Would you know how to identify a fake gold coin if you saw one? Fakes and replicas are becoming more realistic than ever before, and unaware third-party buyers and sellers are being ripped off. Knowledge about what to look out for, along with a series of tests you can perform, will allow you to quickly identify a fake from a genuine gold coin. Learn our tips on what to look out for in this article.
1. Using a Trusted Dealer
Our first piece of advice would be to make sure that you buy your gold from a trustworthy bullion dealer. There are many independent sellers out there, and ensuring that they are authentic and reputable is the first priority.
Pay particular care with third-party sellers, like on eBay for example. Replicas and fakes have infested these platforms so make sure you check dealer's feedback and reviews and see how other customers have found dealing with them. You'll have a very difficult time getting your money back when it comes to fraud. A bullion dealer will use machines to verify the content of their bullion so you have complete ease-of-mind.
It is also worth noting that Ebay no longer offers sellers protection for gold, so make sure you are clear as to what might happen if something is not as it should be.
2. Coin Specifications
If someone handles gold coins on a daily basis, they develop a sense of how they should be, and when something's not quite right. However, even subtle differences between the colour, size, diameter, thickness, metal composition, weight, and specific gravity, can be big identifying factors to look out for.
One of the most obvious traits when handling gold is its density or 'specific gravity'. Specific gravity is a measurement of how dense a substance is when compared to water. Gold is very dense, so replacing it with a less valuable metal with similar properties to gold can be very difficult. Coin specification information is always released by the issuing mint. Compare your results to that of the specifications of a genuine coin, if they are off even by a small amount, there's a high chance you may have a counterfeit coin.
3. Coin Content
A strong magnet can also help identify properties of a coin. This will tell you if there are any magnetic metals diluting its purity. For example, from 1987 until 2012, Britannia coins weighed slightly more than a troy ounce due to being alloyed with other metals. Pre-2013, The Royal Mint produced gold Britannia coins in .917 fineness (or 22-carat gold) with the non-gold component being copper. In 2013 The Royal Mint began producing Britannia coins in their current form of 999.9 fineness (24-carat gold).
An official coin specification will state if the coin should be mixed with any other metals. If the coin is supposed to be pure gold, but is magnetic, it may be that the coin is not gold, but gold-plated.
4. Coin Colour
Look at the coin's colour to make sure it matches the metal composition of a genuine coin. Discolorations can be a big indicator. For example, 1oz Krugerrand coins have traces of copper mixed in with the gold as they are only 22-carat. Therefore, it has more of a bronze-brown colour than pure 0.9999 purity coins. If a 1oz Gold Krugerrand coin is the same colour as a 24 carat 1oz Gold Britannia coin, then it's probably a fake.
5. Coin detail
Familiarising yourself with a coin's design will also allow you to identify fakes quickly. Worldwide mints have a very high standard when it comes to the production of their bullion so the coin, when inspected under a microscope, should display a crisp, clear and clean design.
Have a look at the shape of the letters, the position of numbers, details on portraits, and the overall look-and-feel of a coin. Compare these details to other photos and high-resolution images of the coin that are available. Additionally, look for evidence of alteration, or a seam that would indicate the coin is a cast counterfeit or two halves of genuine coin stuck together.
6. Gold & Silver Verifying Technology
Anyone who is serious about precious metals, including respected bullion dealers, will have machines and tools that will allow them to test bullion accurately on the spot. There are many types and different options to choose from. Here are our favourite three:
a) XRF Machine
If you're a big precious metal collector, you may want to invest in a machine that can test coins instantly. XRF (x-ray fluorescence) is a non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of a metal. They're fast and accurate and will generally test (depending on the model); coating thickness, microhardness and give you a material analysis. The score gets displayed on-screen and tells you what elements are present, and the percentage of each of these elements.
b) Size Detectors
If you're a collector of one type of gold bullion coin, you could invest in Fisch Fake Gold Detector instruments. These are expensive and you'll need to get one for every type of coin you purchase, but will allow you to test; the coin's width, weight and diameter. Be careful not to buy a fake Fischer though, these have also been rising in popularity.
A ringer is another tool that can be used to detect the quality of coins. This machine uses sound to allow you to recognise the quality of the metal in each coin. This machine strikes the coin to produce a ping. Each metal has a distinctive ping, and gold can sound wonderful. Other materials can very different so hearing for a fake would be easy.
Identifying fake gold coins can be fairly easy but always avoid buying from unreliable sources. It can be incredibly disheartening to hand over money for a gold coin, only to find out later that it's fake. From established, credible dealers, you shouldn't ever need to test your coins.
If you have any questions, or you'd like to talk about this in more detail, please call one of the Bleyer team on 01769 618618 or email [email protected]