Cultivating an old coin collection is a fun, rewarding hobby that can provide you with a connection to history as well as satisfy a desire to collect something of value. However, fake silver coins designed to fool inexperienced collectors exist in significant numbers in the coin collection circuit. Fortunately, there are several low-tech ways to spot fake silver coins. Following are five of them.
Trial By Ice
This is the simplest method available for determining whether a silver coin is authentic or fake. Simply place the coin in a tray or other object and put a piece of ice on it. Ice will melt much more quickly on silver than it will on other surfaces because it's a better conductor of heat than any other metal. If you need a point of reference while performing this test, place a similar sized piece of ice on another surface and watch for a significant difference in melting times. The ice placed on the silver coin should begin to melt right away, even if the room is relatively cool.
The Mustard Test
It sounds flaky, but mustard contains sulfur, and sulfur reacts with silver. If you drop a small amount of heated mustard on a piece of silver, the effected area will turn black. The black marks are the result of the formation of silver sulfide and wipe off easily with a bit of water and mild detergent or white vinegar on a clean, soft cotton cloth.
The Magnifying Glass Test
If you've got a sharp eye for detail, you may be able to spot a fake silver coin simply by placing it under a magnifying glass. Real silver has a sheen that seems to come from within and is never overly shiny. Also, look carefully at the text for mismatched spacing and be sure to check for uneven surfaces. Although any good magnifying glass will work better than a pair of naked eyes, consider investing in a jewelry loupe if you plan on cultivating a substantial coin collection. A jewelry loupe offers higher magnification that allows you to see even the tiniest details. For best results with this method, have a coin that you know is authentic available for comparison with the one you are checking.
Pay particular attention to the edges of the coin.
The Ring Test
Flip the coin into the air over a concrete, marble, or other hard surface and allow it to fall to the ground. An authentic silver coin will make a high-pitched, bell-like ringing noise when it strikes a hard surface. You can also softly strike the coin with another coin to test for the proper ring tone. To get an idea of what the ring tone should sound like, test this method out using a U.S. quarter that was minted between the years of 1932 and 1964. These coins were 90 percent silver and will make the specific ringing noise discussed above. For fun and comparison, test the method with a newer quarter and notice the difference in tone.
The Magnet Test
Because silver is a nonmagnetic substance, it won't react to a neodymium magnet in the same manner that coins made with significant amounts of iron or stainless steel will. Fake coins will most likely stick to the magnet while authentic silver coins will not. Be advised, however, that these magnets need to be kept out of the reach of small children -- swallowing one could result in serious injury or death.
While these tips will all help you spot fake coins, one of the best ways to ensure that the silver coins you buy are genuine is to purchase them from a reputable dealer only. Click here for more information.