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ACCent: The Monthly Newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club
|Volume 19, Number 11||
|September Membership Meeting|
|Wed., Nov. 1st, 2006||Central Lutheran Church||
7:15 PM Meeting
Looks like one more month to go. Alas, the downstairs area of our meeting place (at Central Lutheran Church) is close but not yet finished. In talking with the church administration we are still good for our December 14th Christmas Party and Numismatic Auction.
Accordingly, our next club membership meeting will be on Wednesday, November 1st in the Community Room of the church. Same time…..7:15 PM start.
At our October meeting we had a great “Bullet Auction” in which some 20 coins were auctioned off that evening. Thanks go to both Bill Fivaz and Robert Hall for providing these 20 excellent lots.
The October meeting door prize, a Medallion (made by Medallic Art. Co. of New York) honoring William Ellery Channing, Clergyman and Theologian (1780-1842) NYU Hall of Fame for Great Americans…was won by Don Somers.
The membership prize, a 1976 U.S. Mint Proof Set, was won by Carl’s son…Cash.
Larry Nakata gave a great presentation on the subject of “Counterfeit and Altered U.S. Coins”. Carl and Loren assisted by showing examples of such coinage to our members in attendance.
Our next club meeting on November 1st will feature a presentation by Stan Mead on the subject of “Buffalo Nickels”.
A reminder to all members that if you have any coins or numismatic lots (for our Christmas Auction) that you wish to have posted in our next newsletter, get that information over to Larry Nakata. You can drop that information off with either Roy Brown’s or Carl’s shops. They will get the info over to Larry.
Finally, there will be a coin show at the Cottonwood Creek Mall in Wasilla on Saturday, November 4th and Sunday, November 5th. Interested members wishing to set up coin tables can contact Robert Hall in the evening (#561-8343)…..You r Editors.
Summer is now over and we are officially into Fall. Hard to believe but Christmas is in approximately 50 days and getting closer. At the Board meeting we discussed our annual coin club Christmas party which we now have a firm date. We are looking forward to having another successful auction. We are urging all members to start getting their lots together.
As always we will sell numismatic items for club members with no fees.
Also we are looking for numismatic donations of all kinds to be sold to benefit the club so please be generous. Items can be dropped off at Carl’s University Center or Roy’s in Spenard any time during business hours over the next couple weeks. The sooner the better as we would like to start cataloging the items for our December newsletter to help promote the auction.
Last two months meetings we had excellent turnouts and I hope November’s meeting will be the same or better. Last months presentation that Larry Nakata gave was excellent. Larry has attended counterfeit detection seminars and is very knowledgeable on the subject and made for a good presentation. Stan Mead will be giving a presentation on Buffalo Nickels at the next meeting which is Wednesday November 1. I hope to see everyone there. The renovations at the church are coming to an end shortly and things will get back to our regular schedule with our larger meeting area.
Please note we have a new meeting date at the church. Please remember to get your auction lots together as the Christmas party is soon approaching.
Your Friend in Numismatics……Carl.
Schedule of Events for the Month of November
With your Board looking at a coin seminar in the September, 2007 timeframe, the subject of that coin seminar will be on “Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection”. With a lot of new members in our coin club at this time, it is important that you learn and understand this important aspect of coin collecting. We have been doing a series of articles in our club’s newsletter on the subject of coin grading….to get you acquainted with this subject prior to the seminar next year.
So…..I want to now go into the subject of “Counterfeit and Altered U.S. Coins”.
At our October 9th club meeting, I gave a presentation on this subject. I wanted to follow-up with this article to those of you who were not able to attend that meeting.
The primary source of my October 6th presentation was the ANA VHS Tape “Detecting Counterfeit and Altered U.S. Coins” as presented by J.P. Martin in 1993. This tape provides excellent information and is certainly a good tape for your numismatic library. For your information, J.P. Martin gave our coin club a seminar on this very subject some years ago.
Let me start with counterfeit coins. Why are coins are counterfeited?
The biggest reason is the value of the metal used in coinage. With silver, gold, and today (platinum) as precious metals, counterfeiting a coin with an alloy of other cheaper metals is a very good reason. Counterfeiting goes back to the beginning of coinage when Greek Tetradrachms would be made of lead and plated with silver. Roman gold coinage was similarly counterfeited.
In US coinage, one of the most famous counterfeits was the gold plated U.S. “V” Nickel of 1883. Because it did not have the “5 CENT” denomination on the coin, unscrupulous people gold plated the V Nickel and passed it off as a $5 U.S. gold piece. The US Mint subsequently was forced to changed the design of the V Nickel that same year (1883) with one that had the 5 CENT denomination on the coin.
U.S. coins were also replicated by artists who innocently made a copy of a beautiful US coin…only to have them passed off as the real coin by unscrupulous people. This is why in 1973, U.S. Law required that any replicated coin had to be marked as a COPY or REPLICATED COIN.
Still another reason coins are counterfeited are for their numismatic value. A rare U.S. coin commands big money….so counterfeiting that coin is worthwhile.
This now leads me into the subject of how coins are counterfeited.
