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Appraiser calls Fisher coins fake

Twenty-five gold coins seized in last week's raid on Mel Fisher's gift shop _ plus two more provided by a suspicious customer _ were hand-stamped fakes that couldn't have come from any of the shipwrecks that line the reefs of the Florida Keys, authorities said Thursday.

The coins were worth their weight in gold and nothing more, the state's coin expert said.

"Our expert seemed to have the opinion they were fraudulent," said Monroe County State Attorney Kirk Zuelch.

The finding is the latest blow to treasure hunter Mel Fisher, who has spent decades hunting lost Spanish treasure in the murky seas off Florida and who sells the souvenirs in jewelry shops, gift stores and on the Internet.

While a majority of counterfeit coins are easy-to-spot cast coins, some show signs of great care and can be detected only by those well-versed in the symbols and workmanship of colonial Spanish currency.

Pat Clyne, vice president of Fisher's company Salvors Inc., stands by the coins. He said Thursday that faking them takes too much work.

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