Fake Brunei Star Coin

Last week, the Brunei Numismatic Club, an online facebook club, with about 600 members decided to suspend any trading among members, the Brunei Star coin. There were too many fake of those coins circulating.

Among coin collectors in Brunei, the star coin or duit bintang as it is popularly known, is a must to have among one's collection. The coin issued by Sultan Hashim in 1886 was the first modern coin before the 1967 coin issued by Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudien. The star coin was minted at the Birmingham Mint. Prior to the Sultan Hashim's star coins, the previous Sultans issued coins known as pitis. These were minted or rather made locally by Bruneians. The star coins were made entirely out of copper, whereas the previous coins were generally iron.

The star coin is not that hard to obtain. About 1,000,000 pieces were made in 1886. It sold locally for around $40 to $50 a piece. Though prices as high as $120 a piece is not unknown. The star coin is also to recognise by it colour, it is generally a very dark brown, almost blackish. Over the last few months, a number of the club members reported that once polished, the star coins can be a brilliant yellowish or reddish metal. That was surprising as the coin was made out of copper and coppers do not shine to a yellowish or reddish metal.

Discussions were held, even with collectors in Singapore. Once these yellowish coin was studied, the difference was visible. These yellowish coins were not the original star coin. These coins looked almost identical but there were differences. The most obvious is the jawi writing. In the original star coin, the word 'sen' or cent is spelled with jawi letters, 'sad' 'ya' 'nun'. In the 'newer' star coin, the word 'ya' was missing. The two dots that were supposed to be underneath the letter 'ya' were missing. There are other differences and a coin expert will be able to tell the difference.

Even though the two coins looked identical, darkish brown black (see the coin on the left hand side above) when unpolished. But once polished, the original copper colour can be seen for the original one (middle coin). However for the fake coin, it will come out in brilliant yellow (coin on the right hand side).

To me replica coins served a purpose. It can still be used as a teaching tool or for purchase by someone who can't afford the real coins. However if the replica coins were sold as original coins with original coins prices, then someone out there is being real dishonest. If you are contemplating of buying a star coin, to determine the authenticity, for the time being, the give away sign is the missing dots under the letter 'ya'.


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