Counterfeit $100 Banco Nacional de México notes
On 7 April 1900 the Secretario de Hacienda, José Limantour, told Carlos de Varona, the bank’s director, that he had been reliably informed that $300,000 in counterfeit $100, $500 and $1,000 notes (predominantly in $100 notes) were being placed into circulation in Chihuahua. It seems that the notes were produced in the United States and the people charged with putting them into circulation had come from San Antonio, TexasCEHM, Fondo CDLIV Colección José Y. Limantour, 2a. 1900, carpeta 8, legajo 17611.
The American Bank Note Company’s correspondenceABNC includes reports of three (or four) different instances of counterfeit Banco Nacional notes.
The most competent was made by a Mr. Roberts in El Paso in November 1909 but these counterfeits did not manage to reach circulation. John C. Roberts had made a careful study of Mexican money whilst he was employed as an engineer on a Mexican railroad, and spent five years in New York experimenting in producing counterfeits until his work became almost perfect. He arranged with a printer, William Koenig, to print one million pesos in $100 notes, and deciding that that would be enough for any man, then threw the plates into the Ohio River. Unfortunately his brother, Marion Roberts, took a few notes and tried to interest a broker, J. M. Fetter & Co., in a complicated swindle. The brokers informed the Chief of Police who contacted the Secret Service. They arrested Marion, who in turn led them to John. On 19 August 1910 John was arrested at Simpsonville, near Louisville, Kentucky, by Deputy United States Marshal William Blaydes, and found to have the $1,000,000 in a brass bound trunkEl Paso Morning Times, Vol. 29, No. 20, 20 August 1909; New York Tribune, 20 August 1909: Bisbee Daily Review, Vol. XII, No. 204, 21 August 1909.
In October John pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in the federal prison at Atlanta. Marion, tried on the same charge, was acquittedSan Francisco Call, 14 October 1909. Because of his ill health John Roberts was pardoned by President Wilson in December 1913, after serving four yearsThe Allentown Leader, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 16 December 1913.
In April 1913 some people were apprehended in El Paso, Texas with $1,000,000 in $100 notes, though all but $10,000 was seized by the bank. These could be most easily identified by the differences in colour, “especially as the forged notes were circulated quite new without being made to appear old and used”.
At the same time very good $100 notes were reported by the Banco Nacional’s branch in Agusacalientes, which had received them from the local branch of the Banco de Londres y México. The ABNC’s resident agent, Charles Blackmore, on studying the note, agreed that the paper used was very similar, there was close resemblance in the colour and the signatures were well done, but found that the engraving was very inferior and the numbering remarkably poor. He produced a list of the major differences:
|The 1 in the 100 in the left hand top corner|
|The dot in the L of NACIONAL is round in the counterfeits|
|and the shading dividing the two perpendicular lines of the L is broader in the good notes than in the false|
|The counterfeits have an extra line under the first stroke of the M in MÉXICO|
|In the two value panes the two lines and dots indicated are thinner and smaller in the good than in the false notes|
|In the counterfeits the letters in the two words SÉRIE are very close together and the type is thicker.|
|In the counterfeits the type in Á LA VISTA is very thick, especially in the letter A||
|In the portrait of Manuelita Garcia Terruel there are decided differences:
1. in the hair in the forehead (curled in the good notes)
2. in the ears and ear-rings
3. in the collar of pearls
4. in the eagle
5. in the snake
6. in the horizontal lines of the shading behind the face.
|In the vignette of Justice there are important differences:
1. in the hand holding the scales (the two fingers pointing to the right do not appear in the false notes)
2. in the scales (the left pan of the scales is indistinct in the false notes)
3. in the collar of the figure
4. There is more shading between the pedestal and the fancy curves near the counter in the counterfeit notes
|In the counterfeits the “No” for the numeration is much blacker and of a slightly different type|
|The numbering in red ink and the dating in black ink are clearer and smaller in the good notes than in the false|
|All the engraving on the reverse is very inferior|
|In the good notes the right wing of the eagle has three small feathers under the wing to the extreme right and in the false notes there are only two|
|The American Bank Note Company imprint is in clear cut type in the good notes but very bad and broken in the false notes. The full stop after the Y in COMPANY is blurred into the Y in the false notes.||
On 8 May, El Imparcial, a Mexico City newspaper, reproduced the warning issued by the bank and reasoned that the counterfeiting, by a skilled engraver, had taken place in Aguascalientes as that was where the greatest number of notes had appeared. It reported that there were $300,000 in bogus notes in circulation. It carried photographs of the front and reverse of a counterfeit note with the major differences indicted El Imparcial, 8 May 1913; notice originally in El Imparcial, 3 May 1913 and also in El Correo Español, 7 and 9 May 1913 and El Independiente, Año I, Núm. 80, 12 May 1913.
As a result of this forgery the bank decided to call in all their $100 notes, to be replaced by a new design, and ultimately to replace the whole issue. They informed the police and issued a circular to the public, asking them to hand in their $100 notes and advising them of the major differences by which to identify any counterfeit note (emphasizing the poorer quality of the impression: unfortunately it also stated that the numbering in the counterfeit was smaller). They also stopped all work on the 607,000 notes ($15,000,000) that they had ordered from the ABNC on 15 April. On 10 May the order was changed to just 56,000 notes of $50, $500 and $1000, as the bank had decided to use up existing supplies of the other denominations before ordering an entirely new issue.
These counterfeit $100 notes appeared in Fort Worth in June 1913 and in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez a few days laterEl Paso Herald, 7 June 1913. On 8 June El Paso detectives arrested two Mexicans, Alejandro Trujillo and J. M. Montano, jr. When arrested they had bank books of the State National bank and El Paso Bank and Trust, showing that they had deposited $2,260 in total, supposedly in these counterfeit $100 notes. They had also deposited $500 at the American Trust and Savings bank. According to the newspaper report the notes were a work of art, and the only things wrong were that the toes on the right foot of the figure of Justice were missing and the pearls in the string cannot be distinguished in the counterfeit notes, while on the genuine one, they can. The detectives believed that approximately $1,000,000 of these notes had been circulated in Mexico and some used to pay part of the Mexican army. The fact that the banks of Mexico had refused to accept $100 notes unless examined and passed by an expert, it is believed, drove the money to El Paso and parts of CaliforniaEl Paso Herald, 9 June 1913. Trujillo and Montano were bound over to the federal grand jury by United States Commissioner Oliver and their bonds were fixed at $1,500 each, but attorney J. F. Weeks filed writs of habeas corpus on the grounds of insufficient evidenceEl Paso Times, 23 June 1913..
Note that these counterfeits were different from some facsimile $100 notes, used as advertising flyers, that the printing firm of El Modelo in Monterrey had produced in 1911. However, the U.S. Treasury sent an example of the latter to the Mexican government in May 1913, claiming that they were circulating in San Antonio, Texas. These could be identified by the imprint “El Modelo. S. A. Monterey” on the back.
It would be interesting if anyone could produce an example of any of these various attempts.