Most counterfeiters achieve their notoriety after they have been apprehended and identified. But the identity of one master counterfeiter of US gold coins remains unknown to this day.

Known as The Omega Man for the distinctive mark left on his (her, their) fakes, this counterfeiter made an estimated 20,000 bogus coins in the early 1970s of such high quality that they would have been nearly undetectable without the trademark. That mark consisted of the Greek letter Omega (Ω) placed faintly at various locations depending on the coin.

Omega Man Coins

The gold coins known to have been made by the Omega Man include the 1907 $20 US Double Eagle (the most famous and most produced), 1910, 1913 and 1926 $10 Eagle and 1874, 1878 and 1882 $3 gold coins. The Double Eagles have a tiny omega inside the claws of the eagle on the reverse, it is inside the “R” in “Liberty” on the coin’s face on the $10 and $3 coins. 

Why Identify Your Fakes?

Was it vanity? Or did the Omega Man have a higher purpose?

The last thing most counterfeiters want is for their coins to be identified as fakes. It’s difficult enough to make a counterfeit hard to spot, so why intentionally put a mark on otherwise nearly undetectable coins? Especially on coins you know will be bought by collectors?

An Artist’s Vanity?

The vanity argument is an obvious one. An accomplished artist who wanted his masterwork to be recognized even if he remained anonymous to stay out of reach of the law. But then why dump so many coins on the market in such a short period of time? It seems that the chances of detection would skyrocket.

Was It Also Greed?

The Omega Double Eagles alone would have a market value of $300 million if genuine. Did Omega Man dump the coins on the market simply hoping to make as much money as possible before the fraud was detected and then go into hiding a millionaire? That has been the pattern of most other counterfeiters. Did it work for him? And it would be a reasonable ploy for a one-time bonanza. Or was there another, more altruistic reason?

Was There a Political Motive?

The early 70s were times of political upheaval. Much of it centered around the war in Vietnam. The omega letter was used as a symbol of opposition to the war and the symbol was placed in the eagle’s claws on the Double Eagles. Could the coins have been made by well-funded resisters to finance their objectives?

Projects of the Omega scope have also been undertaken by hostile governments. During Omega Man’s time, the cold war was in full force. Could it have been a scheme by what was then the Soviet Union? Russia has huge gold reserves and has been notorious for taking disruptive measures against foreign nations up to this very day.

Who Might Be The Omega Man?

There has been much speculation about Omega Man’s identity. The quality of the counterfeits is legendary. The fake $20 Saint-Gaudens High Relief Double Eagle is good enough to fool most experts without very close examination, and the other coins are of excellent quality, too. The combination of engraving and manufacturing excellence has led some to speculate that the production would require multiple persons to pull it off. And since the coins were 90% pure gold, the bullion alone would cost around $2 million in the early 70s. Others take the perhaps more romantic notion that the coins are the work of an individual genius.

Will Omega Man Ever Be Found Out?

Given that the coins appeared over forty years ago and that there has been no evidence of further counterfeiting, chances are Omega Man may never be known. The most likely possibility is that as whomever it is reaches the end of their life they decide to come forward for a last grasp at fame. Or if it involved several people, one or more of them or their successors may come forward.

Another possibility is that some Omega coins might turn up in a place that can be traced back to a credible source.

Of course any of these scenarios will have to be accompanied by compelling evidence since plenty of people have lain claim to underserved fame. But should it ever happen, you can be sure Hollywood will come calling.

Are Omega Coins Legal and Collectible?

Counterfeit coins are both legal and collectible as long as they’re not misrepresented or used as money. In fact, collecting counterfeits is a pastime of its own.

Are Omega Coins Valuable?

Omega coins have intrinsic value for the bullion they contain, so a Double Eagle is worth over $1,000 for its gold alone. Collectors consider Omega Man coins among the most prized counterfeits and are willing to pay a premium over their bullion value. But a genuine Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle can bring well over $100,000, some over a million, so the Omega coins are not nearly as valuable as the real things.

If you’re interested in Omega Man coins, or in any collectible coins, do your homework and only buy from a reputable dealer.

 

We’ll continue our series on Notorious Counterfeiters in the coming weeks. And we’ll follow with how collecting counterfeit money has become a specialty of its own.

Posted in Coins By

Great American Coin Company