What You Need To Know About Incuse Design Quarter and Half-Eagles
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This posting covers my personal experience on what you need to know on grading and purchase of the incuse U.S. gold Quarter and Half-eagles series coins designed by Bela Pratt.

 

The first important fact to consider before purchase of coins from this series is that the series has been widely counterfeited over a long period of time. I personally remember seeing Indian Quarter and Half-eagle counterfeits for sale in jewelry stores in Latin America as far back as the late 1960's. These countefeits were high quality and the same weight and fineness (22 carat) as the originals. These coins could be counterfeited for a profit, even at correct fineness, because the genuine coins always have been scarce and have sold for a premium over melt. I have seen recent fakes from Eastern Europe that were very good counterfeits as well. For the new collector of this series, many knowledgeable collectors advise buying TPG graded coins from the major three services only. This is good advice as there have reportedly been counterfeits found in lesser known grading service holders.

 

The second hurdle on the purchase of these Pratt issues is the fact that they are difficult for most collectors to grade. I read a survey that was written by Les and Sue Fox years ago that compared the grading skills on actual "MS63" coins by several (I believe it was 25) dealers and professional graders. The coins, examples of several silver and gold series, were initially all independently graded MS63 (raw) and then were graded independently by each of the panel of experts. The Indian Quarter-eagle and Half-eagle coins in the survey were graded from AU58 to MS65. This was the widest grading range (7 grades) of any coin series by the graders in this survey.

 

I have included in this posting scans of (4) Pratt, Indian design coins for your comparison and for discussion of some of their grading characteristics. These coins are: 1). MS62, 1910-P Quarter-eagle. 2). MS64, 1929-P Quarter-eagle

Coinimage1.jpgCoinimage2.jpg

coinimage4.jpgCoinimage3.jpg

Followed by: 3). AU58, 1910-S Half-eagle. 4). MS63, 1910-P Half-eagle.

 

Coinimage7.jpgCoinimage8.jpg

Coinimage5.jpgCoinimage6.jpg

 

After examination of these coins, some factors about this series become more apparent. There is a wide variation in luster for this series. Notice that the AU58 coin has greater luster than the MS62 coin. This is a very common occurance with lower MS grade coins. Almost all examples and grades of this series have scuffy surfaces on the periphery, the obverse Indian's shoulder and around the mottos on the reverse, even MS63/64 coins have this problem. High grade MS coins (i.e. the MS64, 1929-P) usually have a band of bright luster through the headdress feathers on the obverse that lower grade coins do not have. You can see it in the scans of the (2) higher grade coins.

 

Comparison of these coins (and my scans) is hindered by the fact that gold from different mines and coins from different mints have somewhat different toning colors and strike characteristics. Generally speaking, "P" and "D" mint coins are better struck than "S" mint coins. However, many individual MS coins in this series are not fully struck in the headband and feathers on the obverse, plus the eagle's shoulder feathers and talons on the reverse. Additionally, the Indian's cheekbone on the obverse is often not struck up and may be very scuffy. Even the MS64, Quarter-eagle specimen shown above is not fully struck on the obverse cheek.

 

Grading of sliders is difficult with this series and is complicated by the general scuffiness and striking problems with many MS coins. New collectors of this series need to look at many examples of each series before buying coins, especially raw coins. I have seen many AU55 coins in TPG MS61/62 holders. The 1910-S Half-eagle scan shown above is a good example of a slider AU coin. Note that there are slight slide marks around the periphery of the Indian's cheek on the obverse, coupled with some light high-point wear on the reverse eagle's shoulder feathers. Additionally, there are some light slide marks in the coin fields around the obverse stars and reverse mottos. These are the major signs to look for in AU-slider coins.

 

You can read this post and look at the scans and form your own opinions on this series. I would strongly advise, however, buying some books and examining as many examples of these coins as you can before buying. This design series is interesting to me for it's design novelty and scarcity of nice specimins. I have owned various examples of this series for over (40) years and still find them interesting and difficult to collect.