Casting of coins:
In one process (the Lost Wax Process), a wax imprint is made of a coin. Two hollow tubes are connected to the edge of the wax imprint. Plaster is then poured around the wax imprint. Molten metal is then poured into the plaster mold through one of the hollow tubes. The molten metal then melts the wax which exits through the other hollow tube…and is replaced with the molten metal. When it cools, the coin is separated from the plaster mold and the coin’s edge filed down to the proper diameter.
The problem with the Lost Wax Process is that it tends to cause bubbling and pitting on the surface of the coin….not to mention a loss of detail on the coin’s features. This led to Centrifugal Casting in which a centrifuge device is used to move the molten metal flow quicker into the cast. Later, Vacuum Casting became a technique in which vacuum pressure is used to force the molten metal into an even quicker and smoother flow into the cast. This has resulted in coins having much better detail. Because of the difficulty of making a reeded edge on a coin, counterfeit cast coins tend to be U.S. smoothed edged coins.
Ways to spot a cast coin.
Cast coins are generally smaller in size than a regular coin since the casting process has tendency to shrink the counterfeit. Measuring the diameter and width of the coin with a micrometer/caliper is a good way to check if a coin is a cast coin. One thing to remember is that the tolerances of U.S. coinage in terms of weight, alloy, diameter, and thickness is within 1%.
As such, the weight will be different than a regular coin.
Try tapping the coin with a pencil. A genuine coin will have a bell-like ringing tone vs. a duller type ringing tone from a counterfeit. This is because a genuine coin from the US Mint is subject to mint presses that provide lot of tons of pressure on the planchet when pressed between two dies. It’s that pressure that gives the bell-like ringing tone.
Look for a pour point on the edge of the cast coin. One may be able to spot tooling marks on the edge of that cast coin as a result of the counterfeiter’s attempt to get rid of that pour point from the hollow tube.
There still will be a loss of fine detail on the coin when using a cast method.
Another method is the making of counterfeit dies to make counterfeit coins. Making of dies tend to be most used in counterfeiting techniques.
One to One Transfer Dies. This is the most sophisticated method of making counterfeit dies. A Janvier portrait lathe machine is used. One side is the actual coin whose surface is scanned with a sensor much like a record player needle. The sensor then transfer the image to a lathe cutting device that engraves a die.
Spark erosion in making counterfeit dies. In this method, both the coin and the die are immersed in a dielectric fluid separated by about 1/10th of millimeter between the face of the coin and the face of the die. The coin and the die are hooked up to an electric device. The surface of the coin then starts to erode and transfers it’s image onto the face of the die through a dielectric process. While on one hand you destroy the coin, you get a die that can mint a lot of counterfeits.
Impact die method. In this method, coins are impacted using dies with softened surfaces. The surface of the dies are then heated and tempered so that they can mint coins. This method is rarely used since the counterfeit coin tends to have mushy detail around the perimeter and sharp detail on the center portion of the coin.
Hand cut dies. This is a technique not done today since it is pretty tough to do. You would have to be a great artist and die engraver to pull this off. Back in the 19th century when the technology was not as sophisticated, there were people who actually did handcut dies.
Ways to spot a counterfeit die coin.
There will be a lack of fine detail on the coin. One will see a lower relief on the surface of the coin. There will be a granular type surface on the coin….especially on coins made using the spark erosion method.
Since it is difficult to make a reeded edge on a counterfeit die coin, you will usually see counterfeits made on smooth edged US coins.
Look for proof like edges on the counterfeit coin. There will be an odd color and texture to the coin.
There will be evidence of tooling marks on the coin since most counterfeit dies tend to be scraped and tooled with a tooling device to make the dies look professional.
Look for that lack of a bell-like ringing tone when the coin is tapped with a pencil.
Electrotype counterfeit coins.
In this technique, a wax imprinted mold is made of the obverse and of the reverse side of the coin. The mold is then coated with a fine powder and electroplated. This creates two shells: a obverse shell and a reverse shell. The shells are replated to strengthen the shells. Each shell is then filled with a molten metal. The shells are then put together and the seam on the edge of the new coin is soldered, trimmed, and filed to look like a real coin. Again…..electrotypes are usually made with smoothed edged coins.
Ways to spot an electrotype counterfeit.
Look for a seam around the edge of the coin. Look for evidence of soldering and filing marks
Such coins are usually light in weight vs. the real coin. There will also be a loss of detail on the coin.
Tools used for detection of counterfeit coins.
A good digital weight scale with 1/100th gram sensitivity is best for weighing the coin. As I stated before, genuine US coins are within 1% of tolerance of each other.
Get a good magnifying lens. For the most part, a 7x to 10x magnifying lens is recommended for inspecting a coin. For counterfeit detection you should use a greater magnification such as a 40x stereo microscope to inspect the coin. Such microscopes are good for spotting raised metal, added mint marks, removed mint marks, and fine tooling marks on a coin.
You can use a micrometer/caliper than can measure the diameter and thickness of a coin. Since US coins are within 1% tolerance, this is good way to spot cast coins since they shrink when cooled.
