A cautionary tale: What not to do if you suspect a fake AE Silver

March 11, 2015

A cautionary tale: What not to do if you suspect a fake

Here is an e-mail from a Fisch user checking a silver American Eagle, followed by my reply:


Received the silver and gold testers along with the ringer lighting fast.

Now I really love the ringer, (and found 3 tungsten gold coins) which is great it works but horrible, that a reputable dealer sold me these.

I was getting ready for another silver/gold buying spree and I owned one of your earlier gold testers years before it was lost, so I knew how to use it. But never had a silver tester before. I have quite a few silver eagles I bought from a reputable coin dealer. And was very interested to see what your tester would say about my stack. But to my chagrin, half of them pass everything except fitting through the max edge test. So you can imagine I was upset.

So in my fury I took one of the worse offending silver coins and broke it in half expecting to see some brass or other metal. And as far as I can see it is solid silver. Happy that my stack is silver, but now very unhappy I have a silver tester that gives a false positive on the coins I expect to buy more of.

The coins I have fit in the diameter test (barely) but not through the max slot and not by just a fraction but large enough to never make it through.

So I have owned one of your gold testers before and used it for years. But I see no reason for me to walk into a coin dealer and start testing silver when it gives me false positives

So at 300+ bucks I have spent and I destroyed a coin (at 2013 prices).

So I want an explanation or a refund on the silver testers.

My reply:

I am sorry to hear this. It was a rash move to cut up the coins without re-looking at the instructions and looking on the website, including the Fisch Family pages where, amongst other information, is a detailed report and a side by side picture of a fake and genuine silver American Eagle.  

Using the Fisch requires judgment. You need to interpret the results of the Fisch checks: Look at the coin that doesn't fit through the slot. See if it is a high rim that is causing this. Compare how it looks with a coin that passes through the slot. Read the Fisch System for silver in the instructions and get a feel about how far “out of spec” a fake coin would be.

It is difficult for me to know thick this coin was from what you tell me, but it probably had a high rim. Read “How a coin is made – the minting process” and “Using the Fisch - Coin tight through the slot?”  in the Fisch family pages. But for sure, it was outside mint specification.

The Fisch did not give a “false positive”. It did what it is meant to do. It identified a coin that that was outside the US Mint’s specification, in this case, thicker. If you were at a dealer and he offered you such a coin you would be perfectly entitled to tell them that you're not happy with it because it is outside mint specification. It may well be genuine but you'd prefer not to own it.

I will, of course, refund you if you want return the Wallet. (Comment: The Wallet was not returned).

Here is what the Silver Fisch does:

The Fisch fake silver coin detector uses four checks to detect all wrong size and weight coins. The Fisch checks the maximum & minimum thickness & diameter plus the maximum and minimum weight

Every Silver Fisch is checked with:

a minimum size disk

a maximum size disk

a minimum weight disk

a maximum weight disk

to ensure its accuracy.

The US Mint has specifications for each coin with tolerances - a plus and minus measurement within which each coin can measure. The Fisch is made to the mint specification plus the maximum allowed tolerance so therefore a coin right at that tolerance (or maybe a bit over) will be a tight fit.

From the instructions:

Using the Fisch requires judgment. Before using the Fisch, read “The Fisch System” for an explanation on how and why the Fisch will detect fake silver coins.


The silver coins checked by Fisch have a density (weight) different to the common metals used to make fakes.

Lead is 8-10% heavier

Copper 13-15% lighter

Brass 17-20% lighter than silver

For example: a counterfeit made from brass to exactly the same thickness and diameter as a genuine 1oz American Eagle silver coin would be 19% too light. If made to the correct weight and diameter it would be 23% too thick.

For example: a counterfeit made from lead to exactly the same thickness and diameter as a genuine 1oz American Eagle silver coin would be 8% too heavy. If made to the correct weight and diameter it would be 7.5% too thin.

The Fisch is a precision made instrument designed to accurately check the vital measurements of a specific coin.  A combination of different metals could be used to make a fake silver coin of the correct size and weight - but it would have to be made very accurately to pass the Fisch.  Use with the Ringer to detect common metal fakes.


A: Genuine silver coins are not all identical in thickness & diameter. They vary within their mint’s specified tolerances and are sometimes even outside the tolerances.  Some will pass through the slot easily while others may require force. Some will fit into the recess easily; others will be a tight fit.

The "GO" slot checks maximum thickness and diameter. If a coin will not pass through the slot, it is oversize.


Also these excerpts from the Fisch Family Pages – Coins & Fakes (underlining added) story called:

“Fake American Eagle silver coins surface”

Among the general differences, the weight of the counterfeit is 32.608 grams compared with the statutory weight of 31.101 grams for a genuine American Eagle silver bullion coin.

The fake is thicker than the genuine coin, by as much as 20 to 25 percent, but the diameter of the fake is slightly smaller than the standard 40.6 millimeters.

The die orientation of obverse to reverse on the counterfeit is medal turn, not coin turn. For a U.S. coin, when its obverse is right side up, turning the coin on its vertical axis will reveal an upside-down view of the reverse. In medal turn, which is what appears on the fake silver American Eagle, the obverse and reverse both face right side up at the same time.

These fake coins would be detected by the Fisch. They are overweight and oversize in the thickness while under-size in the diameter. 

There is also a side-by-side picture of a genuine and fake American Eagle silver coin.