Reverse Counterfeiting: The Case of the Gold Penny

Most counterfeiting takes something that is nearly worthless and turns it into something perceived to have value. Mr. Daws did just the opposite. He took value — approximately $100 worth of gold — and turned it into something perceived as nearly worthless, one cent. “It’s there, but if people don’t realize it, it’s the same as not being there,” he said. Of the 11 copper-plated gold pennies he made as part of his series, only this one was sent into the wider world...

Late this summer, when Ms. Reed was paying for groceries at the C-Town supermarket in Greenpoint, she noticed the penny because the gold color had started to peek through.
Link: NY Times

I'm going to start checking any pennies I get more closely!


Posted on Wed Nov 04, 2009


I remember in chemistry class, chemically plating pennies with something that looked like gold. Could it be he did that and spent them, then made up the story?

A gold penny would probably be easier to spot by weight than appearance. US Lincoln cents used to weigh 3.1 grams, but they now weigh 2.5 because they're copper-plated zinc, not pure copper. The volume of a penny is .360 cubic centimeters. The density of gold is 19.3 g/cc. So a penny made of gold should weigh 6.948 grams; almost three times what a modern US penny weighs.

Also, that gold penny would be worth $266.94, not $100. If the penny weighed only what the copper-plated zinc pennies did, it would be worth $96.05. So it seems while Mr. Daws is an amazing metal worker, he's crap at math.

Or he made it up and didn't spend much time working out the details.

Sorry, too much math this early in the morning?
Posted by Crazy Ivan  on  Thu Nov 05, 2009  at  07:35 AM
They aren't pure gold, though; they're also copper on the outside. So it wouldn't contain a full 0.360 cubic centimeters of gold. It might be just $100 worth of gold surrounded by a bit of copper.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Fri Nov 06, 2009  at  01:22 PM
Interesting case!
Posted by Ed Dane  in  London  on  Fri Nov 20, 2009  at  01:49 AM
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