☆ Detecting Counterfeit Gold Coins: A Comprehensive Guide.

Reading Time: 17 minutes

Investing in gold coins can be a lucrative endeavor, but it comes with the risk of encountering counterfeit coins. To safeguard your investment, it’s crucial to know how to detect fake gold coins effectively. In this guide, we will explore various methods and tools to help you identify counterfeit gold coins and ensure the authenticity of your precious metal investments.

When you begin collecting or investing in gold coins, you’ll likely want to acquire some tools to help with authentication. Two commonly used tools are the ping tester and digital caliper and balance tester. These tools can be valuable for initial assessments but may not be foolproof.

One of the key takeaways from this discussion is the importance of using multiple authentication methods. Relying solely on a single test, such as the ping test, may not provide a comprehensive assessment of a coin’s authenticity. Combining methods like weight, dimensions, conductivity, and magnetism can greatly enhance your ability to detect counterfeit gold coins.

Understanding the Ping Test.

The ping test is a simple method for identifying fake gold coins based on their acoustic properties. When a genuine gold coin is tapped with another metal object, it produces a distinct, high-pitched “ping” sound due to its high-density composition. Counterfeit coins, often made from base metals or alloys, typically produce a dull or off-key sound.

Maple Leaf vs. Eagle

One common concern among gold coin enthusiasts is the performance of 24kt Maple Leaf gold coins in ping tests compared to 22kt Eagle gold coins. It’s important to note that Maple Leafs may not produce the same high-pitched ring as Eagles due to differences in density. Chinese counterfeit gold coins might exploit these differences, making it essential to rely on additional tests.

  1. Ping Frequencies Database To aid in counterfeit detection, there’s a suggestion to create a database of ping frequencies for various coins. This crowdsourced collection of data can serve as a reference point for identifying genuine coins through sound analysis.
  1. Limitations of Ping Test Apps While ping test apps are handy tools, they have limitations. Some apps may not cover all coin types, and their effectiveness depends on the quality of the sound produced during the test. Additionally, these apps may not receive frequent updates.

Tungsten-Filled Fakes

Tungsten is a metal with a density close to that of gold. Some counterfeiters use tungsten to fill counterfeit coins in an attempt to match the weight and size of genuine gold coins. While density tests can help detect these fakes, it’s essential to consider the overall package of tests for a more robust authentication process.

  1. Continual Vigilance

How to tell if a coin is pure gold?

Sygma machine.

Detecting counterfeit gold coins requires a multi-faceted approach that goes beyond simple ping tests. While tools like ping testers and coin balance testers can provide initial insights, investing in more advanced devices like the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metals Verifier can offer greater accuracy and peace of mind.

For those seeking advanced and reliable methods of authentication, the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metals Verifier is recommended. This device uses a combination of conductivity, magnetism, and dimensions to provide a comprehensive assessment of a coin’s authenticity. The Pro model offers even greater accuracy.

Counterfeit coin production is continually evolving, with counterfeiters becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods. Therefore, it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest developments in counterfeit detection and invest in reliable tools to protect your investments.

Best precious metal analyzer for a jewelry/gold business.

Conversations with a local Thermo Fisher representative unveiled an XL2-100P priced at $18.5k, with hints of a forthcoming price hike in early 2024. Is this model the optimal choice for gauging gold purity, or are there equally effective yet more economical alternatives? The primary objective is to ascertain the exact purity of gold for trade in a confined market where access to such analytical tools is limited.

The best precious metal analyzers are typically X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers, which are widely used for testing jewelry and assaying gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. Some popular options include handheld, desktop, and benchtop XRF analyzers. Companies like The XRF Company and Elvatech Ltd. offer a range of certified pre-owned and new XRF analyzers for testing precious metals. The Vanta GX precious metal analyzer is also a notable option. These analyzers use X-ray fluorescent technology to determine the full composition of precious metals, making them suitable for various industries, from jewelry to mining. The ElvaX Basic and ProSpector 3 are examples of XRF analyzers that are compact, accurate, durable, and suitable for analyzing precious metals. When choosing a precious metal analyzer, it’s important to consider factors such as portability, accuracy, durability, and affordability.

