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Fake Columnarios

Anyone who collects columnarios will eventually come across a fake. Their seem to be a wide variety of counterfeits floating around. And a careless buyer can easily get stuck holding the bag. Here's some ways to protect yourself from getting stung:

1. Don't buy columnarios from people you don't know. Buy from reputable dealers. If you're buying from someone on Ebay, check out their feedback, verify that there is at least a 5-day return policy. And if email them before you bid if you have any questions. Be cautious of oversea transactions. It can be very difficult to get your money back from someone in China.

2. Ideally it's best to examine the coin before you buy it. The first place to look is the edge.

The edge shown above is from a 1761 Mexico 8R columnario which sold on Ebay (in May, 2001). Of course from the obverse and reverse scans of the coin posted on Ebay (shown below), it's very difficult to authenticate the coin. Only under a loupe can the you see the cast bubbles.

Always examine the edging. The real columnario has floral edging of made up of about 40 laurel leafs and is very difficult to replicate. Note that from 1762 on the leaves always pointed in the same direction. Before that, the leaves switched direction halfway around the coin. 

Above is another fake edge, from a 1738 Mexico 8R cast counterfeit.

3. If you have the coin in hand, ring it. That is spin it on a flat surface and listen to it spin down. Compare that sound to a real columnario. The cast fakes do not sound the same. The real coin will produce a brighter distinctive ring.

4. Check the date and compare it with monarch on the reverse. This may seem obvious but I know one collector who bought a 1732 Carolus III. This was an authentic coin but the date had been modified from a 1762. The real 1732, no surprise, is a very rare item. The real 1732 would have Philip V on the obverse. Also, the assay mark would be "F" (not "MM" as found on the 1762).

On the example below, a common date 1752 MF was altered and made into a rarer 1762 MF. The clues here are: a) two royal crowns instead of one royal and one imperial; b) the wrong monarch on the obverse -- it should be Carolus III; and c) it has the wrong type of six -- it should be an "early-style" 6 (although Gilboy does list a late-style 6 variety -- see M-8-41a).

5. Weigh it. A real columnario (8R) will weigh very close to 27.0642 grams. Be careful with sea salvage specimens, however, as they tend to "loose weight" due to surface corrosion. The weight of the 4R is 13.5321 grams; 2R, 6.7660 grams; 1R 3.3830 grams; and the 1/2R, 1.6915. Note that the legal tolerance was about 4% for 8R.

Click here to see the obverse of a 1770 Mo 8R that weighs 28.03g, obviously way out of the spectrum of legitimate 8R columnarios.

6. Watch out for rarities at prices that are too good to be true. This is the case with the rare Santiago columnarios. There are a number of Santiago fakes. Many of them have the Arabic "5" -- as shown on the fake below. The real Santiago's have a regular "5". Also if you examine the assay mark, the fakes have a large "J" as shown below. The "J" on the real coins is much smaller.


7. Look the coin up in a reference like Gilboy or Calbeto (see the resources page). Often you can identify questionable features when comparing them to documented varieties.

8. If you are bidding on a coin on Ebay and you are uncertain of the seller or the coin, ask the seller if the coin is genuine and what his return policy is. This 1732 fake (click here to view) was listed on Ebay. When the British seller Adrian Simmons  (Ebay ID: geta1) was asked the two above questions, this was his response: "hi, i dont give any gurantee about the coin as i dont understand these dollars."

You shouldn't have to study the coin below for very long to figure out what is wrong with it.

There are many other ways for authenticating columnarios. The above ideas simply represent several common methods that can be applied before acquisition.

If you are uncertain about the authenticity of a columnario you may have, contact as the link at the bottom of this page and we will explain how you can send us a scan or the coin for authentication or an opinion.


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