"PORT ANGELES, Wash. - Counterfeit coins by the thousands are turning up in Washington state, and authorities are warning coin collectors to be on the lookout for them.
All or most of the counterfeits appear to be from China.
"Stacks of ingots, bars, all kinds of stuff - they make everything from pennies all the way up to silver dollars," says Port Angeles police officer Duane Benedict. "China is making these things by the thousands."
Several of the fake coins were recently sold to a Port Angeles business, EZ Pawn, for $400. They would have been worth more than $1,500 had they been real, Benedict said.
Officer Benedict got a call from EZ Pawn.
"They brought me in there to look at something they thought was fake. So I was pre-warned. But I picked it up and said, 'What's fake about it?'"
The 20 counterfeit U.S. Morgan silver dollars were supposedly from a century ago. Brian Winters of EZ Pawn has bought coins for years - and even he was fooled.
Unlike most counterfeits, the coins did not all have the same dates. One was a super rare 1893S, worth thousands and thousands.
It was at that time Brian pulled out a loupe and looked at a real coin and a suspect one. He found the "T" and the "I" too thick. All the coins were fake.
The real coin weighed in at 26.7 grams. The fake was two grams lighter.
For those of us without a gram scale - there are other tests for detecting the counterfeit coins.
The real ones have a high-pitched ring when they're dropped. The counterfeits land with a thud.
Also - a strong magnet will detect small amounts of iron in counterfeit U.S. coins. If a supposedly "silver" coin has even a little bit of attraction to the magnet, then it is a fake, Benedict says.
The counterfeits aren't just limited to silver dollars. Other coins - including Indian head pennies - also have turned out to be fakes.
And EZ Pawn says they're continuing to see fake coins brought in by other customers.
And Benedict warns businesses to be suspicious if someone uses only coins to pay for merchandise.
"Use caution if someone brings in a lot of coins to buy something, and look them over carefully," Benedict said.