Edited by Oldtrader3

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Great post. Thanks for sharing. I'm still clueless about grading these coins, however. smile.gif

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Excellent post, Charlie! I wondered who decided to tag you early on as "The Unknown Engineer"? crazy.gif

 

I noticed the rub on the cheek and the upper wing on the 1910 S as well. This is, as you stated, the first place to look for such wear. I very seriously doubt, however, that I would be able to distinguish a counterfeit. I remember some of us collector's in Western Washington got together at Bill's place in Oct of '03 and WACoinGuy showed a counterfeit piece and I couldn't tell any difference even after he pointed out the counterfeit characteristics. So, I also recommend your advice to stick to the big Slabbing Outfits when purchasing these coins.

 

Great five star post! 893applaud-thumb.gif

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There are a couple of problems "built in" to Bela Pratt's half eagle (and quarter eagle) design. One is that the sunken relief technique does not displace as much metal as normal bas relief. This results in the field receiving little pressure during the strike, so that many marks present on the planchets are not completely removed. Another difficulty is that the sharp edge surrounding the portrait acts like a dam and prevents metal flow into the central portion of the portrait. This means there is not enough metal for a full strike to the Indian even though the relief is not overly high. Further, the wide expanse of metal (the raised field) caused wear to begin as soon as the coins were dumped together in receiving boxes. Lastly, the radius of the dies and upset angle of the planchets were not well matched - it seems as though the dies were never kept at a constant radius, but changed during hardening and in use.

 

None of this can be blamed on poor Pratt - he did things the way William Sturgis Bigelow wanted them, and Bigelow had convinced Roosevelt that sunken relief would produce coins with high relief and low surface wear. By April 1908 Bigelow had "sold his case" to Roosevelt and the Saint-Gaudens half eagle, for which dies had been prepared, was abandonded.

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Great post!

 

Here's a pic of a counterfeit $5 I got from another member awhile back:

 

fake5.jpg

 

Luster characteristics are all over the place with these series. I'm a bit more familiar with the $5 series but I can tell you that the $2.5 series is FAR easier to find nice coins. Some of the later dated issues can come with some nice color also.

 

2.5d-27p_small.jpg

 

The $5 series is next to impossible to find nice coins in most of the dates. Oldtrader hit it right on the head about the higher graded coins and the luster. Something you almost never see in many of the dates is full luster in the fields of the obverse. In fact, many dates don't even come with the luster bands above the head of the eagle on the reverse but it's far more than what you see on the obverse. A necessity for any purchase for me is that the coin MUST have luster above the eagle on the reverse. No luster No buy.

 

The 11-D and 09-O almost always come crappy. I haven't see an 11-D (in person) with luster on the reverse in quite some time...let alone on the obverse (I don't think I've ever seen one). I did see an 09-O with luster on the obverse just last year at Long Beach. I asked the dealer what he wanted. He said $375K. I went to pull out my checkbook when I realized he didn't say $375. yeahok.gif

 

Anyway....I hope that OldTrader gives more info in this thread!

 

jom

Edited by jom

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Excellent post, Charlie. Thanks! Excellent additions RWB and jom. thumbsup2.gif

 

A European counterfeit:

 

1179528-1912counterfeit%242.5Indian.JPG

 

Hoot

589a9036c3b6a_1179528-1912counterfeit2.5Indian.JPG.b6bfe641fd86352053ce9d99a39bd3a2.JPG

Edited by Hoot

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Jom, I notice that your half-eagle also has the cresent of lighter toning across the headress feathers that seems to be a diagnostic of higher grade Pratt Indian gold. RWB's comments on the striking issues with these coins also is a reason for many coins not having clean fields around the incuse devices. IMHO the fields are not well struck-up and therefore are not flat, causing accelerated high point rubbing. Both the 1909-D and 1911-D coins that I have seen always have poor luster on the obverse. I do not know if this is poor planchet preparation at the Denver Mint or what.

