Detecting Counterfeits and Replicas

This is a very popular topic. It is important to understand that looking at examples of known fakes is at best only an introduction to the nature of the threat. In point of fact, you learn very little from examining fakes. The way to tell a counterfeit is to know the genuine item. 

In this Forum, Cergrader wrote about paying $50 for a fake Massachusetts One Cent. He took it to a dealer who condemned it on sight. Here, from the photograh, the coin was quickly condemned by Numisnerd who pointed out the lettering was in the wrong style (san-serif vs. serif).  In the "Summer Seminar" Forum under "ANA Correspondence Course" a couple of people mentioned the Counterfeit Detection class. User_4043 in particular said that he will be joining his brother's business as a buyer and seller of numismatic items and needs to know how to detect fakes.

First of all, give attention to the fact that banks do not train tellers in counterfeit detection. Tellers learn what real money is like. Anything that deviates from that is suspect.  

There are so many ways to make a counterfeit that you cannot catalog and memorize them all. It is true that with experience in the hobby, you  get to see enough fakes that you do have a mental inventory: "I have seen this before. It is fake."  However, newer and better fakes are produced all the time.

The ones we study today are only the previous best attempts from casting, spark erosion dies, transfer dies, and, now, newly-cut dies. 

State-sponsored and state-sanctioned counterfeiting of collectible US Coins is known to have come from Lebanon and China. 
See "Inside a Chinese Counterfeiting Ring" here: http://coins.about.com/od/worldcoins/ig/Chinese-Counterfeiting-Ring/
Former state-owned industries in China spent years buying 19th century equipment in the USA. They used these old machines to make better copies of the 19th coins that collectors like so much.

You can learn a lot from the correspondence course and the seminar classes. But they are basic information, only. Your best protections are to know the genuine items and to buy only from vetted sellers. Members of the American Numismatic Association, and the other leading societies and guilds stand behind their work. In fact, for an ANA member dealer, when it comes to a complaint from a collector about a counterfeit, ignorance is no excuse. (Read the Code of Ethics.)

6 years ago

very good read, thank you Michael. You are so right about knowing the real thing, in my younger days I worked at walmart, and from time to time filled in at a register. They got so many fakes and counterfeits there because they had no idea, At first it was hold it to the light and yet they didnt know what they were looking for, then they got the pens which works but they are told to only check 50's and 100's, in this area the fakes were 5 and 10 because they knew they dont check....

by the way in your opinion is the weekly coin world worth the money or just the monthly? 

6 years ago

Thanks for the personal account, Wil.  See also:

Chinese Fakes Get Harder to Spot Over Time
By  F. Michael Fazzari, Numismatic News  June 04, 2009
"Large scale counterfeiting operations are not new. We numismatists can consider ourselves lucky because in the past, most of these operations have concentrated on our country's circulating paper currency. Nevertheless, about 30 years ago, one American Numismatic Association member was reported to have visited a large counterfeiting operation in Beirut, Lebanon. The fakers were striking our coins on a "date-by-request" basis using the same brand of coining press chosen by the Philadelphia Mint when they modernized their equipment."


(I will answer the other question in the "Magazines" discussion.)

6 years ago

Hi! My name is Mike Byrne. I read your blogs. Totally agree with you. Not only is it getting harder ngchas graded and slabed counterfeit Morgan dollars. What can the regular collector do? Well there's not much. I bought two scales and calibrated both. Then I would weigh any silver coin I thought was no good. They had to wheigh the same on both scales. That's all you can do except keep on top of coins that have been and are being counterfeit ed now. Most of the time low mintage coins are a target. I just found out that the twentyfifth anniversary maple leaf was done in large numbers. Your advice is the best. Be careful know who your buying from watch out for eBay.mike

6 years ago

Good thread! Thanks for the info. I'll use it the next time I buy a coin!

6 years ago

Wow good article. The fakes today are so good they get past ngc. They have been grade and slabed. To say there really good is and understatement. In the newismatic news they stated the Chinese are using the same equipment the mint uses. Weight is one way to detect a fake. Also believe it or not they leave item's of the coin's. It's getting crazy out there. Not only do you have to worry about getting a good coin,you have to worry about fakes. Real good article. The care Mike

6 years ago

Totally agree with you.  Knowing what the authentic items look and feel like is one's best defense against counterfeits.  I like the way you explain it, too.    

6 years ago

Hi Mike! I have to comment again on this. The coins today being counterfeited today would shock you. The thwenty fifth anniversary Maple Leaf. The Mexican Libertad. All basically new coin's. The article I read said the lower the mintage the better the chance the Chinese will make them. You can't wright enough Mike about this. My new blog is about the five Liberty Nickels counterfeited after 1912. Check it out. Take care.

6 years ago

Counterfeiting is a growing concern, which also might explain the growing interest in "slabbed" coin

6 years ago

Good article. Unfortunately, the more we learn about counterfeiting techniques, the more complex methods emerge with even better fakes. While China is the obvious one, there is a growing counterfeiting movement in Europe as well!

6 years ago
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