Coins - Frauds, Fakes and Errors

The overwhelming majority of coin collectors and dealers are honest. That eBay and other Internet sites are successful is one big piece of evidence to that effect. Trust keeps the whole system going, since there's a delay between the purchase and delivery.

But frauds, fakes and errors do happen and coin collectors will want to do some research whenever considering a trade.

One sort of error is the simple, old-fashioned human kind. A coin may be misidentified. But numismatists use the term in another way, as well. An error is a coin that may have been stamped with the wrong date, have the obverse face of one coin, but the reverse has the design of another denomination.

A fake, by contrast, is a coin that is not intended to be used as real currency. It may be for advertising purposes or just a joke. A fraud is a coin that is made to look like genuine currency, but was not produced by a legitimate mint.

Telling the difference between them can save you money and grief. Errors can be worth a lot, because of their rarity. A fake is not a numismatic collectible, while a fraud is inherently worthless.

One common type of fake that can be misinterpreted as an error, for example, is the 'two-headed' coin. These are sometimes mistakenly believed to be errors, but in fact they are just fakes.

They are commonly made for magicians, or for practical jokes. There are two common ways of producing them. In one case, two coins are shaved to about half-thickness then bonded together. If done carefully with two nickels for example, the result can look quite convincing. The other technique involves hollowing out one coin, then shaving the perimeter and one side of another and bonding them together.

But however the deed is done, they are always a fake. There are no known instances of a genuine, mint-produced two-headed or two-tailed coin. Given the way coins are minted it would be difficult to do.

Every coin produced by a mint gets its images from a striking process involving two die, a hammer die and an anvil die. The anvil die is large, square and stationary while the hammer die is smaller, round and mobile. The coin blank (the planchet) is essentially laid on the anvil and struck with the hammer.

Because of the differences between the two die it's practically impossible to exchange their positions. Even if they were, unless the design from one was placed on the other, you would simply have the same coin that had been produced upside down. It would be indistinguishable from any other.

Truly old coins (Ancient Roman, Greek, Medieval and so forth) were produced by very different processes. Thus, the same principles don't apply. As a result, many are much more likely to be frauds than fakes or errors. Detecting those requires more intensive research.

 

 

 





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