Buy US Coins for Collecting or Resale: Spotting Fake Coins

by Peter Nisbet

When you buy US coins for your coin collection or to resell at a profit, it is a fascinating activity that can easily get you hooked. Many start off buying old coins as an investment strategy and end up becoming enthralled and keeping them. Numismatics is a means of enjoying coin collecting as a hobby while also offering the potential for significant profit.

However, there are several problems you may come across when you buy US coins for collecting or resale, not the least of which is forgery. There are plenty forgeries coming out of the Far East these days, and there are two primary ways to avoid buying these:

1. The Look and Feel of the Coin

If you intend buying US coins seriously, then you should learn as much about them as possible. You are not expected to be an expert, but at least learn about the higher value coins such as the Morgan Dollar, the Silver Eagle bullion coin and the Double Eagle. For example, the Silver Eagle was not made until 1986, so any dated earlier are bound to be fake.

a) Reeded Edges

The edges of certain coins should be reeded (milled). This is an edge with a series of grooves right round the circumference. Learn which coins should be reeded and which should not. Dimes, quarters, half dollars and some dollars should be reeded, and this is mistake that many counterfeiters make: they don’t know which are reeded and not. There is an extremely small number of genuine coins where the reeding has been omitted in error – so few that an omission is almost certainly the sign of a forged coin.

b) The Weight of the Coin

Before you buy US coins, check out the weight: you should know the correct weights of the rare coins, and be able to tell if a fake coin is under or over weight. Wear has very little effect on the overall weight of a coin, and there is no significant difference between the weights of a circulated and a mint coin.

c) Check the Appearance

Many fake coins are plated with gold or silver. By carefully examining the areas around the edge and between the milled edges of the reeding, you can often see the base metal where the plating has flaked off. Even on the land areas you may see spots where there is slight flaking of the plating.

d) Check the Wear

Gold Eagles and Silver Eagles were never circulated as cash, so should not show wear. If you are offered a ‘used’ Gold or Silver Eagle it is a fake. They should be in mint condition.

e) Know Your Coins

Know your coins and what to look for in each. The designer’s initials, for example, will generally be seen somewhere, but not necessarily in the same place for each coin. A missing or wrongly placed initial can be indicative of a forgery. Learn which coin issues have specific features, and even the number of ridges of the reeding round the circumference.

For example a Suzie B dollar should have 133 ridges and dimes 118. However, the dimes minted at Carson City and Philadelphia between 1871-74 have 89 and 113 respectively. A new dollar should have 198 ridges.

2. Only Buy US Coins that are Graded

Learning the idiosyncrasies and differences between various coins and the years they were minted can give a lot of information to make sure you aren’t being fooled. However, if you don’t have the time or inclination to learn these things when buying US coins, you should simply purchase nothing that is not certified by the PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) or the NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation).

There are some others that are also reliable grading services, such as SEGS (Sovereign Entities Grading Service) and ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service), each of which is very good for grading old American coins. If you intend buying US coins that are regarded as classics, such as the liberty seated dollars, then you will likely find more fakes than genuine coins so make sure they are graded by one of these services.

Here are some tips on how to buy coins for collections:

1. When you buy US coins, buy the most expensive you can afford. You will get more benefit paying as much as possible for a single rare coin than splitting your cash between two or three lower value coins. The rarer the coin, the more it increases in value and desirability over time

2. If you have a choice of condition in rare coins, always purchase the one in best condition if you can afford it. Just because a coin looks old and worn doesn’t mean it has more value: on the contrary, a coin of the same vintage that looks newer and is in better condition will always be worth more and in more demand.

3. If in doubt, don’t buy! There are so many fakes and counterfeits available online, and offline in coin shops, that if you have the slightest doubt then don’t buy. If the seller cannot produce certification of grading by one of the above bodies or any other accepted grading service, then leave it!

To buy US coins is a fascinating hobby and means of investment. However, you must understand your niche, and be aware of the ways in which coins can be faked. If you purchase with your eyes wide open, and have carried out due diligence, then coin collecting can be a very satisfying and profitable activity.

Although it is a very rewarding pasting, you should be aware of potential counterfeit when you Buy US Coins. For more information on this, and a look at some fabulous US coins available for sale, check out the website Buy US Coins.

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