Although fake coins represent a very small percentage of the overall coin market as a whole, the risk of buying fake coins online, especially on eBay, is a real danger for the unwary. The best way to protect yourself is to follow the old common sense adages, such as “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” and “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware.)
Sometimes, though, even the most careful buyer will end up with a coin that just doesn’t seem right. And don’t think that just because it’s in a major grading service holder that the coin must be safe! The holders themselves are sometimes counterfeited, as NGC reminded us in a recent consumer alert.
It’s also possible to find incorrect date and mint mark silver coins (see image below), so you must know the coin series your buy and just what years they were minted and the corresponding U.S. Mint Mark.
Also check the coin and see if it sticks to a magnet or has the word COPY somewhere on the coin. COPY can often be found in small letters and horizontal on one of the wings.
Your best protection against buying fakes is to buy from knowledgeable, reputable coin dealers. Don’t buy from eBay auctions that don’t allow a return period (If sellers don’t guarantee their coins, you should really wonder why!) Don’t buy from sellers who hide their feedback; anybody who has good feedback has nothing to hide!