How to not get ripped off when buying a MS70 Silver Eagle

By eHow Contributor

You will learn what MS70 Silver Eagles actually certifed and what to look for on the actual coin itself.

Remember the old supersition that if you bit into a coin, you'd find out if it was legal tender?

It's not always possible to tell the difference between a replica and a real thing. Say you have five 1999 proof American Silver Eagles. Your best friend, who swears by horseshoes and four-leaf clovers, says your coins are fake. How do you tell?

Eagle vision is supposed to be the most accurate, and it would take an eagle eye to spot flaws in American Silver Eagles. Luckily for the real eagles, and for you, with merely human vision, most modern American Silver Eagles available today are as stellar as an eagle in flight.

You'll typically find American Silver Eagles in the following conditions:

  • Brilliant Uncirculated
  • Uncirculated
  • Proof
  • Like Brilliant Uncirculated
  • About Uncirculated
  • Proof-like
  • Mint State or MS-65 to MS-70
  • Choice Brilliant Uncirculated
  • Gem Brilliant Uncirculated

It takes an eagle, or an astute collector, to see the difference in these beautiful coins. You might even collect hologram silver eagles, or silver eagles commemorating the heroes of September 11, 2001. Naturally, even an eagle wouldn't see a flaw in protected silver dollar collections.

Pay attention to the following silver dollar tips: Earlier eagle silver dollars will show flaws (and an honest merchant or seller will disclose them) that you can see without having to borrow the national symbol. These older coins can have a value all their own, but if you want to pass the eagle test, you have plenty of flawless silver dollar options.

Need some silver dollar tips? According to the US Mint, that 1999 silver eagle might be a reproduction if:

  • It weighs a half-ounce.
  • It's twice the size of the regular silver dollar.
  • It contains .999 pure silver--the real American Silver Eagles contain .9993
  • The inscription on the reverse reads "One Half Pound Fine Silver .999."
  • Look to the right of the eagle's tail--the genuine silver dollar has the designer's initials, "JM".

Grading coins accurately is one of the most valuable skills a numismatist can learn. What exactly is meant by grading coins, and why is this important? "Coin Grade" is an expression used within the coin hobby to indicate the condition, or amount of wear on a coin. The grade is important, because after rarity and demand, it is the most critical factor determining the coin value. Generally speaking, the higher the grade of a coin, the greater the coin value.

The science of grading coins is not the same as the science of physics or mathematics, where formulas yield an answer "Z", given inputs "X" and "Y". No, grading coins with great precision is a talent, resulting from the nexus of knowledge, experience, and practice.

Things to look for: The front of the coin depicts Liberty striding toward the sunrise. She is carrying branches of laurel and oak, symbolizing civil and military glory. It's the same Adolph Weinman design that was used on U.S. half dollars between 1916 and 1947. The back carries John Mercanti's heraldic eagle, an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left. Small "S", "P", or "W" mint marks are part of the reverse design. They are located just to the left of the eagle's tail.

Another way is to actually look at the label of the coin itself. If your coin is certified from any of the four grading companies in the United States (in order of who is the best in the business: PCGS, NGC, ICS and ANACS) they have a barcode and a number. Although each label is a different color, depending on the coin collector this label doesn't matter but the Authenticity is remember the order of the respected grading companies. Keep in mind that a certified coin will have a Certificate of Authenticity and the coin will be in a sealed plastic case in order to preserve the coin.