Investing Bitcoins in physical coins. Risky business.
People always ask me: “What to do with your Bitcoin and other crypto”? the answer is: you can do a lot with it. Buying gift cards for amazon, iTunes etc. However you want to do a solid investment. Maybe investing in some real money and what is better than buying proof sets, gold coins, silver coin sets etc.
When you want to do this you need to be very careful. This article is written because there are alarming rises in fake coins. Being a coin collector for 15 years I have come across a lot of fakes both blatant as cleverly hidden. This is just a basic helpful tool so the average Bitcoin and crypto user isn’t cheated out of his or her hard earned crypto.
- Wrongfully labelling a wrong grade to a physical coin.
First let’s talk about the grading of the coins. In some countries FDC and PROOF mean the same thing.
FDC: Fleur de Coin. French terminology for the best coin in the best state possible. No mistakes in the coin, never had human skin touch the coin (only used gloves), no chips or little imperfections, etc. These coins are also special minted for the purpose of being a FDC coin and are for collectors. A FDC is worth the most but has the highest cost when purchasing.
PROOF. A coin usually struck from a specially prepared coin die. Proofs are usually given more than one blow from the dies and are usually struck with presses operating at slower speeds and higher striking pressure. Because of this extra care, Proofs usually exhibit much sharper detail than regular, or business, strikes. These coins are also picked up with gloves but there can be imperfections, scratches, mistakes etc.
UNC. Term to indicate a coin or numismatic item that has never been in circulation, a coin without wear. These usually contain some sort of scratch or indentation from the minting process. If you get a nice shiny coin from doing your purchases it is NOT an UNC.
This is just a small and easy to use when confronted by some technical coin speech. The human skin leaves residue on everything we touch, which can damage the coin. Remember the fat paw prints you left on the glass window just after mom has washed the windows. So if you don’t want your coins ruined you handle them with gloves. The residue your touch leaves on the coin is harmful for the coin and will devalue that particular coin. Can you pay with FDC, PROOF & UNC coins? Yes you can but you will devalue your coins. Having said this nobody in their right mind would “circulate” these coins or “ just found them in their purse or wallet” when they bought something.
There are also other ways to determine the worth of the coin besides the coin grades. Rarity of the coin is another. Sometimes you will see something like this: FDC, AU, R8. That means that the coin is a Fleur de coin, Gold and extremely rare.
- Coin Scamming tricks exposed.
- Sometimes you get some “special issues” that made their way into “circulation”. Circulation means that the special edition coin can find its way into your pocket when paying with cash. Now some of the cheaters and scammers use these coins to bamboozle their potential victims. Scammers clean these coins in such a way that they sparkle and after that they put the coins in some “official looking” bag or plastic box. Sometimes these blighters even call the coin “FDC, PROOF, UNC”.
If you buy PROOF and FDC coins, you will ALWAYS receive a certification of authenticity. On this document is a number, because of the limited minted pieces, the weight of the coin, the metal used, etc. Furthermore there is a stamp into the paper to give it the real authenticity feel. Most scammers do not bother with an authenticity label. If they do claim an authenticity label it is of such a poor quality, like printed on paper with some kind of guarantee in the name of a reputable professor who didn’t gave his permission or determination, that a seasoned coin collector will just laugh at their feeble attempts.
Most people are taken in by the fraudulent misrepresentation of the coin. Usually they copy and paste descriptions from reputable sites and even just copy some renowned researcher, professor or auction house’s name in an attempt to make it look legit. Some friends have sadly been bamboozled by these scamming degenerates.
Since you do not actually see the coin or the certificates you have to rely on the “word” of the seller. So the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises is buying your coins from reputable dealers or directly from the mint of your country.
- Ooh look it’s a gold coin! Let’s buy it because it’s only 25 dollars/euros/ whatever. If you did that I can tell you, with 99.9999% certainty, that that coin is a fake, even if it is a crypto coin. The same goes with ridiculously low priced silver coins. They are mostly fake iron or aluminum coins coated with a little layer of gold or silver.
Gold and silver coins values will depend on their grades as well as their rarity. For example a golden Roman coin from Julius Caesar will be worth more than a recently minted golden coin of “ Her Majesty the Queen”. One of my professors has a golden coin, minted during Julius Caesar’s regime that is extremely rare and is valued at a whopping 12 000€.
- Some coins can also be 2 halves glued together. This is only visible when you can actually examine your coin. Always check for a “seam” or a very fine line on the ribbed side of the coin. It can be hard to see though and it would be a good idea to invest in a small magnifying glass. You can easily buy a good one for a couple pounds on amazon (link in bibliography).
- There are also scammers that forge coins themselves. When done correctly some of these “home minted coins” can be very hard to detect from the genuine article and even the most seasoned and cautious coin collector can be fooled by these coins.
- Coin buying 1 on 1, Internet style.
Where can you buy coins that take Bitcoins or other crypto currencies? Right the internet. Here you need to be extremely cautious. First of all you can’t examine the coin or talk directly to the seller. It is a bit of a paranoid standpoint I know. Does it mean that you shouldn’t buy coins from the internet? No that is not what I said. Be very careful because there are all kinds of people out there. There are good, decent and honest coin sellers out there but there are also a lot of shady characters that want to cheat you out of your Bitcoins.
Most pictures on the selling sites that accept Bitcoin and other alt coins are sometimes clear and in focus. However you can’t tell if there are coins that are glued together, damaged, fake/ genuine, inscriptions, etc. from just a “frontal photo”. All you can determine from this picture is that there are coins in the picture. The best way is to ask for every coin to be photographed at a high resolution individually (Front, back and side of the coin). Oh that reminds me: when buying silver coins be very wary if you see spots on the coin. This was done using an acid test to check if the coin was indeed silver. This damages and devalues the coin.
It can be very profitable if you use some common sense and do research. If you type “fake….. coin” in google (replacing the …. With the coin name) you will get a good approximation of what you can expect to be fake and what to look out for. You can also lend out books at libraries or buy them on amazon ( secondhand would be great) It does not give you 100% certainty but it will give you some support in finding out if the coin you are buying is fake or not. Make sure if you find out if the coin is a fake not to bite the dude or dudettes head off. It is quite possible that they do not know that the coin is a fake. Just be cool and say “no thanks” and walk away.
Buying coins from the internet can be quite profitable if you keep your wits about you and do enough research and “check-ups” on the coin before you buy, even when you know the seller of the coins. Many buyers of coins have been burned, deliberately or not I will leave in the middle, because they trusted the seller. Yes, I’ve been also burned in that way so now I warn people that want to invest in coins about that kind of practice.
The last advice I can give you, if you want to get involved in buying and collecting coins, is that you can also get informed with your local numismatic group. By numismatic group I mean a special group of coin collectors. You can find them on the net if you type in “ numismatic group….”. Normally every big city does have a numismatic group (do not get confused by a coin shop or just someone who sells coins)