Recently I wrote an article in response to a comment that was left by the reader of an article on the ITM Trading website about counterfeit coins. You can read the article here. The article covered the first part of the multipart question asked by the reader. This article will focus on other ways to detect counterfeit coins, specifically simple counterfeit coin countermeasures, that I did not cover in the first article. However, if you did not read the previous article I suggest you do because parts of this article will reference the first article. Below is a copy of the question the reader left in the “Comment” section.
Counterfeit Coin Countermeasures: A Neodymium Magnet.
One thing that both gold and silver have in common is that they are not magnetic. Neither are the metals that are commonly mixed in during the gold coinage process, like copper. Iron is magnetic, and iron is inexpensive, so iron sometimes ends up in counterfeit coins. Iron will also rust, so any spots on the coin that look like they might be rust may be a reason to question the authenticity of a coin. A rust spot will be much easier to see and confirm if you are examining the coin through your loupe.
Among your counterfeit coin countermeasures, a small neodymium magnet is a very inexpensive and simple tool that can be easily acquired and carried. Amazon carries them in a variety of sizes and strengths, but they are inexpensive. For the most part, they are sold in groups or sets of six to ten or so, so you will have a few extra for crafts or the refrigerator.
Counterfeit Coin Countermeasures: An Electronic Scale.
As you are browsing Amazon for neodymium magnets, you may want to add an electronic scale to your online cart, too. These scales are small, about the size of a cell phone. They range in price from twenty-five to forty dollars for the quality you are looking for. The scale you need should also be able to accurately weigh to the third decimal place, though most of the scales available do. The scale should also be able to weigh in ounces, grams, and grains, but again this is a common feature.
Coins have very specific weights. Mints in general and The United States Mints, in particular, have very exacting standards. Among your counterfeit coin countermeasures, an accurate scale is essential. In order to counterfeit gold coins and silver coins in regards to their metal content, another metal must be substituted, but all metals do not weight the same.
Therefore, if you want to use a metal other than silver to counterfeit an American Silver Eagle, for instance, then the metal you use will probably weigh more or less than silver. If you make your counterfeit coin the same diameter and thickness as the real coin, then your counterfeit coin will either weigh more or less than a real American Silver Eagle does.
If you are testing several coins one after the other, a counterfeit coin of the incorrect weight will be very easy to identify and separate out. With your loupe, your Red Book, your magnet and your scale, and your knowledge, of course, you are now equipped with more counterfeit coin countermeasures than most people.
Counterfeit Coin Countermeasures: Known Examples.
A “known example” in this case is a coin that is known to be real. In numismatic terminology, the word counterfeit is not often used. If an American Gold Eagle coin was proven to be fake, the coin would be politely referred to as “Not a product of the U.S. Mints.” This I learned at the ANA seminar. There is an amazing amount to learn at these seminars, I suggest you attend one.
In the last article, I suggested you purchase an American Silver Eagle and a Peace Silver Dollar at a coin shop. These are your known examples. Now that you have had these coins for a while and have had plenty of time to examine, study and read about them, you should know them intricately. However, take these coins with you are going to buy or examine coins.
If the coin or coins you are looking at (through your loupe, hopefully) seem suspect in their metallic composition or quality of strike or detail, compare them to your known examples as a reference. Looking at the fine and sharp details of an authentic product of the US Mint makes the poor and dull details of a product that was not produced by the US Mint obvious. If the details and strike of the coins you are inspecting are as sharp and clean and present as the markings on your American Silver Eagle, chances are pretty good that the coin you are examining is an authentic product of the US Mint.
You can also use your known examples to check the size and weight of other coins. If you are testing Silver American Eagles, they will all be the same size and have a very similar weight. Coins can have slight variances in weight if they become either worn or dirty. Worn coins often weigh slightly less, and dirty coins often weigh a little heavy.
Counterfeit Coin Countermeasure Bonus: Key Dates.
With your Red Book, you may find a golden or silver needle in a haystack. For the most part, rare and semi-rare gold and silver coins have been pulled out of general circulation and they now circulate in a different and more expensive market. However, if you know what you are looking for and have a good source of reference like a Red Book, you may come across a gold or silver coin that was produced during a rare year or by a somewhat obscure US Mint.
If you are really fortunate, you may come across a coin produced in a rare year by an obscure US Mint. Coins such as this tend to be worth serious money. Coins that are rare to a particular year are known as “key date” coins.
For more information about counterfeit coin countermeasures, you can always pick up the phone and speak with an ITM Trading representative at 1.888.OWN.GOLD.
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Chief Market Analyst, ITM Trading