Why Do People Bite Gold Coins to Test Them?

Ever wanted to know why people bite gold coins to test them? Get up-to-date information and reliable answers to your bullion and precious metals related questions here at ModernCoinMart's Complete Bullion Resource Center.

Biting gold coins to test their authenticity has been a common practice for a long time. However, the reasoning behind this tradition has changed over time. 

Gold is a relatively soft metal, and consequently gold coins that are made of pure gold or a high percentage of gold, can be relatively soft and malleable. Therefore, biting the coin would leave a mark or an indent if it was real gold. In the past, this method was used to distinguish real gold coins from counterfeit coins made of other metals or alloys. Today, more accurate methods for testing gold are available.

In the 19th century, there was widespread dissemination of gold-plated lead coins, which were softer than real gold coins. Therefore, biting the coins was a practical test for counterfeiting in such cases, though this method would only catch the most obvious forgeries.

Gold coins were historically struck for circulation, and wear and tear were a concern. Therefore, they were made of alloys that were deliberately chosen to be durable and not too soft. Given that, biting a gold coin to determine its authenticity may not work for older gold coins made for circulation.

Nowadays, gold coins are primarily issued as bullion coins for investors and as collectible coins for collectors. While many modern gold coins are still legal tender, they are not used in everyday financial transactions, as the value of their precious metal content is typically higher than the coin’s face value.

It is worth noting that biting gold coins is not the best way to test their authenticity and could permanently damage the coin. There are several other methods to verify if gold is real, such as the magnifying glass test, hallmark test, skin test, makeup test, float test, scratch test, the magnet test, acid test, and more. For example, the acid test involves applying nitric acid to the gold to see its reaction, while the magnet test involves checking if the gold is attracted to a magnet. These tests tend to be more accurate and reliable than biting gold coins.

Regarding the practice of Olympic champions biting their gold medals, it is mainly a tradition and a photo opportunity. Today, the medals are not made of pure gold but are made of other metals with gold plating. Biting the medal may leave a mark, but more reliable methods exist to test its authenticity.

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