For a jewelry/gold business, various options exist with differing features and price ranges. The Niton XRF by Thermo Fisher stands as a benchmark standard for many in the industry. However, for those unable to invest in an XRF, alternatives such as the Sigma Pro Precious Metals Verifier offer a budget-friendly solution. Another contender worth exploring is the Kee gold tester, known for its accurate identification of gold pieces, often confirmed by XRF, though it requires calibration.

This tester demands an additional investment, including an 18k gold calibration disk, with an estimated setup cost of around $400. The product is available on their website and potentially through other platforms like eBay. It’s crucial to note that while XRF testing provides reliable data, its penetration depth into the sample is limited to a few millimeters or even micrometers, as highlighted in a recent YouTube video. This limitation was evident when an XRF failed to identify thick plating or foil, a task accomplished by the Sigma tester, as shown in the video provided.

Ultrasonic testing serves as an alternative, capable of penetrating an entire bar and detecting numerous counterfeit materials without causing damage. The top-tier brands renowned for their precious metal analyzers encompass Elvatech Ltd, Hitachi, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Elvatech Ltd offers compact, durable, and accurate XRF analyzers like the ElvaX Basic and ProSpector 3, suitable for assessing precious metals. Hitachi’s analyzers specialize in verifying various precious metal quantities, ensuring fair pricing without the need for chemical assays. Thermo Fisher Scientific stands as a prominent manufacturer of analytical instruments, including metal analyzers, offering a range of options to suit diverse needs.

Based on rewiews models:

BrandModelTypeFeaturesPrice Range
Thermo Fisher bullion and coins.Niton XL2-100PHandheld XRF AnalyzerBenchmark standard, accurate$18,500+
Thermo Fisher. bullion and coins.Niton XRFHandheld XRF AnalyzerAccurate, reliableVaries
Sigma. bullion and coins.Sigma Pro Precious Metals VerifierHandheld XRF AnalyzerBudget-friendly, effectiveVaries
Kee. jewelry tester.Kee Gold TesterHandheldAccurate with calibrationAround $400
Elvatech LtdElvaX BasicHandheld XRF AnalyzerCompact, accurate, durableVaries
Elvatech LtdProSpector 3Handheld XRF AnalyzerAccuracy for analyzing precious metalsVaries
Hitachi X-MET8000 HandheldVerifies precious metal quantities. The X-MET8000 series offers dependable performance crucial for quickly identifying alloy grades and accurately analyzing the chemistry of diverse materials. Compact at only 1.5kg/3.3 lbs, it boasts an ergonomic design and a battery that lasts up to 12 hours.$11,650.00
GEMORAGEMORA Gold TesterHandheldPortable, battery-operated, quickAround $600
GemoroAuracle AGT1 PlusHandheldReliable, durable459,00 US$ 
SuperbMeltXR3800Handheld XRF AnalyzerPortable, accurateVaries
SuperbMeltSPB-XRBenchtop XRF AnalyzerPrecise, for laboratory useVaries
HitachiX-StrataXRF AnalyzerAccurate readingsVaries
911 MetallurgistVarious modelsHandheld XRF AnalyzerCustomizable optionsVaries

Other methods like acid testing and devices such as the GEMORA Gold Tester and Gemoro Auracle AGT1 Plus have proven effective for assessing gold. While these meters may not match the precision of professional shop meters, they serve well for personal use and field assessments. The GEMORA Gold Tester, priced around $600 USD, has proved valuable for individuals dealing with a substantial volume of second-hand gold purchases, offering reliability in detecting fake gold when combined with experience and acid testing.

Thermo Fisher Niton XL2-100P.

The Thermo Fisher Niton XL2-100P is a handheld XRF (X-ray fluorescence) analyzer renowned for its accuracy and reliability in determining the composition and purity of precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and more. This model is considered a benchmark standard in the industry due to its precise readings and ease of use. It’s designed for on-the-go analysis, allowing users to quickly assess the authenticity and quality of metals in jewelry, bullion, and other items.

