Look for the Weight and Purity
Legitimate mints will stamp bullion accordingly and accurately. No mint will ever produce bullion for distribution on the open market without specifically stamping the bullion. You should always look fo rthe stamp first. Never mind the pretty picture formed into the bullion, look for the appropriate labeling. This is a critical first step in recognizing pure silver bullion!
I only buy bullion stamped with the exact words "999 fine silver" and "one troy oz". I avoid bullion stamped in any way other than this, no matter how real it looks.
A troy ounce is the standard unit of measure in the precious metals market. There is a difference between a standard ounce and a troy ounce so it is critical it weighs 1 troy ounce and is stamped 1 (or one) troy ounce.
I have seen bullion in coin shops at reputable dealers that didn't have this stamped on them. When questioned, I have had a coin dealer near my home play dumb and act as though he didn't notice the weight wasn't stamped.
So it's up to you to take notice of the appropriate weight of the piece you intend to buy. Once you leave the estate sale, store, or local coin shop, it's yours to keep regardless of whether it is counterfeit or legitimite.
I have seen bullion stamped with "1 troy oz silver". I tend to shy away from anything that is not stamped specifically with the weight and the fineness (or purity) of the silver. Hence, the entire phrase "999 fine silver 1 troy ounce". The purity of 999 fine or .999 fine is the percentage of purity. Simply beign stamped as silver is not good enough, I personally won't buy anything that is not stamped as 99.9% pure aka 999 fine.
The example in the photo to the left was not actually advertised or sold to me as 999 fine silver bullion, but as a "silver clad collectible".
I posted the photo to show how easily someone could be mislad either by accident, or deliberately. First glance at this bar and you'll think you've got a valuable amount of silver in your hands.
Remember, most of us are buying silver bullion to trade in for paper money someday again, maybe even years or decades from now. It will be impossible to trace or track down some coin guy who sold you fake bullion. If you are lucky enough to find him, you will have one heck of a time proving that he or she is passing bad silver to customers.
It will ultimately be your loss.How can you avoid buying counterfeit bullion that is stamped properly? That is a million dollar question and I will continue to add information as I compile it. For now, I always buy my bullion in small amounts as a precaution. It is a fact that can lower your chances of acquiring counterfeits and fakers for your collection through education.
Next I'll talk about where I have purchased my bullion and my experience thus far. read more about where to safely buy silver.
See Also: Buying Silver Online | Silver Investing FAQ | Silver Investing 101 | Silver Showcase | Retiring with Silver | Silver in a 401K Retirement Plan | Coins, Rounds, or Bars | Get Rich with Silver | One Oz Silver Rounds | Where to Buy Silver Safely | Physical Silver VS Paper Investments