The latest counterfeit to infiltrate the collector market is a fake
Proof 2015-W American Eagle silver dollar that appeared at a Florida
coin show in February.
Reports have also surfaced of several other different Proof dates
also appearing, with 2013 and 2014 pieces among them.
Examples are also reportedly being offered through online outlets.
Connect with Coin World:
The counterfeits are offered housed in original U.S. Mint packaging
with genuine government-issued certificates of authenticity.
The counterfeit 2015 coin was reported March 7 to Coin World
by F. Michael “Skip” Fazzari, a numismatist with Independent Coin
Graders in Tampa, Fla.
Fazzari said an unnamed coin dealer purchased a small group of what
turned out to be counterfeit Proof American Eagle silver dollars at
The Collectorama Coin & Currency Show Feb. 19 to 21 in Lakeland, Fla.
Fazzari said he was able to purchase an example of a counterfeit
Proof 2015-W American Eagle silver dollar that a collector brought to
the ICG table for examination at the Sarasota & Manatee Coin Club
Show in Sarasota Feb. 26 to 28.
Get our free report: How to Invest in Rare Coins
So that he could examine the diagnostics, Fazzari said, he
compensated the collector the $45 that was originally paid to acquire
the coin from an eBay auction.
“The coins are good enough so that a dealer opening the box to make
sure a coin was inside would see a blazing Proof,” Fazzari said.
“However, a close naked-eye inspection by a bullion dealer would
probably be enough to detect a scam,” he said.
“Microscopic examination of the box, Mint certificate, and case
looked OK. The alloy eagle on the velvet box has a slightly different
micro finish, but is probably OK. I see no point in faking the entire
set as the counterfeiter can purchase a genuine set from the Mint and
replace the genuine Proof with the fake.”
Fazzari surmises genuine Mint packaging could have been acquired on eBay or
at a coin show where packaging is sold separated from its contents, by
dealers or collectors.
The empty boxes, still often containing the certificate of
authenticity, remain after the coins are removed, often for submission
to a third-party grading service, according to Fazzari.
Adam Stump, deputy director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Corporate Communication,
said March 7 that while the Mint does offer through its website
individual storage and display boxes without coins, “There is not a
box for silver Proof American Eagles that can be ordered direct from
the website by itself.”
What to look for
Fazzari said he detailed the specifications for the counterfeit
against the standards for a genuine Proof American Eagle silver dollar.
Among the diagnostics, the counterfeit is out of tolerance, Fazzari
said. Fazzari said the counterfeit weighs 30.54 grams compared to the
genuine standard of 31.101 grams. The diameter of the fake coin is
39.77 millimeters versus 40.6 millimeters for the genuine silver Proof.
The counterfeit did not test positive for silver or copper using an
electronic metals analyzer, Fazzari said. The fake has a specific
gravity of 8.4, but currently its metallic composition is unknown.
Although crudely manufactured, Fazzari said the counterfeit is close
enough in general appearance to a genuine coin “to fool the average
collector or first-time buyer.”
Fazzari took close-up photographs detailing the differences of the
counterfeit at specific locations compared with a genuine Proof 2015-W
American Eagle silver dollar.
Fazzari recommends buyers pay particular attention to the date on
the 2015 coin, which has a number of useful diagnostics.
On the obverse of the fake coin, the digits in the date are closer
together than on the genuine coin, except for the 5, which is spaced
farther from the 1. On the genuine coin, the digits in the date are
uniformly thicker and evenly spaced from one another. The 1 on the
fake coin has a pronounced serif on the tip, while the 1 on the
genuine coin does not.
Among other features, the American flag behind Liberty on the fake’s
obverse is crude, with mushy stars.
The figure of Liberty is also useful for identification. Liberty
appears to have a black eye, with a raised area under the eye.
Liberty’s Phrygian cap on the fake is not as well-defined as on the
genuine coin. The details on Liberty’s sandal on the genuine coin are
sharp. On the fake, they are mushy and not well-defined. The drapery
lines on Liberty’s clothing on the fake are too bold, Fazzari said.
Buyers should also examine lettering on the obverse of the coin. The
Y in LIBERTY appears with serifs on the fake, but is sans serif on the
The overall surface appearance on the fake’s obverse is granular,
compared with the genuine coin’s more satiny-looking finish.
On the reverse of the fake, all of the devices are raggedy-edged,
without definition, most prominently on the eagle’s feathers and the
stripes on the shield. Five stripes are visible on the fake, while six
appear on the genuine coin.
In addition, lettering differences for the inscriptions are also
visible. The U in UNITED on the fake does not have the tail that
appears on the U on the genuine coin. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM on the
ribbon held in the eagle’s beak is incuse on the genuine coin and
raised on the counterfeit.
One other useful diagnostic: the W Mint mark of the West Point Mint
on the genuine coin is tall and thin, while on the fake, it is squatty