Counterfeiting has been around just as long as there have been precious metal currency in the world. As a collector, there are ways to protect yourself from mistaking a counterfeit coin for a real one. There are simple DIY tests you can perform to check the material, but sometimes you can check the item with a simple magnifying glass. Bullion Exchanges does just that, and we took a look at some commonly counterfeited coins for you.

Pre-1933 Gold Counterfeit Coins

Pre-1933 Gold counterfeits can be deceptive to the untrained eye. This is because more often than not, they have the correct weight and purity. This means the only way one is able to detect a counterfeit is through careful examination.

Consider the 1904 $20 Gold Double Eagle. With a massive mintage of over 6 million coins, this Philadelphia-issue is, according to NGC, one of the top-50 most counterfeited coins. 

Counterfeit Example

1904 $20 Gold Liberty Head Double Eagle coin counterfeit

This particular spurious example looks fairly good upon first glance. With full design detail and nothing wrong that jumps out right away, this bad coin might leave an amateur grader thinking it is legitimate. However, a more advanced grader might notice that the luster on this example is dissimilar to a genuine US Mint issue.

Upon closer examination, several diagnostics lead to the conclusion that this coin is counterfeit.

1904 $20 Gold Double Eagle counterfeit clue obverse nose

Tooling marks appear just under the nose of Liberty on the obverse.

T marks 1904 $20 Gold Double Eagle counterfeit coin border clue

Tooling marks extend from the rim into the “T” in “STATES” on the reverse.

A marks 1904 $20 Gold Double Eagle counterfeit coin border hint clue

Huge tooling marks appear through the last “A” in “AMERICA.” Other chunks of raised metal just south of the “A” also indicate this coin is bad.

1904 Gold Double Eagle counterfeit coin background error hint clue

Imperfections in the field appear at about 5 o’clock on the obverse.

Although at first glance a pre-1933 gold coin may appear genuine, one must always take the time to examine it carefully and completely. The best way to do this effectively is by becoming familiar with genuine examples. It can take years of training before one becomes fully proficient in the science of counterfeit detection. Numismatists of any caliber looking to expand their knowledge or their collections can take assurance in Bullion Exchanges. We offer a 100% guarantee of authenticity by our trained and experienced team of professional numismatists.

1862 Counterfeit Liberty Coin

Better-date coins are a perpetual target of counterfeiters. This is because counterfeiters only have to invest two things to make a potentially huge profit. First, they must match the cost of the gold content of the coin. Second, they have to replicate the labor it takes to make the counterfeit.

Take for example the 1862-S $2.50 Liberty. In a series full of key dates, this is what can be described as a “better-date.” The official mintage of this issue is only 8,000, but its actual survival rate is much lower. This means it will certainly garner a premium over a common date issue. Also, civil war dates are always popular among collectors. However, this particular example exhibits some irregularities that raise flags.

Counterfeit Example

1862-S $2.50 Liberties are known for being exceptionally well-struck. With a wire rim nearly complete around the obverse of this example, it seems to fall right in line with that assessment. However, upon closer inspection, despite being well-struck, the details of this coin are simply too mushy for a genuine example. The stars in particular from 3-5 o’clock indicate that the quality of the dyes used to make this coin were simply not on par with that of the U.S. Mint.

1862-S $2.50 Liberty counterfeit coin

Light tooling marks also appear on the reverse—one just above the right foot of the eagle, extending from the eagle’s leg into the bunch of arrows. Another one appears near the top of the eagle’s right wing, extending off to the right.

1862-S $2.50 Liberty reverse coin counterfeit marks hint clue

While this example is circulated (likely on purpose by the counterfeiter), making it harder to positively identify the signs of a counterfeit, there is no doubt that they are there. When buying raw gold, always make sure to do so from a trusted source. Bullion Exchanges has a 100% guarantee of authenticity by our trained and experienced professional numismatists.

1853 $3 Gold Coin Fake

In 1853, the United States Congress introduced legislation authorizing the production of a $3 gold coin. They did this with the hopes that it would incentivize the public to buy 3-cent stamps by the sheet and 3-cent coins by the roll. Despite the public never really getting on board with this idea, the Indian Princess $3 gold coins remain a favorite among numismatists today. Unfortunately, this means that these coins are always a target for counterfeiters due to their high premiums over melt value. Even a common date such as the 1855 coin is frequently counterfeited. According to NGC, the 1855 $3 cracks the top 15 most submitted counterfeit coins.

1855 $3 coin fake counterfeit marks error hint clue

When this particular 1855 $3 gold piece crossed the desk of one of Bullion Exchanges’ numismatists, several signs immediately raised red flags, pointing to “fake.” For example, a sizable raised metal lump appears near the mouth on the obverse. Also, the reverse exhibits several signs this piece is not a genuine U.S. Mint product:

  • Two suspicious depressions are evident above the “O” in “DOLLARS.”
  • A small tooling mark protrudes out of the top of the “3.”
  • The overall relief of the design is too low, bleeding too easily into the fields.

Whenever you buy pre-1933 gold, be sure you are doing so from a trusted source. Our team at Bullion Exchanges offers a 100% guarantee of authenticity backed by the extensive knowledge and experience of our team of professional numismatists.


Bullion Exchanges is a precious metals retailer in Midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, we temporarily closed our storefront until further notice from the impact of the coronavirus. Online orders might take between 15-30 days for shipping and handling because of international distributor delays. We are still working hard for our valued customers and are handling products with the highest care. If you have any questions, please contact us. We will be happy to help you, but we ask that you remain patient. We are working with a high volume of orders and customers at this time. Visit our website and investigate our wide selection of gold, silver, platinum and palladium coins and bars. Also, you can sell to us! Please contact our team of customer service representatives with any questions regarding our products.

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