Europeans investing in gold, but are they buying the real stuff?

NEW YORK, NY – 21 May, 2016 – Uncertainty in the global economy and renewed waves of political unrest have driven increased sales of one of the oldest stores of value: gold bullion. Increased talks of an imploding Euro have driven everyday Europeans to become first-time buyers of gold coins as a means to weather the stormy economic climate ahead. As the counterfeiters up their game, gold coin buyers are looking for ways to protect themselves.

Currently trading at roughly $1,250 an ounce, the value of gold has quadrupled in the past 15 years, and increased nearly 20% over the past six months.

As more common people become first-time buyers of gold coins, counterfeiters have invested in sophisticated means to fool them with fakes. Tungsten is the only viable metal that comes close to the density of gold, but was thought impossible to stamp into the shape of a coin due to its brittleness. Yet in 2014, some 1.1oz coins were discovered to have false cores of tungsten. The fakes found – the American Eagle and South African Krugerrand – were susceptible to counterfeiting due to their lesser purity. (For hundreds of years when gold was handled as currency, the mints would mix in an extra 10% copper to make the coins tougher as pure gold was soft and easily damaged.) Since the American Eagle is legal tender, the US secret service is obliged to crackdown on fakes – those particular counterfeiters were caught but it goes to show that buyers must be on the lookout.

While some brick-and-mortar gold coin dealers are investing in x-ray and acid tests, no “pure” (i.e. 24 karat) gold coin fakes have ever been found on the market. Given the precise measurements and weight of a particular gold coin, there’s no way to match the density of pure gold.

“We recommend first-time buyers stick to 99.9% ‘pure’ gold,” says Jared Lake, manufacturer of Gold Coin Balance – a simple instrument for detecting fake gold coins. He began selling the balance as an alternative to using calipers and digital scales as an easy means for first-time buyers to test coins themselves. “In the five years we’ve been in business, we’ve noticed over three hundred percent increase in sales to European countries in the past quarter,” says Mr. Lake. “It’s an interesting bellwether for political unrest – we’ve been getting bulk orders from Poland indicating that people on the ground are ‘prepping’ for hard times.”

The immigration crisis, Britain’s so-called “Brexit” from the EU, and rising tensions on the frontlines with Russia (i.e. “Cold War 2.0”) are good reasons for Europeans to want to hide shiny bits of precious metal under their mattress. Let’s hope their solid investment is literally “solid.”

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