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What is a Counterfeit?

Question: How can I determine if a coin is a counterfeit coin or not?

My Answer: In short, you probably can't determine if a coin is a counterfeit coin on your own.

It takes lots and lots of knowledge and experience to spot some counterfeit coins, and sometimes even experts are fooled. That is why I advise people to start their collections with modern, inexpensive coins and work their way back to rare and more expensive coins as their knowledge increases.

That is also why the advice I give throughout this site to novice and beginner collectors who are interested in the more rare and expensive coins is to only buy coins that have been certified and authenticated by reputable third party coin grading services.

Counterfeit coins are not the only obstacle that novice collectors should be aware of however. You should also arm yourself with knowledge about repaired, restored and recolored coins, as well as coins that have been cleaned improperly.

Alterations are also something to be aware of. Unscrupulous people have been known to alter coins by adding, removing or changing a design feature in an attempt to make a quick buck. For example, adding or removing a mint mark or changing a date on certain rare coins can mean the difference in value of thousands or dollars.

With all that said, here is my answer on how to protect yourself - knowledge.

If you are interested in collecting rare and expensive coins,

  • Study everything you can get your hands on about the particular type of coin you are interested in.

  • Look at as many coins of this type as you can. You will eventually come to recognize if something is just not right.

  • Compare suspected counterfeit coins with other coins of the same issue. Look for differences in size, color, weight, luster, edge devices, design details and magnetic properties

Just remember - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone offers to sell you a coin that you know is worth $100 for $50, there is probably something wrong with it.

Comments for What is a Counterfeit?

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Jun 22, 2009
Wonderful Question!!
by: Eva Duke

Thank you for your question! I think it will be very beneficial to a lot of new collectors. I hope to add a section to the site in the very near future to go into greater detail about counterfeit coins.

Oct 22, 2015
It is not that easy
by: AndrewCampbell

It is not that easy to determine the difference between the two as often the similarity could be highly visible. That is a common sight when it comes to antiques. Hence, for any beginner, it is advisable to just collect a small range for a start before exploring more in-depth once your knowledge has grown further.

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