A specific gravity tester. This device measures the density of a coin to make sure it has the proper alloys in the coin. It is used to measure the coin’s metal content.
Experts use an electron scanning microscope. Electrons are bounced off the surface of a coin and read through the electron microscope. Besides producing a very highly magnified image, it also produces a graphical chart showing the elemental composition of the coin. If the coin is properly alloyed, it will show accordingly on an electron scanning microscope. This is great for spotting plated coins.
Then there is your ability to look at a coin. A good collector can look at a coin’s color, texture, and detail and get that feel if the coin is real or counterfeit. That comes with looking at a lot of coins over the years as a collector. It’s the weight of the coin in your hand, it’s dimensions, and it’s detail. To an experienced collector, such a coin just doesn’t look or feel right.
Now….lets go into the subject of altered coins.
Coins are altered because of their numismatic value. In U.S. coinage, the most commonly altered coins are the 1909S-VDB Lincoln Cent and the 1916D Mercury Dime. Why?! Because you can add the S and D mint marks to other coins such as the 1909 VDB Philadelphia Lincoln cent or the 1916 Philadelphia Mercury dime. Keep in mind that the Philadelphia mint never put their mint mark on coins for a long time.
Mintmarks can be glued on or soldered onto a coin.
Mintmarks can also be embossed into a coin. For example, in the 1916 D dime, a hole is drilled into the edge of a 1916 P dime near the mintmark location. With a fine needle nose device, a D mintmark is pressed into the surface of the 1916 dime from the inside. The hole is then filled with metal and tooled to try and remove any evidence of the drill spot on the coin’s edge.
Besides adding or removing mintmarks, dates can be altered as well. Case in point….the 1914-D Lincoln Cent….which has been counterfeited from a 1944-D Lincoln Cent.
Other ways coins are altered are by plugging a hole in a coin. Coins used to be drilled and made into a necklace pendant. When you are talking about a key date coin that could be worth lots of money, some will fill the hole with a metal and use tooling and polishing devices to make the coin look good.
Then there are coins that have graffiti scratched on the surface of the coin. In an effort to get rid of the graffiti…..tooling, whizzing, and toning are methods used to cover up the graffiti. Whizzing is a technique in which a dermal type rotating tool with a fine metal bristle brush head is used to shine up a coin and get rid of blemishes and graffiti. Whizzing tends to make the coin look too shiny. When you look at the lettering, dates, and details on the coin, you will find evidence of the metal being brushed up against the edge of the detail. In a genuine coin, the detail should be sharp with defined edges between the detail and the surface of the coin.
At this point, I have just gone over the surface of this subject of counterfeit detection and altered coins.
There are some guidelines I can give you in dealing with key date coins.
Coins that can cost you lots of money. I believe this should help you avoid buying a counterfeit or altered coins.
I always say that you should buy the book or tape before purchasing the coin. One thing about key date coins….there were only so many U.S. Mint dies made to make that coin.
There are a number of books you can buy to tell you what to look for on that key date coin. Information such as how the mintmark should look, how the mint date should look, and die markings on the coin that you should look for that only existed on those genuine dies.
I would recommend having books in your numismatic library. There are lots of them. Among those are:
Know the coin dealer that you buy coins from. A dealer that has been in business a long time can spot counterfeit and altered coins. That dealer also has a reputation to uphold to make sure that none of his customers buy such coins from him.
On raw coins, if in doubt, have the coin sent in for grading and authentication before buying the coin.
Finally, one can buy professionally graded “slabbed” coins. Such coins are already authenticated with a guarantee of buyback if found to be counterfeit or altered.
Hopefully….I’ve done justice to this subject in this short article. A seminar on the subject of Counterfeit Detection and Altered Coins goes a lot deeper…with lots of coins to look at….both genuine and otherwise…….Larry Nakata.
1. Set of six (6) Uncirculated Kenney Half Dollars. 1984-D (2)/ 1992-D/ 1993-P/ 1993-D/1996-P. Minimum Bid $3
2. 1890 Liberty Seated Dime. AU condition. Minimum Bid $45
3. 1969-S Proof Kennedy Half Dollar. NGC Pf67 Ultra Cameo. Minimum Bid $24
4. 1970-D Kennedy Half Dollar. ICG MS65. Minimum Bid $21
5. 1879-S Morgan Dollar. ANACS MS63. Minimum Bid $37
6. 1927 Mercury Dime. ANACS MS63. Minimum Bid $40
7. 1936 Mercury Dime. ANACS MS63. Minimum Bid $22
8. 1941-D Mercury Dime. NGC MS65 FB. Minimum Bid $34
9. 1916 Barber Dime. ANACS AU50. Minimum Bid $46
10. 1947 Washington Quarter. NGC MS65. Minimum Bid $34
11. 1914-D Lincoln Cent. ANACS VF30. Minimum Bid $370
Club Archivist/ Photographer
The Anchorage Coin Club is a non-profit organization formed to provide information, education, and a meeting place for individuals having an interest in numismatics.
Correspondence Address: Anchorage Coin Club, P.O. Box 230169, Anchorage,