Wednesday, April 27, 2011

4/27/11 Report - Fake Treasure Coins Found on Treasure Coast Wreck Beaches

Two Fake Treasure Coins Found on Treasure Coast Wreck Beaches.

The one on the right was originally heavily encrusted, the other is almost as found. The one on the right is way too light for a treasure coin of the same size. Both would have been quickly identified as fakes by a simple acid test. You might not want to risk that though on a genuine coin.

Is there anything worse for a treasure hunter than hunting a wreck beach day after day and not finding a single treasure coin? I think the answer to that might be an emphatic yes. For those of you who have had the experience, isn't it worse to think you have found maybe your first treasure coin, only to find out later that it is fake. Not only a fake but a cheap fake made as a souvenir for tourists! It happens. And if you are not experienced you can be fooled - especially when you are out on the beach and see that treasure coin as it emerges from the sand in your scoop. To make it more difficult, it might obscured by encrustation.

Sad story, but I've found my share of fakes. The first was the worst because I was less experienced and it took me a while to figure out what was going on. Now I would quickly identify a lot of the fakes. Some are pretty good fakes though. Some are even made of real gold. But when you first see the emerging form of a treasure coin in your scoop, you might get excited for a few seconds even if it is a cheap fake. Then the reality settles in.

I've found a few fakes over the years. I'm not sure of the number right now, but I vividly remember that first one. I found it on the beach by the Jupiter inlet quite a few years ago. It was heavily encrusted. I took it home and painstakingly cleaned it. And I do mean painstakingly. I used a dental pick to remove grains of sand. Don't do that. There are better ways. But again, this was back when I knew even less.

Well, I cleaned it somewhat. I looked it up in the books that I had then - which were not nearly as good as the books that I now have. And the internet didn't have all of the information today. I don't think the internet even started yet, although I was on a world-wide computer network because of my work, but few other people were, and it wasn't a place where treasure hunters had any forums or web sites that - at least not that I knew of.

Well, the stupid thing looked like silver, but the design on it was of an escudo, so I was left wondering why the metal didn't match the design. I guess I didn't have my metals test kit yet either.

What I eventually learned (I don't remember exactly how) was that it was a base metal replica coin that was at one time plated with a gold-colored plating. You can imagine how disappointed I was to learn the truth of my first treasure coin after all of that.

There are a number of lessons there. First you should be aware that there are a lot of fakes out there, and they can commonly be found on the beach. To get an idea of how many fakes treasure coins there are, just browse eBay and you'll see tons of reproduction or replica treasure coins for sale. Or go to some of the beach souvenir spots, and you'll see a bunch of cheap fakes. There are tons and tons of them made.

Second, fake treasure coins vary widely in quality. Some are very cheap obvious fakes and others are more realistic looking. Some are even marked "COPY." But some that are marked are marked in such small print so that you need a magnifying glass to see that mark. I've seen one like that in a retail jewelers case mixed in with what appeared to be genuine cobs. And I saw another very convincing copy that was marked, but I didn't see the mark until inspecting the coin very closely for quite a while. It was in an area on the cob where both the cob's design and copy "mark" was very faint. Somebody really new how to comply with the law technically while making the mark very hard to see.

Besides some knowledge of what the real deal looks like, a metals test kit can be very useful tool. I think any serious detectorist should have a metals test kit of some sort. You might not want to do an acid test on a fine example of a genuine cob because you have to do a rubbing, which leaves a bit of the metal on the touchstone. There are other tools and ways to test metals. But I think you'll find a metals test kit useful for other things such as testing modern jewelry.

One thing I often recommend to detectorists when they have a find that they are not sure about, is to visit a museum and have experts personally view their find. They will do it. Call and ask first. Most of the people that are associated with the museums are happy to do it. Or, visit a good archaeology or detecting club such as the Treasure Coast Archaeological Society. They have experienced people that can help you properly identify finds.

People often send me photos, and I'm more than happy to see them and offer my comments, but I am not an expert and it is difficult to identify items from only a photograph. The Florida Museum of Natural History will tell you the same thing. They can tell a lot more about an item when they actually see and handle items in person than they can tell from a photo, no matter how good the photo is.

One more recommendation: you can take certain types of items, including but not limited to modern jewelry. to some of the local retail stores and they will test gold an silver and other precious metals for you. These days when so many people are selling and buying precious metals,that is not uncommonly done, but be sure to visit a trustworthy establishment.

One good thing to do so that your realize the magnitude of the problem is to visit Frank Sedwicks fake coin database. Hopefully you won't find any of yours listed there, but it better to be informed.

Here is the link to that database.

Did you notice that even Sedwick admits to being fooled? See the note by his #FC53624 in the database. If experts like that can be fooled, almost anyone can. So beware.

Send me good survey questions that you would like to know the answer to.

Treasure Coast Beach Forecast and Conditions.

Up until around the weekend seas will remain at about 2.5 feet and coming from the southeast. On Friday the wind direction will shift to the north/northeast for a while, and then around Sunday the swells will increase to close to five feet.

Watch the beaches for small cuts right after changes in wind direction. Things can happen quickly out there.

I remember one evening when a front came through and the next morning the area that previously had good targets under every square foot of sand, had virtually nothing remaining. Good spots can appear or disappear that quickly or even more quickly. And changes often come when the wind shifts direction.

Of course right now the seas are pretty calm, so any changes will be rather small.

I'd be checking the low tide areas, especially a few hours after the wind changes.

Happy hunting,