins site-unseen. However, online coin dealers could make it a point to say something like, "All PCGS graded coins authenticated with PCGS Scan-secure technology."

How cool would that be?

I have referred to PCGS over and over because their tweet inspired this post. In addition, I think they are the only grading company tech savvy enough to develop a truly modern security solution.

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