These lots have plagued auctions for decades because so many are fake, the real ones are pricey, and so few know how to tell the difference. The Coin World article below may help.
Numismatists recognize four kinds of tiny metal disks being billed as “California fractional gold” or “California small denomination gold,” one of the most alluring but also pricey series for the typical home hobbyist.
The first kind, the true California small denomination gold coins, were struck from 1852 to 1882. They usually come in denominations of quarter dollar, half dollar and dollar. All have the inscription DOLLAR or abbreviation “D.” or “DOL.” Genuine examples can cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.
A second kind, California gold tokens, were privately minted on gold planchets until around 1871 and usually depict a miner or other Western scene on the reverse.
A third kind, California jeweler’s charms, are made of gold and were sold as souvenirs of the West typically in the 1930s.
Replica brass or plated disks are a fourth kind. These are fakes and usually feature a bear on the reverse (genuine pieces do not show a bear). They have been flooding the coin market, especially on eBay, which banned replicas in 2012. Moreover, the brass disks do not carry the word “copy” and are in violation of the Hobby Protection Act.
Recently on an online auction portal Proxibid, a seller offered an “1852 California Gold Coin.” Everything in the seller’s four-word description was wrong. …
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