Monday, February 21, 2011

Counterfeit Wealth

February 6, 2007
Cost of Piracy

Up to 10% of car parts sold in the European Union are thought to be counterfeit.

I have a personal anecdote to share on this topic.

I was a research assistant for a physics professor doing a short-range gravitation experiment in college.

There was a vacuum chamber with a small viewing window. The viewing window was held in place with 6 carbon steel engine mount bolts. My job was to replace the plexiglass window with a glass window.

He left the room. I had a small wrench and I began to tighten the first bolt. I turned and turned. It never tightened. All it did was stretch.

I took the first bolt to his office and handed it to him. He looked at me like I was superman. I told him that it wasn't me, it was the bolt!

He had me take the next bolt down to the shop and test it with a torque wrench. I tested it. I was able to stretch that bolt without even seeing a reading on the torque wrench. That's how easily it stretched.

He took the bolts back to the auto shop and got replacements. I tested those too. The difference was night and day. The first set felt like lead. This second set felt like the carbon steel it was advertised to be.

Somebody, somewhere, is driving a car with at least one engine mount bolt made out of lead. I truly believe that.

I offer this story as a warning to those buying precious metals. If engine mount bolts can be faked, then anything can. To this day, I would not be able to tell the difference between the bolts without testing them. That's how good the fakes were.


Mr Slippery said...

I bought a fake Peace dollar from Hong Kong just to see what it felt like. It was very easy to identify as a fake, much too light.

Junk silver is pretty safe IMO, while numismatic (rare) coins are much more likely to be fake since there is more profit. I have no numis at all.

There is risk in everything. And there seems to be more risk every day.

Stagflationary Mark said...

For what it is worth, I suspect that some of my Krugerrands were fakes.

Let's just say I wasn't entirely happy about the height differences in some of the stacks.

As for the junk silver bags, I opened one up and went through them. A tiny fraction of the coins weren't actually junk silver. They replaced them when I pointed it out but I had many other bags that I didn't open.

That said, the place that sold me all the coins also bought them all back. It felt a bit like a "don't ask, don't tell" honor system (which did not exactly bring me comfort).

In any event, as you say there is risk in everything.

getyourselfconnected said...

I got a fake Mexico 8 Reale (1867 I think) and the thing was magnetic for crying out loud. I bought it at a flea market so no biggie but I was pissed.

Gotta stick with the good stuff so you do not get fleeced, Canadian leafs, US liberty's, Johnson Matthey, etc.

Stagflationary Mark said...



Counterfeit Silver Coin Detection (SKB COINS)

In the past you could use a magnet. That no longer is effective. The fakes are very good.


getyourselfconnected said...

Tungsten, the bane of metals!

Stagflationary Mark said...

Tungsten Carbide 8 mm (5/16 in.) High Polished Comfort Fit Domed Wedding Band Ring (Available in Sizes 5 to 14) size 10 1/2

Sale: $29.95 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping.

Anonymous said...

OK, I once worked for a car parts company in Taiwan. They made valve stem seals. Some French cars use PTFE aka Teflon seals.

We had African companies who would buy this item in plastic. They specified it. Instead of teflon you get polyethylene or polypropylene.

I don't know how long that would last in an engine environment, but it couldn't be for long.


Stagflationary Mark said...


I don't know how long that would last in an engine environment, but it couldn't be for long.

I'm thinking you are right. Boiling water (212 °F) is nearly hot enough to melt polyethylene.


For common commercial grades of medium- and high-density polyethylene the melting point is typically in the range 120 to 130 °C (248 to 266 °F). The melting point for average, commercial, low-density polyethylene is typically 105 to 115 °C (221 to 239 °F).


Melting Point: 130–171 °C (266–340 °F)

Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon)

According to DuPont, its melting point is 327 °C (621 °F), but its mechanical properties degrade above 260 °C (500 °F).