How to tell if a quarter is fake? Finding a fake quarter mixed with your loose coins can be frustrating. You may find yourself asking – how do I even tell if this quarter is real or counterfeit? We’ll cover the basics of what to look out for to help you identify a possible fake.
Examine the Coin’s Weight and Dimensions
Check if the coin weighs the correct amount
An authentic United States quarter should weigh exactly 5.67 grams. To check, use a precision scale that can measure down to 0.01 grams. First, weigh a stack of quarters you know are real to calibrate the scale. Then place the questionable coin on the scale.
If it weighs significantly more or less than 5.67 grams (allowing for a tiny margin of error), it is likely fake.
Counterfeit quarters may weigh too little because they lack the correct composition of copper and nickel. Fakes weigh too much if criminals add extra base metals to profit from the higher intrinsic value. So weight alone can reveal amateurish fakes.
Professional counterfeits match the precise weight but fall short on other tests.
Ensure diameter and thickness match a real quarter
An authentic quarter measures 0.955 inches (24.26 mm) in diameter and 1.75 mm in thickness. Use a caliper tool to precisely measure your coin. If the diameter or thickness diverges by more than 0.5mm from real quarters, that signals a fake.
Checking diameter and thickness catches counterfeits made from too much or too little metal. It also spots coins minted on spoofed planchets intended for smaller or larger denominations. Additionally, the right thickness confirms the coin has the standard two-layer sandwich of 75% copper and 25% nickel.
- Carefully measure twice or even three times for accuracy before deeming a coin fake based on dimensions.
- Extreme wear on a quarter’s rim can minutely reduce diameter but not by more than 0.5mm.
In rare cases, mint errors may alter the diameter or thickness of real quarters. But fakes far outnumber genuine errors. So drastic measurement differences overwhelmingly indicate counterfeits.
|Real U.S. Quarter Dimensions
If a quarter’s weight and measurements pass the tests, the odds tilt positive for authenticity. But you need to conduct further examinations before reaching a firm conclusion. Things like detail quality, coloring, and magnetic properties provide more counterfeit clues.
Inspect the Coin’s Date and Details
Look for proper spacing of date and details
When examining a quarter for authenticity, carefully check that the spacing of the date, mint mark, and motto is correct. Genuine quarters crafted by the U.S. Mint have uniform spacing between the numbers in the date. For example, the numbers “1”, “9”, “9”, and “7” should have even gaps between them.
Fakes sometimes have irregular spacing, like the 9’s being pushed too close together.
Additionally, there should be appropriate spacing between the date and the mint mark—the tiny letter denoting which mint facility made the coin. On a real quarter, a small fixed distance separates the date from the mint mark. Counterfeits may fail to replicate this properly.
The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” should also have neat, even spacing between the letters. Fakers often use the wrong font or cram the letters too close together. If the spacing looks uneven or messy to the naked eye, that should raise suspicion.
Whip out a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe for a super close inspection.
Check for errors against reference images
Whenever you scrutinize a quarter of suspect pedigree, always compare it side-by-side with photographs of genuine quarters. Several websites like PCGS CoinFacts and the NGC Coin Explorer have high-quality images you can reference.
Check that all the words and numbers match correctly on the suspect coin. Counterfeiters very frequently misspell words like “America” and “quarter”. The numbers on bogus quarters sometimes do not have the right shape or font weight.
For example, a fake mint year digit like “1” or “7” may appear too thick or thin compared to the real thing.
Take time to study the intricate details of Washington’s portrait and the Eagle’s feathers. Makers of counterfeit quarters rarely get all these fiddly bits right.
Tiny die cracks on the coin’s design are almost impossible for fakes to copy correctly as well. Master coin authenticators can spot telltale mistakes merely based on date positioning, font weights, spacing gaps, die cracks, and strikes.
|Real US Quarter
|Date digit spacing uniform
|Date digits unevenly spaced
|Mint mark appropriately distanced from the date
|Mint mark too close or far from the date
|The “IN GOD WE TRUST” motto is evenly spaced
|Letters incorrectly spaced
|All details like Lady Liberty match genuine coin
|Design details are poorly replicated
Listen for an Accurate Ring When Tossed
Real quarters have a distinctive sound when flipped
Genuine quarters produce a high-pitched ringing sound when flipped or tossed in the air, thanks to their precise weight, size, and metal composition. Counterfeits often sound dull or flat in comparison. Carefully listen to the ring of a spun quarter to help determine authenticity.
According to the U.S. Mint, a real quarter should produce a ringing sound for approximately 1-2 seconds when tossed. The ringing fades out cleanly without distortion. Fakes tend to have a shorter, flat sound.
Additionally, genuine quarters sound the same every time they are flipped, with consistent intensity, duration, and tone.
The distinct ring comes from quarters being minted from a copper-nickel blend. This metal composition, alongside careful quality control of size and weight during production, gives real quarters acoustic properties that counterfeiters struggle to duplicate.
So pay close attention to the ring next time you flip a suspicious quarter.
You can also compare the toss sound to that of a known real quarter. There are even phone apps that can analyze and compare coin acoustic signatures digitally. So trust your ears alongside other authentication checks when trying to spot fake quarters.
Test the Quarter’s Magnetic Properties
Fake quarters may stick to magnets unlike real coins
Genuine quarters made in the United States since 1965 have been minted with cupronickel, an alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel. This alloy is not attracted to magnets. However, some counterfeit quarters are made with iron, nickel, or steel alloys that are magnetic.
So a quick way to detect a fake is to see if it sticks to a magnet.
Get a basic refrigerator magnet or any magnet you have around the house. Hold the quarter between your thumb and forefinger and move it slowly toward the magnet. An authentic quarter will show no magnetic attraction. However, a counterfeit may leap or stick to the magnet due to its ferrous metal content.
- A strong magnetic pull indicates the quarter is clearly fake. It does not contain copper like real U.S. quarters.
- Even a slight magnetic attraction suggests something is off. Genuine quarters should exhibit zero magnetism.
|Authentic U.S. quarter
According to the coin experts at PCGS CoinFacts, this magnet test exposes many fraudulent quarters right away. Counterfeiters often use cheap base metals that are magnetic instead of the correct copper-nickel composition.
Powerful neodymium magnets detect more fakes
For the most precise magnetic test, use a strong neodymium rare earth magnet instead of a basic refrigerator magnet. Powerful neodymium magnets are 10 times more magnetic than ceramic or ferrite magnets. So they will detect fake quarters made with even tiny traces of iron or steel.
Hold the quarter 2-3 inches above the neodymium magnet at first. Slowly bring the coin directly above the magnet and look for any subtle attraction. An authentic quarter will show absolutely no magnetic properties.
But a counterfeit quarter may display the slightest tug toward the highly powerful magnet.
With a quality neodymium magnet, the magnetic test becomes a more reliable method for identifying counterfeit quarters not suitable for circulation.
How To Tell If A Quarter Is Fake – Conclusion
Identifying a counterfeit quarter takes some careful examination. By weighing, measuring, and scrutinizing key details on the coin, as well as testing properties like magnetism, you can determine if your quarter is fake.