Bill F. writes: I have a 1927 $2-1/2 Dollar Indian Head gold coin in very good condition. I took it into a dealer 20 years ago and he said it was counterfeit. Does a counterfeit coin have any value?
A counterfeit or fake coin doesn’t have any numismatic value though it’s gold or silver can be extracted by assay. U.S. fakes are technically illegal to own. There are various motivations to counterfeit coins not all of them sinister.
For example, the Beirut Mint in Lebanon and some mints in Latin America made counterfeits of European and United States gold coins in the early part of the 20th century. Since the coins they were reproducing were essentially “trade units” they rationalized that they were making their gold into recognizable entities and therefore acceptable for trade. This practice was certainly not acceptable in those countries that were the victims of this fraud. The practice continued long after gold stopped circulating since authentic gold coins had developed a premium over their face value and were of interest to collectors.
I once saw a bag of 1000 “Great Britain Sovereigns”. These coins should contain .2354 ounce of pure gold each (slightly less than a 1/4 ounce). The counterfeiters chose a rare date, 1917, to place on each of the coins. The insult to injury was that the coins contained less than half the gold content of a legitimate sovereign.
Most numismatists study counterfeit detection at some time in their careers and the old Beirut dies are usually the starting point for learning this skill. There are several techniques for copying coins including:
- Creating a die from an existing coin
- Electro-spark process
- Laser imaging
Authentication is a careful science and one learns not to condemn a coin unless the diagnostics tell us otherwise. It’s possible your coin might be genuine.
I think that the most important task for numismatists is to learn is what genuine coins should look like. You are then less likely to be fooled by a fake.