Key features of the Thermo Fisher Niton XL2-100P include:

  • Portability: Its handheld design enables easy handling and mobility, making it suitable for various testing environments, including retail stores, refineries, and on-site assessments.
  • Accuracy: Known for providing highly accurate and reliable results, it helps users confidently determine the purity and composition of precious metals.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Equipped with an intuitive interface, it allows for quick analysis and straightforward operation, even for users with limited technical expertise.
  • Analytical Capabilities: Capable of detecting elements and identifying alloys present in metals, ensuring comprehensive analysis.
  • Durable Construction: Built to withstand rigorous usage, ensuring longevity and reliability in demanding working conditions.

However, the Niton XL2-100P comes with a substantial price tag, often upwards of $18,500. While it offers excellent performance, it might be more suitable for businesses with a higher budget or those prioritizing precision and extensive analytical capabilities.

Testing precious metals is the primary focus for many stackers, and ensuring the authenticity of the metals they purchase is a top concern. Ideally, one should start by buying from reputable sources, which can significantly reduce the chances of receiving counterfeit metals. However, there are various testing methods available, ranging from simple, non-invasive techniques that require minimal equipment and knowledge to more intrusive and expensive methods.

One basic approach involves using a magnet to test for the presence of magnetic metals like steel or nickel in coins, as genuine gold and silver are non-magnetic. Visual and tactile inspection can also provide initial clues about a coin’s authenticity, such as variations in thickness, weight, and design details. More advanced methods include examining the coin to ensure they align with the expected characteristics of the coin type.

Another valuable tool in this process is the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier, a device that uses electromagnetic waves to assess the composition of bullion bars or coins and provide purity percentage readings. While it doesn’t guarantee the absence of counterfeit coins, it can confirm that the metal content is as expected

Testing a Gold Coin from eBay.

In this video, the content creator purchases a gold coin from eBay at a great price and decides to put it to the test. They begin by carefully examining the coin’s packaging and design, emphasizing its pristine condition. Next, they use a scale to confirm its weight, which matches the expected value for a one-tenth-ounce gold coin. To further verify its authenticity, they perform a “ping test” using a special device, which successfully passes. Throughout the video, the creator shares their thoughts on buying precious metals online and encourages viewers to exercise caution when doing so. Ultimately, the video serves as an educational guide on assessing the legitimacy of online purchases, particularly in the realm of rare coins and precious metals.

What is the most effective method for verifying the authenticity of a gold coin, especially without access to advanced tools or costly equipment? Here’s a comprehensive approach to ensure a gold piece is genuine or determine its gold content percentage:

The most effective and free method for verifying the authenticity of a gold coin

  • Free with a smartphone. Use Numista or a Similar Resource Begin by looking up the specific coin on a platform like Numista. This will provide you with precise information regarding the coin’s size and weight.
  • Free with a smartphone. Assess Harmonic Resonance with Bullion Test App Utilize the Bullion Test App to analyze the coin’s harmonic resonance. This step helps detect counterfeit gold-plated coins made with tungsten, which closely matches gold’s weight. This Ping Test involves striking the coin with another metal and listening to the sound it makes. Genuine gold produces a high-pitched, long ringing sound, while fake gold produces a duller, shorter sound. I used Bullion Test (Look for more detailed info below)
  • Almost Free ($50) Check Size and Weight The next step involves a four-step verification process, which significantly increases your confidence in the coin’s authenticity. While it’s possible for counterfeiters to deceive on one or two of these parameters, it’s extremely challenging to replicate all four. The tools you need are readily accessible and affordable: Digital Caliper (approximately $20) Digital Scale (approximately $20) Bullion Test App (Free)

Assess Harmonic Resonance with Bullion Test App

Additionally, you can employ a simple “ping test” for common gold coins like sovereigns. This test relies on the distinct sound gold produces when tapped. No specialized equipment is needed; a cell phone and a piece of wood will suffice. There are free and paid apps available for this purpose, though coin support may vary. A brief, milliseconds-long ping will provide valuable insights into the coin’s authenticity. It’s worth noting that not all coins are suitable for the ping test, with Maple Leafs being an example of those that may not yield clear results.

