This guide is designed to help new coin collectors spot fake and reproduction Hammered Medieval Silver coins.
It is often difficult for those starting off in coin collecting to spot fake hammered silver coins. Some coins are deliberately passed off as real and some are sold as real by sellers who didnt realise they were fake. Any seller worth their salt will always offer a refund if a coin turns out to be reproduction. Recently I have seen very very convincing copies - but there are tell tale ways to spot most common fakes
1. Never leave feedback until you have made sure your coins are the real deal - the threat of negative feedback is a powerful tool towards getting a refund.
2. Most repros are pewter or similar easily cast metal. They often feel warmer to the touch than silver and strangely a little bit slippery.
3. Many repros have an edge that is far too thick. Most hammereds have a thin edge to the flan. A thick square edge is a giveaway - and you can often see a casting / mould line around the edge.
4. Repros often have a pitted surface due to tiny bubbles forming in their manufacturing process. The coins are often finished off with a rub with a black substance to give the impression of patination and tone - this tends to sit in the pits and is easily spotted.
5. My favourite top tip... If your coin has plenty of dark patination spit on it and wrap it tightly in tin foil. The black tone is Silver Sulphide - the acid in your spit will react to liberate sulphur from this. The coin will start to smell of sulphur / eggs and in some cases the coin will get hot. This is a good indication that you have a good coin. If there is no smell there is a chance that it is a wax or other substance added to give the appearance of patina.
6. Scan it with a metal detector with target identification. A Minelab explorer for instance will give a reading of about 10 ferrous and about 7 conductivity (similar to a ring pull / pull tab) a lead pewter coin will give a much higher conductivity reading due to the extra lead content. This is due to the true lack of silver in most legitimate hammered coins.
7. If you can, always have a few real hammered coins available to compare against. Its hard to explain, but you will feel the difference instantly.
8. Its the old story - if it seems way too cheap & there are few bids for what should be a desirable coin then leave it alone. Better eyes than yours have spotted a problem and are leaving it well alone.
9. Beware of coins that are listed as "old coins" but are obviously hammereds. The seller may not know what they are selling, but surely they would have browsed the coin listings to try and identify them first? If the coins turn out to be repro's then the seller may try the defence of " I didnt advertise them as silver hammereds..."
10. Look at the sellers feedback score - its the best way of building your confidence. If in doubt ask them to e-mail you a guarantee that the coin you are bidding on is legitimate or at least carries a guarantee of authenticity - this then gives you documented evidence to assist in any disputes that you raise.
Now I dont profess to be brilliant at identifying hammered coins, but I hope these tips help you in distinguishing good from bad - experience of handling these coins is the key. Visit your local coin dealer and see if he will let you examine some coins - he may get a sale and you will get experience of handling the real deal.