For a coin collector, finding authentic gold coins can be crucial to completing a successful coin collection. Unfortunately, counterfeit coins are plentiful the world over. While it may be impossible for the amateur coin collector to identify a good forgery from an authentic cold coin, you can avoid being fooled by simple counterfeits if you know exactly what to look for.
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Step 1Purchase coins in person rather than online. No matter how many photographs an online seller provides you with, you really have no way of truly examining the coin in question. Without holding the coin and getting a close look at its imprinting and detail (or lack thereof) you can't possibly expect to be able to tell an authentic gold coin from a counterfeit one.
Step 2Look for the word "copy" marked somewhere on the coin. The U.S. Hobby Protection Act requires all imitations of coins actually manufactured by the U.S. Mint to reflect the word "copy somewhere on the coin. This word may be small and easy to miss, so search carefully. If the coin is a counterfeit, its possible the person selling you the coin wasn't even aware it was marked to provide a warning to unsuspecting collectors.
Step 3Know your proof set packaging. If your buying your gold as part of a gold proof set, know the particular type of packaging provided for the year the coins were minted. Proof sets contain coins with particularly deep imprinting and special detail that were never meant for circulation. Proof sets are all packaged a certain way, depending on the year they were manufactured. An incorrectly packaged proof set could indicate counterfeit coins.
Step 4Rub the coin directly on your skin or the skin of your girlfriend, wife or friend, after applying concealer or makeup base. True gold causes most types of makeup base to undergo a chemical reaction that results in a noticeably dark streak. False gold doesn't. Keep in mind that this method merely clues you in as to whether the gold coin in question is actual gold, but doesn't help you identify whether it's a specific type of gold coin worth more or less than another variety.
Step 5Familiarize yourself with what you're looking for. A collector's manual or coin buying guide can help you learn the specific characteristics of different varieties of coins. Knowing a coin's characteristics help you identify a fake.
Step 6Place the coin near a standard-powered magnet. Many counterfeit coins are merely gold plated. While an authentic gold coin won't react to a magnet, the base metal beneath a gold plated coin often will. The U.S. Mint also stipulates that it does not produce gold-plated coins. Thus, if the coin you wish to collect was manufactured by the U.S. Mint and is attracted to your magnet, you know you're looking at a counterfeit, rather than an authentic gold coin.
Keep in mind that while a certificate of authenticity is always a good thing to have, it doesn't guarantee that the coin you are buying is an authentic gold coin. Always make an effort to authenticate your purchase on your own to avoid spending your hard earned money on a clever counterfeit.