Counterfeit coins of any material other than gold cannot replicate both the precise weight and dimensions of a genuine gold coin AND the harmonic resonance check through the Bullion Test App is crucial as it assesses the coin’s density. To be absolutely certain, you can also examine the coin’s magnetic properties using a specialized tool, particularly if it’s suspected to be a tungsten-plated fake.

While weighing and mass displacement methods are valid, they require precision and calibration, which can be error-prone. Relying solely on these methods can increase your uncertainty. While tungsten can mimic the size and weight of gold due to its similar density, it cannot replicate the frequency response or harmonic resonance, making these checks crucial in ensuring the authenticity of gold coins.

The BEST method about verifying the authenticity of gold coins?

For us, the go-to method is using Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifiers, often referred to as Sigmas. These devices have become an integral part of our coin verification process, and we even have numerous instructional videos featuring YouTube affiliates like Silver Dragons and Silver Seeker to demonstrate their effectiveness. The Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier is a sophisticated tool that employs electromagnetic waves to assess the composition of a bullion bar or coin and provide an accurate purity percentage reading. It’s versatile, capable of testing the purity of various precious metals, including gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, whether in the form of coins or bars.

This video provides a demonstration of using the Sigma device for testing various gold coins, highlighting its ability to detect counterfeit coins that may appear visually convincing. Additionally, the importance of testing coins, even those that seem genuine, is emphasized as a collective effort to maintain the integrity of the precious metals market. For those who lack testing equipment, the suggestion is to buy from trusted sources and consider having coins professionally authenticated at a coin shop or dealer.

The device is user-friendly and delivers swift results. It accomplishes this by penetrating deep into the coin or bar, effectively ignoring plating and surface features. Instead, it focuses on evaluating the core metal content, providing a reliable assessment of the item’s authenticity. Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier is a trusted and efficient instrument for verifying the legitimacy of precious metal coins and bars, and it has proven to be an invaluable asset in our coin testing procedures.

The price of a Sigma mixer ranges from US $1000 to $200,000 per set. The price can also vary depending on the capacity of the machine, with smaller machines costing around $12,000 and larger machines costing up to $300,000

The NO working method to check if a coin is made of real gold.

Please refrain from resorting to methods such as the acid test, as this approach can be detrimental and is ineffective in certain cases, particularly when dealing with counterfeit items like gold-plated objects filled with non-precious materials. Moreover, it can cause irreversible damage to gold that is not pure 24 karats.

Acid tests, facilitated by inexpensive kits available online, might seem like a viable option, but they come with limitations. Even when using these kits, there is still a risk of encountering gold-plated items. In such cases, you may be compelled to resort to more invasive measures like cutting the item in half. In my experience, I’ve often been able to discern whether an item is plated simply by visual inspection or by the way it feels. However, the acid test remains the most foolproof method for verification. I recall an incident from years ago when counterfeit gold Maple Leafs and gold Krugerrands began circulating, and one such item passed through my shop undetected. Through the acid test, I was able to penetrate the thick plating and reveal the presence of tungsten inside. Many other pawn shops and gold buyers in the area were deceived by these counterfeit coins because they relied solely on electronic gold testers, which lack the depth required for accurate assessment.

It’s important to note that using acid for testing gold involves a learning curve, and there may be differing opinions on this matter. I recommend obtaining a “Gold Scratch Test Kit,” which is available at varying price points and typically includes Nitric or Muriatic acid, along with a scratching stone. These kits often provide different bottles of acid for various gold karats (e.g., 10k, 12k, 14k, 18k, 22k). However, I can only share my own experiences with you, and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

Remember that knowledge comes at a cost, and sometimes, we all learn from our mistakes. It’s advisable to purchase from reputable shops that offer reliable testing methods to ensure your peace of mind. Exercise caution when dealing with online platforms like OfferUp and other meet-up arrangements, as there is a significant risk of encountering fake gold items that can easily be purchased online. Scammers often use emotional stories and discounted prices to deceive unsuspecting buyers, so remain vigilant in such transactions. I would include a modest neodymium magnet. In scenarios where one is perusing a garage sale or sifting through thrift store items, the feasibility of conducting an acid test may be limited. However, it’s important to note that both gold and silver exhibit non-magnetic properties. Therefore, gauging an object’s response to a neodymium magnet’s attraction can serve as a reasonably reliable preliminary assessment to determine whether it merits undergoing a more conclusive examination, such as the scratch and acid test.

