By Tony Davis – Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers ……
We met yesterday with an individual that was interested in selling a Canadian gold maple leaf coin. Canadian gold maple leafs are among the most common coins that we purchase, so we didn’t expect this transaction to be much different than any other. However, we were surprised when we were presented with a counterfeit gold coin. This, in fact, is the first fake Canadian gold maple leaf coin that we’ve seen. More commonly counterfeited gold coins are Chinese gold pandas, and $20 Liberty Head and St. Gaudens gold coins.
While we were able to immediately identify the Canadian gold maple leaf as a counterfeit, as we have a good bit of familiarity with these coins, individuals that don’t have as much experience with these coins, or gold coins, in general, may not know the proper way to authenticate gold coins, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to share with our readers several ways that you can authenticate gold coins.
Not all gold coins weigh the same, even if they contain the same gold content, so it’s important to know in advance how much an authentic gold coin should weigh. One ounce 24k gold coins, such as Canadian gold maple leaf coins, should weigh 31.1 grams. 22k gold coins, such as American gold eagles and South African gold krugerrands, weigh 33.93 grams. $20 Liberty Head and St. Gaudens gold coins weigh 33.43 grams.
Be sure to bring a reliable portable scale with you to any gold coin buying appointment. We have used the American Weigh digital pocket scale for years, which we have found to be very reliable. The scale can currently be purchased for less than $10 on Amazon, which is a great investment, even if you only plan on purchasing one or two coins. While confirming that the weight of the coin is accurate is the first step you should take, it doesn’t necessary guarantee that you have an authentic coin.
Diameter & Thickness
Counterfeiters are becoming savvier and realize that individuals are beginning to pay attention to the weight of the gold coins that they purchase, so some counterfeit gold coins weigh out correctly. However, if the same metal used to produce the authentic gold coin isn’t used in the production of the counterfeit coin, then the diameter and/or thickness of the coin is unlikely to match the specifications of the authentic coin. Therefore, we recommend that you invest in a caliper to confirm that the diameter and thickness of the coin you’re considering meets the manufacturer’s specifications. Calipers from Tekton are similar to the caliper that we use. Be sure to check the thickness as well as the diameter of the coin, as it’s possible to produce a counterfeit coin using a different metal that has the same weight and diameter, but a different thickness than the original.
If you prefer to invest in an all-in-one authentication tool, you might want to consider purchasing a fake gold coin detector from Fisch. These instruments are generally sold in a wallet and include fake gold coin detectors for each denomination gold coin in a series. While more expensive than investing in a scale and caliper, a Fisch fake gold coin tester should last during your entire gold coin investing lifetime. It essentially provides three tests to confirm the accuracy of a coin. It allows you to confirm that the weight of the coin is accurate and that the specifications, including the diameter and thickness of the coin are consistent with the specifications. If you only invest in one or two types of gold coins, this is probably a worthwhile investment. However, if you invest in many types of gold coins, purchasing many wallets can become quite expensive. We personally own a few wallets, and have no affiliation with this company.
Several other options are available to individuals that wish to confirm the authenticity of their coins, including some expensive and not so expensive options. As far as low cost options go, one of the best ways to determine if the coin you wish to purchase is authentic or not is to compare it to a similar coin you own that you know is authentic. This allows you to stack the coins, measure and weigh them to confirm that the specifications are similar. Another good low cost option involves investing in a rare earth magnet. These are extremely powerful magnets, and are able to attract nearly any metal that is magnetic, even if in smaller amounts. You simply apply the magnet to the coin or hold it slightly above the coin to confirm if it’s magnetic. If so, then walk away, as you’re dealing with a counterfeit coin.
More expensive and reliable methods that can be used to verify the metal content of the coin that you’re purchasing include investing in a precious metals assay machine, such as one of the following from Niton and Olympus. However, at a price tag likely in excess of $1,000, your money is probably better spent elsewhere. Other options that include various levels of knowledge and expense include conducting a density or specific gravity test to confirm the density of the metal, as all metals have distinct densities and properties that make them impossible to replicate.
In summary, while there’s very little to be concerned about if purchasing gold coins from a reputable coin dealer, we recommend that you take appropriate steps when entering into a private transaction or conducting business with a coin dealer that doesn’t have an established track record. While it’s possible to spend thousands of dollars to ensure the authenticity of gold coins, for most folks, investing in an earth magnet, a reliable scale and caliper will help you to rule out 99% of counterfeit coins. If you’d like to take it a step further, consider investing in a fake gold coin detector from Fisch or conduct a density or specific gravity test to confirm that the density of the metal is accurate.
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Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes. Visit his website at www.atlantagoldandcoin.com for additional information on the products, services and educational resources offered by his company. Tony can be reached at [email protected] or at 404-236-9744.