Coin World and other numismatic publications are alerting hobbyists about an influx of fake Silver Eagles and bullion billed as silver but made of base metal. Auctioneers need to be on the alert.
The coin is so common and reliable, a mint state Silver Eagle, that counterfeiters have been able to pass them at coin shops, including phony base metal versions of rounds and bars.
Steve Roach, editor of Coin World, notes in this article that fakes of common numismatic products are often the trickiest to spot. “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,” Roach writes. “They are purchased and sold at a modest spread below and above the current price of bullion and traded without much thought.”
The counterfeits are coming to this country from China. They include private rounds and bars marked .999 silver in addition to Silver Eagles, Canadian Maple Leaf bullion coins and even Chinese Pandas.
There are several ways to detect fakes:
Weigh the coin. A silver eagle, for instance, should weigh 31.10 grams and have a diameter of 40.60 millimeters.
Learn how silver sounds. It has a distinct clink whereas base metal has a dull clang. (To train your ears, use 1964 Kennedy halves and compare the sound to clad Kennedys of the 1980s.)
Use a magnet. If the coin sticks, it is base metal.
Compare the devices. Fakes often have a difficult time mimicking Lady Liberty’s head and flag, for instance.
Look at the edge. Silver Eagles have reeded edges. Some fakes have plain edges.
In case you receive fake silver eagles, you should inform the consignor that he is obligated to turn in the counterfeits to the nearest Secret Service or FBI office.
And as we have advised auctioneers since our inception in 2011, no sales are final if they are fake. You could be found in violation of the Hobby Protection Act and other laws. The best way to protect yourself is to notify consignors that any altered or counterfeit coin will be returned to them with the cost deducted from their totals.
Proxiblog is an independent entity with no connection to the auction portal Proxibid. Our intent is to uphold basic numismatic standards as established by the American Numismatic Association and the National Auctioneer Association and to ensure a pleasurable bidding experience not only on Proxibid but also on similar portals such as iCollector and AuctionZip.
A regular sponsor, concerned about grading and replica issues on Proxibid, not only will support our scholarship tomorrow but also will offer a Silver Eagle to the first registered Proxibid user who contacts him after viewing a coin “with issues.”
Proxiblog dialogues with Proxibid auctioneers. They call us, we chat and share concerns on the portal. Top of nearly everyone’s list is the lack of knowledge by consignors about the condition of their cherished coins. Not far behind as a concern is the ignorant bidder with lots of credit that buys out an entire auction, often paying tens of thousands of dollars for coins that are altered, dipped, damaged or even counterfeit or replicas.
We know the initials of these bidders. We also know the ethics of Proxibid auctioneers who consider these buyers nice fellows but hate to see them pay so much more than lots are worth. One such bidder asked an auctioneer questions about how likely his mega-lot purchase would be as an investment in the future. Even though the auctioneer has made profit off this bidder, he continued to tell him that coin collecting is a risky business and he should never consider purchases an investment.
Numismatics are just too volatile for that, with the price of gold in recent years fluctuating between $400-$2000 per ounce.
So many auctioneers we deal with are straight-shooters. We admire that. Their ethics are to work on behalf of the consignor, but always be as honest as possible with the bidder.
Another auctioneer told us he would like to sponsor a free Silver Eagle giveaway to get more Proxibidders to see articles on this site. We average about 100+ viewers per day, but the auctioneer wants to double that with a question about grading and condition–much like our “Find the Flaw” feature–only with his supplying a prize for the first registered bidder to get the right answer.
We applaud that. We will ask a numismatic question. We’ll also supply the right answer on Monday.
Check back tomorrow for more details! Better yet, be the first person to get the right answer and Eagle!