Can you use a magnet to test if a coin is made of gold?

Using a magnet to test if a coin is made of pure gold is not a reliable method. While gold is not magnetic, other metals that are often used to make fake gold coins, such as iron or nickel, are magnetic. However, some fake gold coins may be made of non-magnetic metals, such as copper or aluminum, which would not be detected by a magnet. Therefore, it’s recommended to use other methods, such as the ping test, vinegar test, size and weight test, hallmark test, magnifying glass test, or ceramic scratch test, to determine if a coin is made of pure gold. If you are unsure about the authenticity of a gold coin, it’s best to consult with a professional appraiser or dealer.

Counterfeit Gold Coins Inside fake Slabs.

Fake slabs have been a persistent issue, with recent growth in the market. Chinese counterfeiters primarily target PCGS, as many of their holder coins lack photos on the certification lookup. To protect themselves, new collectors should buy from reputable dealers and select coins with photos for comparison on the certification lookup. Unfortunately, counterfeit coins and holders are improving, enabling counterfeiters to command higher prices

Counterfeit Gold Coins Inside NGC Slabs.

PCGS and NGC share blame for counterfeiting by not posting high-quality coin photos on their certification lookup. Critiques of videos emphasizing “buy the coin, not the holder” usually miss advice on spotting fake coins. When comparing an NGC fake to its online image, focus should extend beyond different holder types to highlight that the counterfeit coin isn’t the same as the image. Educating people unaware of fake slabs is crucial as the situation worsens.

The slabs in the video closely resemble NGC’s, but fakes lack a ‘reeded’ or crenelated edge—a detail to watch for. Checking coins on PCGS/NGC websites is wise, as I recently found an MS66 Spanish Trail commemorative coin with a “contact NGC” notice. While an error, it prompted caution due to the coin’s high value.

These scams are on the rise, spanning various fake gold coins like gold buffalos, Krugerrands, gold eagles, and pre-33 gold coins. A simple test is to check if the coin is magnetic, although not all counterfeit gold coins are magnetic. Tungsten fakes are the trickiest to detect.

Scammers are growing smarter, so we mustn’t assume a coin’s legitimacy just because it’s in a slab. It takes about 30 seconds to check, potentially saving headaches, especially when selling it later, as the new buyer may discover the deception long after the sale.

Unmasking Counterfeit NGC Slabs.

What’s even more reprehensible is the extent to which counterfeiting has infiltrated various aspects of our lives, including products as essential as baby food, toilet paper, and medicine. Additionally, please take a look at the imperfections on the rear label – a clear indication that it’s a counterfeit. Today, I’ll delve into the concerning issue of counterfeit NGC slabs. These fraudulent slabs have become increasingly prevalent as of late. Unlike PCGS, NGC doesn’t incorporate an NFC chip or similar technology that would make counterfeiting nearly impossible. These counterfeit slabs can be obtained from various sources like eBay, and older generation holders are readily available on platforms such as Alibaba and Etsy.

If you have a genuine label, they are virtually indistinguishable.

Glue is used to seal everything together, and while sonic sealers that they employ cost around $2,000, it’s still possible to assemble a counterfeit slab by taking an MS-68 label, placing an MS-67 or 67+ Morgan inside, sealing it, and then submitting the 68 label. In this scenario, even after factoring in expenses, you could still make a substantial profit. The only difference I’ve noticed on a few of these counterfeit slabs is a slight excess of plastic in a specific area. However, if this were to be removed, they would be practically identical.

The counterfeit slabs typically consist of three parts: the top part with the downward-pointing arrows, the foldable plastic to encase the coin, and the back. Assembling these components is remarkably simple. I believe NGC should implement a chip or some form of technology within the plastic to render such counterfeiting impossible. Without a discerning eye and diligent inspection of every slab when purchasing coins in bulk, it’s easy to fall victim to these deceptive practices.

