As United States collectors, we are accustomed to a large number of U.S. gold coins being counterfeited, especially coin types like the Coronet dollar, Indian Head $2.50 quarter eagle and the Indian Head $3 coin.
Fakes of gold coins from other countries are not encountered with the same frequency, encouraging collectors to let their guard down.
This can be a mistake.
The 1875-A Venezuelan gold 5-venezolano coin shown here is a good example. It is a better date that sells for significantly more than its gold content, providing the financial motive for producing a fake.
The average U.S. collector will never have the opportunity to inspect an example, much less have two or three to compare to each other, making it harder to learn the diagnostics.
This counterfeit is fairly well made, with the same weight and gold content as a genuine example.
The color and luster of the fake is a bit off when compared to a genuine coin, but these distinctions only help if you have a genuine piece to compare it to.
It is on closer examination with a quality magnifier that the defects can be seen and cataloged.
On the portrait side of the coin, a rim spike above the A in LIBERTADOR points to the T. Light, mostly vertical, raised tool marks are visible on Simón Bolívar’s forehead, and a number of small depressions appear on his face and the back of his neck.
As you can see from the images, the lettering and design details are sharp, indicating a high quality transfer between the genuine coin and the fake dies.
Probably the easiest diagnostic to see is the rim spike, so that should be the first spot to check on a suspect coin.
Michael Fahey is a senior numismatist at ANACS in Denver, Colo.