How to Tell a Fake Saint-Gaudens

By Lane Cummings
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St. Gaudens refers to a specific type of U.S. coin that the mint produced between 1907 and 1933. Some people believe the coin to be one of the most striking and aesthetically pleasing ever produced. Designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the coin features Lady Liberty grasping an olive branch on one side, and on the reverse side, an eagle flying above the sun. Since this coin is so popular with coin collectors, imitators have long since produced high quality fakes. If you examine these fakes carefully, you should be able to spot an imposter.

Step 1

Place the coin on a portable digital scale. The coin should weight 33.43 grams exactly. Any more or less indicates you have a fake on your hands.

Step 2

Measure the diameter of the coin. The coin's diameter should be 34 mm exactly, no more or less.

Step 3

Examine the coin under a high-powered magnifying glass. Look for tool marks around the sculpted fields, such as around the body parts of the eagle or Lady Liberty. These tiny marks will show up as tiny irregularities in the metal and are a sure sign of a fake.

Step 4

Hold the coin under this same magnifying glass and look at the lettering along the edge of the coin. Fake coins will have messy, incomplete or cut-off lettering.

Step 5

Examine all the stars around the edge of the coin. They should all be perfect, well shaped and identical. Sloppy or incomplete stars are a sign of a fake.

Step 6

Count the number of stars around the edging. There should just be 48 stars for the 48 states that existed in the union during this time. Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been acquired by America, and counterfeiters sometimes forget this historical detail.

Step 7

Examine the hand of Lady Liberty holding the olive branch. You should be able to see the formations of all five fingers wrapped around. Certain fakes will not have this detail.