US Mint Warnings: Fraud Surrounding Fake George Washington Dollar Coin Errors

To date, my posts on the new Presidential $1 Dollar Coin series have been some of my most popular. In particular, the posts about the two confirmed errors found on these new George Washington dollar coins have been off the charts most days:

In several of these posts, I’ve offered caution to buyers that these errors are relatively rare, and to be careful of fraud around sellers passing off “upside down lettering” as an error, and other unscrupulous tactics.

The US Mint today published specific warnings on their website today on these issues, and specifically about the issue of people grinding the edge lettering off dollar coins and passing them off as errors. The following is quoted directly from the US Mint Hot Items page on their website:

Fraudulent Presidential $1 Error Coins Being Sold

The United States Mint has recently learned that some individuals are grinding the rims of Presidential $1 Coins to remove the edge-incused inscriptions and then marketing these altered items as error coins. This practice not only exploits unwary consumers and collectors, but also is a Federal crime.

The United States Mint recently announced that an undetermined number of George Washington Presidential $1 Coins were minted and issued without the required edge-incused inscriptions, “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust,” the year of issuance, and the mint mark. Because true error coins such as these can be rare, they often become very attractive among collectors, many of whom are willing to acquire them at a premium above their face value. Apparently, some individuals are exploiting this situation by altering the rims of perfectly good Presidential $1 Coins to make them look like the recent error coins.

Although altering and defacing United States coinage generally is not illegal, doing so violates a Federal criminal statute (18 U.S.C. § 331) when the act is accompanied by an intent to defraud. Accordingly, a person is committing a Federal crime if he or she intentionally alters an ordinary Presidential $1 Coin to make it look like an error coin for the purpose of selling it at a premium to someone who believes it to be a real error coin. Under this statute, it is also a Federal crime to sell at a premium an ordinary Presidential $1 Coin that one knows has been altered so it looks like an error coin to someone who believes it to be a real error coin. Penalties include a fine and up to five years in prison.

The United States Mint has no Federal enforcement authority. Rather, it refers such matters to the United States Secret Service, which is lawfully authorized to detect and arrest any person who violates a Federal law relating to United States coinage.

Also note this warning about the upside-down lettering error scam:

Presidential $1 Coins With “Upside-Down” Edge-Lettering Are Not Errors

It has come to the attention of the United States Mint that some people are offering to sell so-called George Washington Presidential $1 “error” coins with “upside-down” edge-lettering on on-line auction sites. These coins are not “error” coins. The Presidential $1 Coins are inscribed on the edge without regard to their “heads” or “tails” orientation.

The edge-incused inscriptions on Presidential $1 Coins are the year of minting or issuance, “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust” and the mint mark. The United States Mint incuses these inscriptions on the edge of each coin at the second step of a two-step coining process. In the first step, the blanks are fed into a coining machine which impresses the obverse and reverse designs onto the coins, and dispenses the coins into a large bin. In the second step, the bin is transported to the edge-incusing machine, into which the coins are fed at random, without regard to their “heads” or “tails” orientation. Therefore, statistically, approximately one-half of the coins produced will have edge-lettering oriented toward the “heads” side (obverse), and approximately one-half of the coins will have the edge-incused inscriptions oriented toward the “tails” side (reverse).

Take care, and please pass on this information to other collectors as broadly as possible.

4 thoughts on “US Mint Warnings: Fraud Surrounding Fake George Washington Dollar Coin Errors

  1. Hey… id just like to say that your article and others like this are extremely irresponsible and INCOMPLETE.. i had several morons who purchased coins from me on ebay read your article or one like it.. then without doing any further research, complain to ebay and have my account suspended ! costing me 100’s of thousands in potential profits during the height of the bidding on these error coins… PERHAPS YOU MAY HAVE INCLUDED THE VERY SIMPLE STATEMENT OF HOW EASILY VERIFIABLE THE LEGITIMATE ERRORS WOULD BE THROUGH SIMPLE SIZE AND WEIGHT MEASUREMENTS OF THE COIN ??


  2. Hi Eric,

    I’m not sure that most collectors are equipped to evaluate a real from a fake coin through techniques like size & weight measurement, but you are absolutely correct. You can detect fake coins by carefully measuring the width down to a tenth-of-a-milimeter and the weight down to a tenth-of-a-gram.

    The market for error coins is not going away, so I think it’s prudent for people to be careful here with a purchase that is not cheap.


  3. Pingback: No More Godless Presidential Dollar Coins, 6 New “State” Quarters for 2009 « Psychohistory

  4. Wonder how any one person can amass a large quanity of U S Mint coins and sell them to the public at an inflated price. For you Eric, stop your whinniinngg, you probably made enough money selling your coins on E-Bay to retire. The ordinary public should be so lucky to come across a mass amount of error coins but that will NEVER happen. Enclosed is a crying towel for you Eric.

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