As a coin dealer who has been in the business for a number of years, we’ve certainly seen our share of counterfeit or replica items, but the fake items are becoming better and better, which means that we all need to remain diligent in ensuring that we only purchase and sell authentic items. When making a large investment, such as in gold coins, it’s extremely important that you do your due diligence to confirm that the gold coins you’re purchasing are authentic. Purchasing gold coins from well qualified and established coin dealers is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re buying legitimate coins, as other companies/industries that only dabble in coins may not be up-to-date on the most recent counterfeit items and how to combat them. In today’s article, we’re going to review some of the steps that you can take to confirm the authenticity of gold coins, and in turn, help you to avoid losing thousands of dollars when buying gold coins.
Step 1: Only Deal with Qualified Individuals/Companies
As alluded to in our introduction, quite possibly the best way to avoid becoming the victim of counterfeit items is to conduct business with well qualified, established and accredited coin experts or companies. These individuals have been exposed to hundreds of thousands of coins during their lifetimes, if not more, and can usually readily identify a counterfeit. If it’s not immediately obvious, they have tools and are familiar with the techniques that can be used to determine if a gold coin is authentic or not.
Step 2: Know Your Coin History
If you opt to seek other avenues to purchase gold coins, such as acquiring them from auctions or purchasing them from classified ads, one of the best ways to counteract fraud is to know the coin’s history. For example, production of American gold eagles began in 1986. Any coin that is dated prior to this time is most certainly a counterfeit. Other common coins for which you should know the mint inception date are the American gold buffalo, which was 2006, the Canadian gold and silver maple leaf, which were 1979 and 1988, respectively, and the South African gold krugerrand, which was 1967. Additionally, $20 Liberty Head and $20 St. Gaudens gold coins are frequently bought and sold. $20 Liberty Head coins were minted from 1850 – 1907 and St. Gaudens gold coins were produced from 1907 – 1933. Only a few known examples of the 1933 St. Gaudens coin exists, so any 1933 St. Gaudens coin that you come across should immediately raise a red flag.
Step 3: Utilize Scales and Measuring Devices
We recommend that you weigh and measure the coins that you purchase from unknown third parties. While a food scale and ruler can help to reduce the chances of purchasing a counterfeit item, you’re better off investing a few dollars in a jewelry scale and caliper. An investment of $30 could save you thousands of dollars. Consider searching for these items on Amazon.com as opposed to spending unnecessary time at your local grocery, office supply or home improvement store looking for the perfect tools. Your scale should measure in tenths of a gram and your caliper in tenths of a millimeter, as most gold coins will have specifications that require these measurements. Some counterfeiters have become very sophisticated and are producing replicas that have the exact weight and diameter as an authentic coin; however, the thickness will vary from an authentic coin. It’s no longer necessary to just weigh and measure the diameter of the coin; you should also measure the thickness. We also recommend using an earth magnet to confirm that the coin that you’re purchasing isn’t magnetic. If it is, that’s a telltale sign that you’re dealing with a counterfeit.
Step 4: Invest in More Advanced Detection Devices
Following the above guidelines should help to reduce the chances of purchasing a counterfeit item by 98% - 99%. In other words, you should feel fairly secure in making the transaction as long as the date range is correct, the item’s weight and measurement are correct, and it’s not magnetic. Some individuals still aren’t comfortable with those odds and want to take it a step further. In that case, we recommend investing in a fake gold coin detector from Fisch Instruments. Another helpful way to confirm the metal content of an item is to conduct an electronic assay of the item. Many coin and gold buyers have such a device that they’ll allow you to use for a fee. Since the price of electronic assay equipment is beyond the reach of most individuals, you may want to consider investing in an electronic tester, such as this one from Sigma Metalytics. We’ve been using this device for quite some time and have found it to be both accurate and reliable.
In conclusion, the counterfeit industry has become much more sophisticated in recent years, so it’s more important than ever to take precautions when buying gold coins. Dealing only with reputable and experienced coin dealers is to best way to protect yourself against fraudulent items. If this isn’t an option for you, or you’d rather attempt to purchase gold coins elsewhere at a lower price, confirm that the date of the coin is valid and weigh and measure the coin to confirm that it meets the government specifications. Additionally, a quick magnet test can quickly and immediately weed out counterfeit items. For those individuals that prefer to take it a step further, consider investing in a fake gold coin detector from Fisch Instruments or having an electronic assay of the coin conducted. Following the above steps can help to avoid losing thousands of dollars when buying gold coins.
About the Author
Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes.