Today started as a very normal day. I was helping a friend move into a new house and called my wife to let her know our progress. She mentioned that I had received two packages from China in the mail and she had to sign for them. This is a pretty normal occurrence at our house as you can see from the gadgets on this site a lot of them come from overseas.
When I got home I quickly started to open the first one. It was in a small padded envelope with the standard customs declaration on it marking it as a “Gift”. This is the normal classification for consumer goods I purchase. When I looked inside the envelope all that was there was one single coin. There was no paperwork or bill of lading and no discernable return address on the envelope. This really had me confused. I didn’t order any coins from China and in fact have never ordered a coin on the internet in my life.
I grabbed the envelope and checked the address. It was a computer printed piece of white paper taped to the front of the envelope with my name and correct address. They even spelled Erik with a “K” which is something companies I actually order from rarely get right.
At this point I was really baffled. The coin appears to be a 1875 trade dollar stamped on the back as “420 grains 900 fine” referring to the purity of the silver. I did some reading on the history of the trade dollar on Wikipedia and it has a pretty neat story behind it.
So at this point I have a million questions going through my mind. Why would someone send me this? What is it worth? Is this some kind of new scam that I haven’t read about yet? Is this thing even real?
Further reading unearthed that the US trade dollar is one of the most counterfeited coins on the market. This article from coinworld.com published in April 2011 tells the story of a shipment destined for an Illinois resident (I too am in Illinois) that was seized by US customs. The man told the authorities that he intended to sell the coins on eBay.
At this point I decided to determine if the coin was real or fake. With information from an article on wikihow.com titled “How to Detect Counterfeit Trade Dollars” and a few others I set to work. This is what I found.
- The mystery coin does not have what is called “coin turn”. When you flip the coin over the picture on the reverse side is upside down on a real coin it will be right side up. On my coin there was no “coin turn”
- A dead give away is that my coin failed the magnet test. It stuck to the magnet so well it was difficult to pull it off.
- Finally according to wikihow a real trade dollars weighs in at 27.22 grams where a fake coin generally weighs 18 grams. The picture below answers this question.
So at the end of the day I’m left with a counterfeit coin that I didn’t even know existed and have no clue where it came from. I’m going to reach out to the gentlemen from the CBP mentioned in the first article and see if they have any interest in this very strange occurrence. I will post back what transpires.
The mystery of the origin of the coin has been solved. This article explains the whole scheme.