We are seeing a new trend in counterfeiting which has not been seen for many years. The 1950’s and 60’s, when coin collecting was coming into its prime, saw vast amounts of counterfeits making their way onto the market. Some of these were gold coins making their way from Europe and into the collections of unsuspecting collectors. Many counterfeits were struck, cast or produced from a wide variety of methods here in the states and sold into the market in tremendous numbers. Many of those pieces have been weeded out over the years by knowledgeable dealers and collectors but untold numbers still remain, many of which are difficult to detect or are stored in old hoards which have not yet surfaced.
Counterfeiting began to take on a different trend of altering of existing key date coins. Virtually every key date has been altered with some more prevalent than others. The addition or removal of mint marks or the manipulation of dates are the primary culprits. Some are crude and others are extremely accurate.
The current trend of counterfeiting is coming from oversees, this time primarily Asia. It seems the Chinese are finding easy targets on Ebay. Gold Panda’s are some of the scariest counterfeits we have seen. The holograms used as a counterfeit deterrent have been reproduced to perfection. Pandas tend to be struck counterfeits which by only using your eyes will likely fool you unless there happens to be a deviation in the design. Some of the counterfeits are incorrect designs which do not even contain a denomination. The only way to be certain a gold bullion coin is genuine is by determining its specific gravity. You may want to invest in a good set of digital calipers and gram scale. All bullion pieces are made to precise tolerances. If diameter, thickness and weight are correct, you have a genuine piece. All gold bullion pieces which are counterfeit will be of insufficient weight or incorrect size. Counterfeit bullion is always an alloy plated with precious metal. Rare coins are generally made of the correct metal so weight and size is not the only means of authentication. We will deal with this in detail at a later date.
Gold is not your only worry. Vast quantities of counterfeit U.S. silver dollars have entered the market. These are easier to spot as they are typically crudely struck or are cast and all have an artificial color. The patina is rushed through the use of heat and chemicals which give these counterfeits distinct color characteristics. Weight is also an good diagnostic as these coins are typically underweight. Counterfeits we have seen recently include Philadelphia mint Peace and Morgan dollars and CC Morgan dollars.
I intend to post a series of videos in the upcoming months detailing the detection of counterfeit and altered coins. In the meantime, buyer beware and know your dealer!