Saturday, June 24, 2017

A tail of two coins - counterfeits

Are your silver dollars real or fake?
Two of these coins are counterfeit. Which ones?
heads and tails not even
The peace dollars' tails did not line up
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Oh wait...

We bought two peace dollars at auction last evening. Later my husband, the collector, noticed a couple of odd things... There were red flags that prompted us to do some research.

What was the primary alarm bell? After he put the coins in the album, he noticed that they did not match the others when he turned the page. In other words, the lineup of their tails was wrong.

This simple and obvious check of how the front and backs line up was not mentioned online at all in our research about USA peace dollars.

Here are some tests to determine if your silver coins are counterfeit. If you sell a lot online, you may already have everything you need to test silver coins.
silver coins weigh a specific amount
How does its weight compare?

 The front and back (obverse and reverse) should line up exactly, clocked at exactly 6 and 12 o'clock. Easy, right?
✅ Do a "ring test." The sound was off. Could we be sure? There are "ring test" apps for this.
counterfeit peace dollars too thick
The fake coins are a little thicker
✅ We weighed them on a jewelry scale. One weighed too much -!
✅ Stack them up against other real peace dollars. In this case, the problem coins are slightly thicker than the rest. See the photo.
✅ Check with a regular magnet. We found no magnetism.
✅ Examine the lettering (looked OK for worn old coins).
Inspect the finish under magnification for holes like Styrofoam. None found.
✅ Ice test. The temperature change was indeed slower with the counterfeit coins than real ones. We did this a few times to get the feel for it. (Put your finger on the bottom, ice on the top.)
checking heat transfer of silver coins
Silver transmits cold & melts ice faster

(After that, we hunted around for a stronger magnet to try another test. I knew that we had strong little magnets that came inside Sonicare toothbrushes. My husband finally located one.)

Slide a super strong little neodymium magnet down the coin. Silver has some magnetism. The little magnet's travel will be slow, almost sticky. Depending on what metal is in the coin, for fakes, it could slide down faster.

However, this stronger magnet STUCK to the counterfeits, not to the solid silver coins.
magnetically test silver coins
Neodymium magnet sticks to left coin

Which ones were counterfeit here? The two on the right, the 1923S and the 1927.

Interesting. (And good news, the auctioneer trusts us and will refund us what we paid. He will return the coins to the consignor. I have a photo we took at auction to authenticate if necessary.)

I am glad we caught it early enough to return them. It is good to use a reputable auctioneer, too.

(There are two more tests that we did not attempt: chemical silver test, which damages the coin. Unnecessary, as these coins are likely coated with silver. The other test we did not perform was melting the coins down for obvious reasons.)

1923 S 1927 counterfeit obverse clockwise
The tail (reverse) was off, slightly clockwise on the two coins on the right.
testing fake peace dollars
Check all coins from different angles, in good light. The two on the right turned out to be counterfeit.
Thanks for sharing this little bit of our vintage journey.  We learn something new every day selling vintage!

4 comments:

  1. Wow! How interesting and so very glad that it all worked out in the end.

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  2. I agree with Judy. That was really interesting. Thanks for sharing the saga with us. Glad for the happy ending.

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  3. Thank you so much for this very interesting article.

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  4. Great information. Once I started reading it, I had to finish to hear about the other tests and what happened! Thanks for sharing.

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