Counterfeit Krugerrand Coin Discovered in Fake NGC Holder

Dwight Manley, a Fullerton, California dealer, recently uncovered a counterfeit South African gold Krugerrand coin enclosed in a counterfeit NGC holder. Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC) has confirmed the counterfeit nature of both the holder and coin.

Collectors are advised to inspect the left side of the front insert label for discrepancies. On the fake coin’s label, the NGC logo circle nearly encircles the P in ‘PF 70,’ while on the genuine coin’s label, the P is outside the logo circle. Manley cautioned collectors and dealers to remain vigilant against similar deceptive and dangerous counterfeits, and he reported the discovery to NGC.

Manley issued a warning about this discovery on November 10, describing the piece as ‘frighteningly deceptive.’ The counterfeit quarter-ounce Krugerrand was purchased at his store, Fullerton Coins & Stamps.

The firm acquired a 2005 quarter-ounce gold Krugerrand labeled as Proof 70 in what appeared to be a genuine Numismatic Guaranty Corp. holder. However, it was determined that both the coin and holder were counterfeit. The fake holder had the same certification number on the label as a legitimate 2005 one-quarter ounce Krugerrand listed in the NGC database, according to Manley.

The counterfeit coin was purchased in 2015 by a knowledgeable employee at Manley’s store from a regular customer. The employee had verified the certification number and coin description on the NGC website before the purchase.

Manley later noticed discrepancies in the coin’s appearance and conducted a thorough comparison with NGC website photos. Although the fake reproduced the NGC hologram closely, there was one notable difference: the positioning of the NGC logo relative to the grade designation.

Max Spiegel, vice president of sales and marketing for NGC’s parent firm, Certified Collectibles Group, verified the counterfeit nature of the coin and holder based on images provided by Manley. Spiegel emphasized that counterfeit NGC holders infringe on NGC’s trademarks and violate legal acts. He noted that genuine NGC holders possess security features lacking in the counterfeit version.

NGC is actively investigating and pursuing those involved in counterfeiting NGC holders and violating NGC’s intellectual property rights.”

2011-W buffalo in PCGS holder. 

 There is a lot of 2011-W buffalo fakes & fake NGC holder. Counterfeit Proof American Eagle and American Buffalo 1-ounce gold $50 coins have been found fist in Ohio in 2016, now those are all over, especially on Ebay. These coins are encapsulated in fake Numismatic Guaranty Corp. (NGC) plastic holders with counterfeit grading label inserts. The fakes were discovered in the greater Columbus area by a retail coin shop owner who chose to remain anonymous. On March 21, the dealer reported that a customer recently attempted to sell a supposed NGC-certified 2014-W American Eagle 1-ounce gold coin. Though the coin looked like a genuine Proof American Eagle at first glance, it lacked the W Mint mark of the West Point Mint upon closer inspection.

Could a Fake Gold coin Baffles XRF Analysis?

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is a non-destructive analytical method utilized for determining the elemental composition of materials. This fascinating video demonstrates a deceptive counterfeit gold coin that would certainly confound a sigma testing device. It’s a stark reminder of the potential evolution of counterfeit techniques in the coming decade.

Considering the current sophistication of fake coins, one might ponder whether future counterfeits will differ significantly from their contemporary counterparts. The absence of advanced technology in these counterfeits is evident; they simply involve tungsten coated with 24k gold.

One might question if there exists a “ring” test to discern authentic coins by the sound they produce upon striking a hard surface. This test would resemble the initial “ping” test showcased in the video. When a tungsten coin is subjected to this test, it generates a dull thud rather than the distinct pinging sound associated with genuine coins.

Regarding the statement “obviously would fail a Sigma,” it is essential to clarify that this is incorrect. As explicitly mentioned in the video, a Sigma testing device would not produce a failed result. Sigma machines gauge the magnetic resistivity and conductivity characteristics of the entire bullion sample, distinguishing between gold and tungsten.

It’s worth noting that portable Sigma devices have limitations when it comes to measuring resistivity depths, but they are generally capable of handling depths well beyond that of a 1-ounce coin. The specific depth limit varies depending on the model but is typically around 10mm when placed on the main unit.

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