How to spot fake American Silver Eagles

By thebrewer on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 - 5:51pm

There has always been a problem with fake gold coins because they're worth so much but silver coins have always been less of an issue because of the same reason. But with an American Siver Eagle (ASE) approaching $40 with premium it is becoming more of a problem. I have been buying ASE's and Canadian Silver Maple Leafs for a few years now and have learned a few things along the way and thought I might share with you in hopes you can avoid a few mistakes I have made.

Biggest thing, start with a reputable dealer, this helps, but this may not always be an option and you don't want to miss out on opportunity's that may present themselves. I have found great deals in pawn shops and smaller dealers but this is where you have to be very careful and take steps to insure you don't get taken. Sometimes even a normally reliable dealer gets taken him or herself by their source and it just gets passed along to you so here we go.

First, I always check every coin I buy. It's not a 100% guarantee without bringing it to a lab but it's the best one can do on their own. Start by buying yourself an accurate digital gram scale that measure to atleast to a tenth of a gram, hundreths is better.  American Silver Eagles should weigh 31.101g and if your going to be buying often it's worth it. Weight is the quickest and easiest check you can do and if that comes out right your probably fine. But if you plan to make substantial investments in silver coins, I recommend you take things a little further.

Second, purchase a "Vernier Caliper" to check diameter and thickness. You can buy a digital Chineese made one for $15-$20 on eBay or their are nicer American made dial units that can run several hundred dollars. When measuring your ASE, it should be 40.6mm in diameter and 2.98mm thick. When measuring the diameter it's best to measure in several spots and take the average.

Although the methods listed above will usually enable you to rule out most fakes (especially the weight test,) sometimes close examination under a strong magnifier settles the matter. Look for silver plating that failed to fill into tiny spots and crevices. Look at the edge of the coin to see if the plating is visible where the rim meets the side; also look between the reeding.

A big one to watch is reeding on the edge. If you ever see an American Silver Eagle without reeded edges, it's not a mint error, but a Chinese fake silver coin. Also, for whatever reason, the Chineese often make American Silver Eagles dated back as far as 1906. That's an easy tell since ASE were not made until 1986.

This brings up a very important test which is performed with your eyes. Simply, know your product. Some counterfitters, especially Chineese are fairly careless and make many different mistakes so make sure you have a picture of what your coin should look like and check it closely.

Next would be the "Bell Test". Just like it sounds. Not a guarantee on it's own but another quick test to be added to your arsenal. Simply balance an ASE on your finger and tap it with another. It should ring like a bell. If it's a dull sound, it MAY contain other metals like lead or bronze with a silver coating.

Magnitism is also another quick and dirty test but far from full proof. Silver and gold are not magnetic so if you put a magnet over them they should not be attracted. If there are then they're fake, but, there are other non magnetic metals as well so again, this should just be part of your arsenal.

There are other tests you can do with acids but they will ruin your collectable coins so I don't recommend that unless you are testing bars of silver. I'll cover that in a later post.

Those are just a few of the things I've learned over the last couple years..hope it helps.


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