Counterfeit Detection: Another 1911-D Quarter Eagle

Posted by Max Spiegel, Numismatic Researcher on 12/13/2011

We received another altered 1911-D Quarter Eagle after last month's newsletter. Read about how this one differed from the one featured in November's article.

Less than a week after the November NGC eNewsletter was sent out we received another altered 1911-D quarter eagle. Last month’s article featured a chased mintmark 1911-D $2.50, which had a “D” carved out of the coin’s field. This piece, on the other hand, is an altered date. Both fakes began as legitimate Indian Head quarter eagles: the chased mintmark was a Philadelphia 1911, while the altered date was a 1914-D.

Counterfeit 1911-D Quarter Eagle
click image to enlarge

Alterations can be particularly deceptive because they began as legitimate pieces and, for the most part, have the same look and feel of an authentic coin. The chased mintmark was originally a Philadelphia Mint 1911, while the altered date was a 1914-D. This altered date is interesting and highly unusual because the entire date was effaced and then carved into the surface. There are a number of hairline scratches visible in the fields from the counterfeiter taking a filing tool to the coin. The intent was to remove the date, but in the process some of the other details, including the designer’s initials and the headdress feathers, were weakened.

Although the alteration was fairly well done, if you compare this piece to a legitimate 1911-D you will notice that all of the digits are a little off. A genuine 1911-D should have the final two 1’s in the date virtually parallel, and they should be the exact same size. On this altered date, each of the three 1’s has a different size and shape, and the final digit is slanted to the right.

After close study it was clear that this piece was originally a 1914-D. A lazy counterfeiter would have simply removed part of the 4 to form a 1, but this would have left a significant gap between the second and third 1’s. By carefully carving the entire date, the counterfeiter could come much closer to the correct spacing. This, however, caused significant scratches across the obverse.

This coin has other problems, including damage on the obverse and reverse, which the counterfeiter probably hoped would take the focus away from the altered date. (For more on this subject, see “Look Here, Not There” in the November 2011 issue of the ANA's The Numismatist.) Nonetheless, even a damaged 1911-D quarter eagle would be worth hundreds of dollars. Collectors should always look closely at the date and mintmark on key date coins and, if there is any doubt, compare to an authentic example.