Counterfeit Detection: Fake $5 Indian Lacks Details

Posted by NGC on 1/12/2010

The missing details on this $5 Indian reveal it to be counterfeit.

One common technique used by authenticators is to assess a coin’s level of detail. This can be done simply by visual inspection with the aid of a low-power magnifier. When common features are faint, indistinct or entirely lacking, there is good evidence that a coin is not the genuine article. This month we examine the reverse of a Denver Mint Indian Half Eagle. By examining it side-by-side with a genuine example, it’s clear that something is wrong.

The genuine coin is on the left, and the counterfeit is on the right. Click any of the images below for enlargements.

The detail images above show close up views of the eagle’s tail feathers on the genuine example, at left, and the counterfeit, at right. By comparing these areas we see how shallow the detail is on the fake coin. For example, some of feathers immediately beneath the tail are missing entirely. The detail appears to get lost in a flat pool. Similarly, compare the eagle’s leg. On the counterfeit coin there is a wide flat margin surrounding the leg, while on the genuine example the design nearly fills the whole incuse space.

The fake coin is not only more shallow, but it’s also less crisp. For example, the largest feathers are broad and flattened in appearance on the fake coin, yet they come to sharp ends on the genuine example. Also look at the vine where it overlaps the arrows. On the genuine example it is rounded and somewhat three dimensional, while on the fake coin it is flat and ribbon-like.

At first, these differences may appear subtle, but they are important to recognize. Depth of detail is very difficult for the counterfeiter to replicate – making it one of the most telling features to help you to spot a fake.