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Written by, Susan Headley @ About.com
How to Tell if a Godless Plain Edge Dollar is Fake
First of all, Godless Dollar email hoaxes aside, not all Presidential Dollars are "Godless Dollars." The term "Godless Dollar" refers only to those dollar coins that are missing the inscriptions on the edge, which include In God We Trust, E Pluribus Unum, the date, and the mint mark. The proper term for these dollars is plain edge dollars because the edge is plain, rather than inscribed like it should be.
How Fake Plain Edge Dollars Are Made
First of all, let's be clear about what we mean by "fake." The coins are genuine Presidential Dollars. The only thing that is "fake" about them is that somebody has used a tool to remove the edge lettering, so that a normal Presidential Dollar, worth $1, becomes a (fake) "Godless" or plain edge dollar, worth as much as $100 or more to a coin collector.
The edge lettering inscription is often removed by an electric device called a dremel, which is a hand-held tool that looks roughly like a electric screwdriver, and which has various interchangeable heads on the top that spin.
Another way that the edge lettering has been removed from fake plain edge dollars is by the use of a lathe, which is a heavy duty piece of equipment often found in metalworking shops. A lathe is sort of like a drum or wheel that turns at high speed, and it can strip a quarter millimeter of metal off of a coin's edge in a matter of seconds.
Following the application of the dremel or lathe, a buffing step is used, to hide the tell-tale marks of stripping off metal. Because coin collectors have been referring to these faked plain edge dollars as having "buffed off" edges, fake plain edge dollars have been nicknamed "Buffy Dollars."
How to Check For a Fake Plain Edge Dollar
To check a plain edge dollar to see if it is a fake, observe the following criteria:
* How much does the dollar weigh? Genuine, unmodified Presidential Dollars, including genuine plain edge dollars, should weigh 8.1 grams (125 grains) +/- 0.3 grams. In other words, the dollar's weight is supposed to be 8.1 grams, but the mint is allowed a certain amount of tolerance (variation) in the weight, which should be plus or minus 3/10 of 1 gram (0.3 g.)
* What is the diameter of the dollar? Genuine, unmodified Presidential Dollars, including plain edge dollars, should have a diameter of 1.043 inches, +/- 0.003 inch. This is a very minute measurement, and most people won't have a caliper sensitive enough to make this measurement. However, dollars that have had enough metal removed from the edge to erase the inscriptions are a teeny bit smaller than unmodified dollars.
* What does the edge look like? As a general rule, the edges on the Presidential Dollars are a mess under good magnification (such as a 10 power triplet jeweler's loupe.) Although the edge may appear smooth to the naked eye, once you get a close up look, you should see all kinds of dings and dents, perhaps a very slightly convex aspect towards the center, and most importantly, very fine vertical lines that may or may not go all the way from top to bottom. You might need to tilt the coin to the light in various ways to discern these fine vertical lines, but they appear on every single genuine unmodified Presidential Dollar edge that I have seen, whether it had edge lettering or not.
Is Your Plain Edge Dollar a Fake?
In general, experts agree that if the weight of your dollar is 7.8 grams or higher, you're probably safe. Many of the normal Presidential Dollars are weighing in at 8.0 and 7.9, so don't be alarmed by a slightly underweight coin that is still within Mint tolerance. But if the weight is below 7.8 grams, you need to have a good, close-up look at the edge.
If you don't have the proper scale to weigh the coin, and want to try a quick check, place the suspected fake next to a regular lettered-edge dollar and compare the sizes. If the suspected fake is smaller, even by a little bit, you need to get a close-up look at the edge! The mint tolerance for diameter is very small, and a coin that has had even a thin layer of metal buffed off will be noticeably smaller (and lighter in weight.)
The best test of all to authenticate a genuine plain edge dollar is to examine the edge under 10 power or greater magnification. Compare what you see on your plain edge Presidential dollar to regular lettered-edge dollars. The dings and dents and other non-letter markings should look approximately similar, but most of all, look for the faint vertical lines that appear on every single unmodified Presidential Dollar edge. If all you see is a smooth, nearly perfect edge (under good magnification,) that is bad news. What's even worse news is seeing a very smooth edge with faint little circular marks that sort of repeat themselves around the entire perimeter (which are signs of a dremel style buffing tool.)
Of course, if you can't make the determination of authenticity for yourself, you can always contact an expert in error coins.
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