The Six Most Commonly Counterfeited US Coins

How to know if your items are real coins or fake coins

The Six Most Commonly Counterfeited US Coins

Jan 5th, 2024 · 3 min read

At Coinfully, our expert numismatists see counterfeit coins on a regular basis. The quality of these ranges from scarily good to laughably awful. In most instances, we will reject these coins but on occasion we will send them to a third-party grading service for their opinion.


1776 Continental Dollars

This widely counterfeited issue is generally very easy to spot. Many are poorly-rendered copies made out of base metal and which are artificially “aged” to look like an 18th century issue.

The vast majority of genuine Continental Dollars were struck in pewter which has a very distinctive appearance.

These are very popular and more plentiful (authentic) than one might expect and it is not unheard-of for an example to turn with a group of foreign coins or inexpensive American colonial issues.

1804 Silver Dollars

Given the fact that it’s been over 60+ years  since a new example of this issue has been uncovered, the chances are 99.9% that the coin you’ve had in your family since Great, Great Grandpa Alphonse won it in a poker game in Montreal in the 1880’s is not genuine.

Bad quality fakes are abundant and you can even have a nice Chinese firm make you your very own 1804 Dollar.

1909-S VDB Lincoln Cents

This popular 20th century small cent has numerous added mintmark fakes where some unscrupulous individual has removed the S mintmark from another coin and attempted to place it on a 1909-P VDB Cent.

Luckily, the mintmark placement for this issue has been carefully studied and there are some subtle die markers which all genuine pieces will show.

1943 Lincoln Copper Cents

Whenever one of the small number of genuine 1943-P Copper Pennies sell at auction, the story is written-up in a newspaper or on a non-numismatic website and, 100% for certain, it is not fact-checked. Coin dealers are barraged with phone calls from owners who are certain they have a $500,000 Penny. We understand the excitement, but do not take pleasure in delivering the bad news at such a high volume.

1916-D Mercury Dimes

The most sophisticated fake 1916-D Mercury Dimes are actually added D mintmarks which are placed on genuine 1916 Philadelphia coins of this design. Some of these fakes are really good and have fooled intermediate and even advanced collectors.

1873-1878 Trade Dollars, Various Dates

There are some very good counterfeit Trade Dollars. Some of them are so good that even experts can’t agree if they are real or not real.

These are almost always dated prior to 1879 and examples which are from the two Western branch mints which struck this type (Carson City and San Francisco) seem to be the best made of these excellent quality fakes.


There is hope for collectors

While counterfeiters have become more advanced over the years, so have the resources and knowledge for counterfeit detection.  For one, expert numismatist are always up to date on the activity in the counterfeiting world and can often spot a fake coin from across a room.  Furthermore, there is a wealth of professional guidance on counterfeit detection for the hobbyist collector, most notable the comprehensive guide to counterfeit coins.

Douglas Winter Chief Numismatic Advisor at Coinfully & President of Douglas Winter Numismatics.  A famed rare coin expert and author, Douglas contributes to the Coinfully Blog and publishes educational articles to offer expertise as a leading numismatist in the field.

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