Coin fraud is an unfortunate reality in the coin collecting marketplace, but you can avoid buying fake silver coins, and avoid coin fraud in general, by learning how to spot fake coins. We will use a fake Silver Eagle to demonstrate some easy steps to avoid buying fake coins.
Coin Fraud - Fake Silver Coins
Follow these 6 easy steps for detecting fake silver coins in general:
Does the silver coin look right? Any highly experienced coin authenticator will tell you that they often can't tell you why a given specimen is fake, (short of doing a full objective analysis, as explained below.) All they can say is that it doesn't "look right." Learn what the genuine silver coin looks like, and when you get that little red flag waving in your head that something looks wrong, even if you can't put your finger on exactly what is wrong, trust your senses and don't buy the coin!
How much does the silver coin weigh? Most fake silver coins are made from silvery metal alloys that weigh less than genuine silver. Weigh the coin in question; if the weight is wrong for the type, don't buy it! Even overweight coins are problematic, because they might be silver-plated lead.
How does the surface of the silver coin look? Fake silver coins may or may not have a silver-plated finish on them. Although higher-quality struck fakes might look pretty convincing if they're plated, many fakers don't even bother to plate the coin! Silver has a distinctive sheen to it that is neither too harsh nor too soft or "soapy" looking.
How does the silver coin's edge look? If the coin edge should be reeded, and isn't (or vice versa) this is a giant red flag, since mint errors of this type are very rare. Also, if the coin has a seam around the edge, a bit of a protrusion on the edge that could be a casting sprue, or file marks indicating a sprue or seam was removed, don't buy the coin!
Does the silver coin pass a magnification check? Although the methods listed above will usually enable you to rule out most fakes (especially the weight test,) sometimes close examination under a strong magnifier settles the matter. Look for silver plating that failed to fill into tiny spots and crevices. Look at the edge of the coin to see if the plating is visible where the rim meets the side; also look between the reeding. Sometimes just looking at the fields under 10x is enough to condemn the silver coin as a fake, because the fields may appear rough, or have spots of copper or other non-silver impurities.
Does it pass the silver coin ring test? Silver coins have a distinctive ring when held on the tip of a finger and tapped with another coin. Be careful doing this test, though; you don't want to ding or damage the coin, or drop it onto a hard surface, so use some judgement. The ring test can be helpful when all other easy methods of checking are inconclusive.
Diagnosing a Fake Silver Eagle Bullion Coin
Let's use the 6 steps above to see if the silver eagle coin in the photo is genuine.
1906 Silver Eagle - One glance is all it took to condemn this Chinese-made fake Silver Eagle! Look at the date: 1906. The U.S. didn't even begin making the Silver Eagle until 1986! Mistakes like these are common on fakes. When you see something like this, don't try to rationalize a purchase decision by telling yourself the mint made an error or something, just pass, and save yourself some money.
An ounce of silver that weighs 26 grams - In case Step 1 didn't already condemn this fake silver eagle, Step 2 does so decisively. A genuine silver eagle weighs 31.101 grams. (The forger also got the diameter wrong. This fake eagle measures 38.86 mm rather than the 40.6 mm it should.) The weight of a coin is something that forgers almost always get wrong. If a modern coin is off-weight, but on a normal-looking planchet, be very wary!
This fake silver eagle is dull in appearance - The genuine silver eagle is a beautiful coin, resplendent with luster and with nice relief. This fake eagle, however, is dull and grayish looking, with almost no relief.
A silver eagle with no reeding - If you ever see an American Silver Eagle without reeded edges, it's not a mint error, but a Chinese fake silver coin. One wonders how they can get things like this wrong!
Magnifying the eagle's dullness - Under magnification, this fake eagle looks soapy and dull.
This silver eagle has no ring - The ring test produces a tinny-sounding dink. Definitely not the pure bell ring of silver!