Counterfeit Detection: Genuine 1878-CC Double Eagle with Unusual Diagnostics

Posted by Max Spiegel, NGC on 7/22/2013

One particularly unusual diagnostic is called a “die gouge” – a sometimes large, errant raised line that is not part of a coin’s design.

Collectors and dealers will occasionally encounter coins with characteristics that may make them do a double-take. One particularly unusual diagnostic is called a “die gouge” – a sometimes large, errant raised line that is not part of a coin’s design. While die gouges can resemble the tool marks seen on some fakes, they are no reason to think that a coin is counterfeit.

In the 19th century and earlier, many coining dies were finished by hand. The mintmark and digits in the date were hand-punched, the design elements could be refined and the die would be polished. This created differences within coins of the same date, and these varieties are now popular with many collectors.

Genuine 1878-CC Double Eagle
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If an engraver slipped while finishing a die, the engraving tool could cut – or “gouge” – the die. The tool would leave a recessed line on the die, which would then be seen as a raised line on the struck coin. Since die gouges are incuse, it was not possible to grind them away and, rather than scrap the die, it would be put into use to strike coins.

An 1878-CC Double Eagle with some particularly dramatic die gouges was recently graded by NGC. All of the die gouges appear on the reverse near the denticles, and a few bisect the peripheral legends. For example, two large die gouges are seen around the D in DOLLARS. Other significant die gouges are located by the Ts in TWENTY and the LLARS in DOLLARS.

Genuine 1878-CC Double Eagle - Die Gouges
Click images to enlarge.

Although these raised lines are unusual, they are no cause for alarm. This coin is unquestionably genuine with boldly defined design elements and moderate luster in the fields. Other 1878-CC twenties exhibit these die gouges, as do many coin types from this time period. While they may seem out of the ordinary, they are simply a by-product of the way many vintage coins were produced.



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