JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Rare coins that can be potentially worth thousands of dollars may end up being worthless if a buyer doesn't do the proper vetting.

Billy Ward told First Coast News he learned that lesson the hard way.

His fateful fake coin transaction occurred in a Jacksonville pub where a man walked in and tried to sell them "legit" 1921 Morgan Silver Dollars.

"A gentleman walked in with some coins and wanted to know if I’d be interested in buying them," Ward said. "Of course he had a sob story about his grandmother and trying to get money for the funeral."

So they each paid $100 for ten coins, believing the value would be upwards of $3 to $4,000 with time. However, when he brought them to A-Coin & Stamp Gallery, Inc. to get appraised, he learned they were worth "zero."

He was hoping to use the cash to make investments for his children, but now he said he uses the "worthless" coins as ball markers on the golf course.

If authentic, most Morgan Silver Dollars coins are in high demand. The rarer a coin, the more value it's worth.

Store owner Bill Hatchet has one coin that's worth at least $80,000, but he said that's because there are only about 900 in existence.

Hatchett said they can tell coin authenticity right away through a variety of tests:

  • A real coin isn't magnet
  • A real coin will bare a shiny, silver color
  • A real coin is heavier and will make a high-pitched "dinging" sound

Hatchett examined one of the fake coins brought in by Ward.

"Yeah the strike is bad, the color is bad, the weight is bad, and it has a Carson City mint mark which was stopped in 1983," he said.

He also has a coin c-ray machine that can immediately define the properties of a metal object.

He warns all consumers need to beware because counterfeit coins are flooding the market and they are believed to be coming from China. He recommends bringing it into a shop to get an expert opinion, especially before buying one online. Hatchett said they can review coins for free to buyer's make an educated decision.

His store, A-Coin and Stamp Gallery, Inc. ,also works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the DEA in appraising and legitimizing items they seize.