Author Archives: F. Michael Fazzari

Coin surfaces reveal much magnified

The surface of every coin tells a story and the story gets more interesting with each increase of magnification used to view it. As such, many coins that look unquestionably genuine at first glance, fall apart when examined using magnification. I’ve written before about the power of the hand lens I prefer, but it boils down to a personal choice for each collector. Experienced numismatists, dealers and professional authenticators report excellent results using a 5X to 10X hand lens. Continue reading

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Prooflike coins struck with new dies

Soon after I joined the American Numismatic Association’s authentication service, I went on a trip to the Philadelphia Mint. It was 1973. I spent a whole working day learning how coins were made. My boss, Charles Hoskins, the director of the American Numismatic Association Certification Service, was a former Mint employee so no doors were closed to us. The Mint was two different worlds. One was quiet the other was a noisy factory. Continue reading

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Chasing the counterfeit menace

Have we finally reached that point when some counterfeit coins are so “good” that they defy detection and are accepted as genuine by everyone – at least for a while? I have asked this question before because it has happened. Continue reading

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Which details are most important?

How many times have you heard these words? “Grading is subjective” or “Grading is an art not a science?” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and we’ll examine some of that in this column. The subjective nature of grading is possibly one reason many numismatists are conservative buyers or liberal sellers. There is less risk of taking a hit to the wallet. Knowledge is power. It can be a jungle out in the marketplace where the uninformed can be eaten alive. Continue reading

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Look carefully for hairlines on uncs

I’ve been teaching and writing about coin authentication and grading since 1973. Despite this, a statement by astronaut James Lovell: “Houston, we have a problem” comes to mind. Continue reading

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What we learn from one fake

Have you ever heard some form of the expression “History repeats itself?” Well, sometimes I feel the same thing is going on in my professional life – only the coin types have changed. Continue reading

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What do you do with ugly coins?

Each day at the grading service, I see many coins with impaired eye appeal.  Proofs are hazed over, spotted, splotchy, discolored and fingerprinted while the copper coins are dirty, often with green residue. Continue reading

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Altered coins try to dupe the unwary

If you are a major dealer or experienced authenticator you may wish to skip this month’s column as I will be dealing with some common alterations that shouldn’t fool you. Continue reading

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If buying bullion, make it high grade

The price of gold is at record highs. Confidence in the dollar is dropping and demand for small size foreign bullion coins continues to rise. Continue reading

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Study real coins to detect fakes

The concern raised by Richard Francis Jr. about helping counterfeiters improve their product by revealing diagnostic imperfections found on fakes is an old one. I believe he has taken the wrong approach to the matter and offered well meaning but impractical solutions. Continue reading

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