Today I have another exciting story about an infamous member of the Perry community. In fact, this story is about three men who were arrested for nothing less than making counterfeit coins!
An issue of The Perry Press came out on Friday, May 20, 1938 with the headline “Counterfeiting Plant Found On Perry Farm.” According to the article, federal authorities were holding three men on charges of counterfeiting: V. R. Starling, his son Forest W. Starling, and Cartha M. Candall. They were arrested in a raid containing the combined forces of federal, state, county, and city officers on the Starling farm. Counterfeiting equipment was found in various places around the farm. The press was found in the basement, along with about $200 worth of fifty cent coins. A roller, furnace, and casting forms were found in the machine shed. Dies, crucibles, and punches were buried in a barrel under the dirt floor of the garage.
According to Starling, he had been making fifty cent coins since 1934. He claimed he and his son distributed the coins, but authorities suspected that others may be implicated in their distribution. The counterfeits were almost true reproductions of legal pieces, containing a good proportion of silver making them practically impossible to recognize them as fakes. Skilled Chicago Federal Reserve bank employees, who noticed an almost invisible flaking and pitting, first detected the fakes. They confirmed their suspicions after a microscope test.
After detection of the counterfeits, federal authorities started a search. A tip from an Iowa jeweler, who told authorities that Starling was buying all the scrap silver he could get, lead authorities to the farm. The plant that they found on the farm was reported to be the most complete plant both from a manufacturing and distributing point that had ever been found in Iowa. It was equipped to turn out a large amount of coins, as evidenced by the large amount of dies that were found. The coins were dated for several years, but the majority were either 1899 or 1912. The Starlings had distributed most of the coins through five and ten cent stores or tobacco shops throughout Iowa and surrounding states.
It is amazing to think that such a small group of people were able to make near perfect copies of fifty cent coins! V. R. Starling plead guilty to his charges, while his son plead not guilty and Cartha Candall was released after it was found he was not directly implicated in the case. Reading about this makes you wonder: do any of these coins still exist? I suggest checking your 1899 and 1912 fifty cent pieces (if you have any) to make sure they are real!