Investment or Counterfeit? 4

At the last meeting of the Pawcatuck Valley Coin Club, John Frost, a member of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, gave a presentation on one coin, an 1872-S Seated Liberty Dollar. A presentation on one coin? It’s true. John spoke to us how it was found out that this particular 1872-S Dollar was counterfeit. He explains how it wasn’t easy to discover and a number of experts looked at it. Read more about it here. If it took experts a considerable amount of time to discover if this coin is real or not, what does that mean about you and me?

Counterfeits are out there. Here are a few examples.

Old US Coins

Some of the most popular counterfeited coins were the Seated Liberty Dollars and Trade Dollars. Many of these counterfeits are from China. One thing you can check to see if they are fake is putting a magnet over the coin. If the coin attracts to the magnet, it’s counterfeit. Silver does not attract, but other metals do. These coins are 90% silver making the magnet a good test. There are other things that can be checked. If you do consider purchasing one of these, consider contacting the Liberty Seated Collectors Club or go to their website. Also, Ebay has a great article about fake Trade Dollars which you can visit here.

Rare Coins

Some rare coins have been counterfeited including the 1916-D Mercury Dime and the 1932-D and 1932-S Washington Quarters. Some ways they have done this include adding a mint mark to the less rare Philadelphia coins and combining the obverse of one coin with the reverse of another. So, check the mint marks as well as the edge of coins.


You would think certified coins would be safe from counterfeiting, right? Wrong! More recently counterfeiters have created slab encapsulation containers that look like the ones used by PCGS and NGC. This way they can put counterfeit coins or even coins of lower condition than what is shown on the container. Make sure you get certified coins from a reliable source. Most coins on online sites on Ebay are legit, but make sure you get them from member close to 100%.

This is only the Tip of the Iceberg

These are some examples of more common counterfeits, but there are others out there. Check out coin publications, newsletters and websites. Also, if you go to coin shows, ask the dealers and experts there. They would be happy to help you.

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4 thoughts on “Investment or Counterfeit?

  • Simon

    When you purchase these rare coins is there a way of purchasing with an included license like there is for diamonds showing their clarity and cut for instance or is the only seal of legitimacy from the established Liberty Seated Collectors Club?

    It’s sad times to hear yet another story of counterfeit products being shipped over from China. We have been littered over here in the UK from counterfeit goods yet there doesn’t seem to be any way of stopping this from source, the only prosecutions are the businesses purchasing. We are flooded with this type of program on the TV nowadays, Sad times.

    Interesting coin article, thanks,

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks for the comment Simon! One way of checking their legitimacy was sending them to a reputable grading service like PCGS or NGC, but there have been a few cases where they didn’t realize the coin was fake, including the 1872-S Dollar I mentioned in the post. That’s how good some of these fakes have been. Like I said in the post, even fake slabs are being used that look authentic. It sounds like they need a better method to authenticate coins, but it’s like dealing with computer viruses. Your anti-virus software will fix some of the issues, but there are always new viruses that come out and you have to continue updating the software.

  • Jeremy

    I enjoyed reading your article. I had no idea that counterfeiting coins was as big as it is. I liked the part about testing the coins with a magnet. I had no idea that using a magnet could help to determine a fake coin, but it does make a lot of sense. When looking at the edges of a coin to determine whether or not it is fake, what do you look for?

    • Kevin Post author

      Thanks for the comment Jeremy! Counterfeiting is a big deal when it comes to coins. It terms of the edge, you may see a thin line in the middle as the front of one coin may be connected to the back of another.