US Coins

Counterfeiting trickiest when it hits the most familiar

Counterfeit coins continue to be a problem at nearly all levels of the rare coin market.

Thankfully, suppliers have generally stopped using eBay as a venue to peddle their wares, although a basic search on the site shows that some sellers continue to list replica and tribute “coins” that are sometimes described as “Silver Clad Replica Coins.”

Private mints whose wares are being counterfeited report that eBay will shut down auctions once notified, but a search of recent sales show that others go unnoticed.

These counterfeits are believed to have entered the marketplace from suppliers in China. A broad range of popularly traded 1-ounce .999 fine silver coins and rounds are impacted, including American Eagle and Canadian Maple Leaf silver bullion coins, Chinese Pandas, and various privately produced and branded 1-ounce silver rounds and bars.

These fakes represent an ever growing threat to coin shops and collectors as they imitate the type of items that cross the counter at stores across the country on a daily basis. They are purchased and sold at a modest spread below and above the current price of bullion and traded without much thought.

The seemingly easy business of buying and selling silver bullion coins, bars and rounds is largely what makes these fakes so dangerous.

As Paul Gilkes noted in his coverage in the March 4 Coin World Special Edition, a single seller can quickly peddle his or her false wares to multiple coin, jewelry and pawn shops in a geographic region.

With the hustle and bustle of a coin shop, and the differing skill levels of those who work the front counter at these businesses, these fakes can easily slip by casual inspection.

It is only after the sale takes place, when the seller has long vanished, that the item’s true false identity is revealed.

The counterfeit silver coins, bars and rounds often contain different concentrations of nickel, copper and zinc in place of the .999 silver that is found in most authentic silver bullion items. They’re generally off in terms of weight and sometimes diameter as well.

Side-by-side comparisons between genuine and counterfeit examples provide easy diagnostics that make the differences seem obvious. But one should not be lulled into a false sense of confidence by these comparisons, as many of these fake bullion products, in isolation, look authentic at first and even second glance.

The presence of counterfeits is a reminder of the continued need for education in the hobby, and for dealers and collectors alike to take a close look when buying and selling familiar bullion products.


Steve Roach

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