Fake PCGS Slab Diagnostics

various PCGS slabbed coins
James Bucki
  • 01 of 06

    Counterfeit PCGS Slab

    Counterfeit PCGS Slab
    These photos of a counterfeit PCGS slab were originally published in the "Coin Collector's Survival Manual" 6th Ed., by Scott A. Travers. In Travers' book, there are several large, high-quality color photos of fake PCGS slabs. Photo from the "Coin Collector's Survival Manual" 6th Ed., by Scott A. Travers.

    When dangerous fake PCGS slabs hit the coin collecting marketplace in March of 2008, PCGS refused to release the diagnostics that would enable the average coin collector to protect himself from these fake PCGS slabs, using the excuse that they didn't want to educate the counterfeiters about what they were doing wrong. My readers debated slab authentication diagnostics in May 2008.

    Although photos of alleged fake PCGS holders floated around the Web for a while, the images weren't good enough to teach us how to identify counterfeit slabs. We learned more when Scott A. Travers published fake PCGS slab photos he obtained from PCGS in the 6th Edition of his book, Coin Collector's Survival Manual (Random House).

    The author took the photos from Travers' book showed them to my Chinese counterfeiting contacts, one of whom kindly marked the diagnostics on the photos for you. So much for PCGS' excuse about educating the counterfeiters! The counterfeiters themselves are the source of the diagnostics that are presented here.

    This is a photo of a counterfeit PCGS slab made in China. It first appeared in Scott A. Travers' Coin Collector's Survival Manual, where he depicted it in two high-quality, full-color images. Along with this counterfeit PCGS slab photo, and one other that Travers obtained from PCGS. Travers reveals for the first time the key diagnostic that coin dealers had traditionally kept to themselves. The counterfeit PCGS holders did not stack properly with each other, nor did the fake holders correctly stack with genuine PCGS holders.

    Although this diagnostic is undoubtedly a useful and important one to have, it doesn't help the large numbers of coin collectors who buy their coins online. Since I have developed a tentative relationship with several Chinese coin counterfeiters, who talked to me knowing I am a journalist because they are confident they aren't breaking any laws in China, I decided to ask a few of them if they knew who was making the counterfeit PCGS slabs. It turns out one of them did!

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Fake PCGS Slab Diagnostics

    Fake PCGS Slab Diagnostics
    The photo depicts fake and genuine PCGS slabs, marked by the Chinese counterfeiter to show the diagnostics that reveal the fake PCGS holder as a counterfeit. The unmarked fake slab was originally published in "Coin Collector's Survival Manual" 6th Ed. Unmarked photos (L) from "Coin Collector's Survival Manual" 6th Ed., (R) courtesy Heritage Auctions.

    This photo shows the diagnostics that will allow the online coin buyer to evaluate PCGS slab photos for themselves. The slab on the left is a Chinese-made fake PCGS slab, which was first published by  Scott A. Travers in Coin Collector's Survival Manual, 6th Ed. The PCGS slab on the right is genuine. A Chinese counterfeiter annotated the photo himself.

    At the time this article was initially published, PCGS has never made these diagnostics public, for fear that they would educate the Chinese counterfeiters in what they were doing wrong. However, making counterfeits and reproductions of things is a time-honored Chinese art form dating back into Chinese antiquity. The Chinese counterfeiter who claims he made the fake PCGS slab in this photo says that he knows what he did wrong, but is working to fix his mistakes.

    By examining his markings and comparing the differences between the two PCGS slabs, you should be able to discern the visual differences between the two.

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  • 03 of 06

    PCGS Fake Slab Diagnostics

    PCGS Fake Slab Diagnostics
    This fake PCGS slab photo has been marked by the Chinese counterfeiter to show the diagnostics that distinguish a fake PCGS holder from a genuine PCGS holder. Unmarked photo first published in "Coin Collector's Survival Manual" 6th Ed. by Scott Travers. Unmarked photo was published in the "Coin Collector's Survival Manual" 6th Ed., by Scott A. Travers.

    This photo is a larger version of the picture described in detail in the previous section of this gallery. Note the differences that identify this lab as a counterfeit. Compare the counterfeit slab to the genuine slab for an even better understanding of how to identify these bogus encapsulated coins.

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    PCGS Genuine Slab Diagnostics

    PCGS Genuine Slab Diagnostics
    This genuine PCGS slab has been marked by the Chinese counterfeiter, showing the places where the genuine slabs differ from the counterfeits. Unmarked photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

    This genuine PCGS slab has been marked by the Chinese counterfeiter to show the diagnostics of where it would differ from a fake PCGS slab. You can see the similarly marked-up fake slab in the previous image, and a side-by-side of both images in the second photo of this gallery. The detailed description of how I came to possess these images also appears there.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    PCGS Holder Reverses

    PCGS Counterfeit Holder Comparison
    Counterfeit and genuine PCGS holders, side by side. The counterfeit PCGS holder was originally published in the "Coin Collector's Survival Manual" 6th edition, by Scott A. Travers. Photos (L) from "Coin Collector's Survival Manual" 6th Ed., (R) courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

    This photo shows a counterfeit PCGS holder on the left and a genuine PCGS holder on the right. It is immediately apparent that the holographic image on the left holder is of poor quality and is starting to disappear. PCGS has been embedding the holographic sticker in the plastic for years, although some early genuine PCGS holders have external holographic imprinting. When I asked the counterfeiter who marked the diagnostics shown in the previous photos if he would annotate the reverse side of the PCGS holders also, he said that the difference was noticeable on the color iridescence hologram. 

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Chinese PCGS Slab

    Chinese PCGS slab
    The slab insert in this PCGS holder is in Mandarin Chinese. This genuine slab is a promotional item for PCGS' Chinese marketing effort. Photo courtesy of PCGS.

    Can you tell if this Chinese PCGS slab is fake or genuine? If you're not sure, start at the beginning of this photo gallery and review the previous five images. The diagnostics of the counterfeit PCGS slab are easily seen in clear photographs of this size once you know what to look for.

    Edited by: James Bucki