 

Hoot: That is a very good counterfeit. The star shape at 8 o'clock, the bearclaws and some other minor headdress details are the only giveaway that this coin is counterfeit.

Edited by Oldtrader3

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Thanks for your fantastic post Charlie. I've been talking with a fellow forum member about this very thing. I have an Indian $2.5 and as soon as I can get a hold of a camera, I'll post it here for your expert opinion.

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Hoot: That is a very good counterfeit.

 

Yes it is and if a FAR better fake than mine shown above. I knew when I say the picture the coin was bogus due to the wonderful luster in the fields. As I mentioned above the half eagles (nor many quarter eagles) come that way. Chance are the coin was a fake...even though I've never seen it in person. It just looks like one of those Franklin mint or Isle of Man thingys.

 

jom

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This is an OUTSTANDING article, and definitely underscores the need of buying these certified (authenticated). I would be fooled by any of the counterfeits posted.

 

Yet another article that I'll be printing out for future reference. By the way, thanks for changing the title to "What You Need To Know"

 

I'm supposed to do next week's article, and now, I'm scared mine won't be as good as these have been blush.gif .

 

James

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Great thread.

 

I've only recently become comfortable with buying some raw gold, after years of experience looking at the real thing.

 

Something about the counterfeits that just doesn't "feel" right.

 

P.S. I think you mean "incuse". poke2.gif

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Jom, a really nice fake!! How much does it weigh? I've seen a few but yours is just "too good". Thanks for sharing. 893applaud-thumb.gif

 

Well, like I said, it isn't really "good" at all. The one Hoot showed is much more scary as it looks real. Mine had luster throughout the obverse (weird luster too) which is something you almost NEVER see with an Indian $5.

 

As to the weight....maybe I didn't mention it but I only have the picture. The coin was owned by one of the members at PCGS I got the pic from. He did actually sent me a couple of other fakes he had but those were Liberty gold coins if memory serves.

 

jom

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The 1912 that I put up, I bought raw and sent to ANACS, then NGC, both of whom said it was fake. I then took it to a person very familiar with fake $2.5 Indians, and he said that the only definitive marker on the coin was a pair of small dimples in the incuse portion of the Indian's neck. Very hard to see without a good loupe. He also said that the color wasn't quite right for the date and Mint! That little fact scared me the most. A person truly has to know each date and Mint in the series to be able to readily spot good counterfeits. The coin is right on the correct weight, BTW.

 

Comparatively, here's a real '25-D with a natural reddish cast:

 

1181954-1925-DIndian%242.5MS61NGC04-895.JPG

 

Hoot

589a9036c9f2f_1181954-1925-DIndian2.5MS61NGC04-895.JPG.6d51a4b863d3bcc6ce0e8c356227f0e9.JPG

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My Friend Hoot and All the rest of my NGC buddies-----Time to tell my counterfeit gold story. One of my main reasons for wanting to start the What You need To Know threads was this story. When I was "INTO" gold in the 60's and 70's, I bought some Liberty and Indian 2 and 1/2 dollar gold pieces. Out of a Coin World article----incidently, as of last year, the dealer is still in business. Could get a gold piece for 15 two dollar bills [any condition]. As a young man of about 16--18, I figured a gold piece was better than 30 bucks of old two dollar bills. So I took all that I had and traded for 4 gold coins. Got two at first---did not like them---sent them back and got two beautiful Liberty pieces instead. They were BU pieces. Boy did I think that I had made a deal. Then, about 1978--79, I sold my CC20's at a New York auction to build my dad a retirement home here with me on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. So---I decided to sell "all" my gold at that auction. I had other 20's and some 10's and those 4 Coin World gold pieces. As it happened, my wife and I went to New York for the actual auction. We were sitting all the way in the back and I was quietly whooping it up as my gold was doing extremely well----you see gold had jumped to 217 an ounce. I had it made until those 4 pieces were pulled. I actually stopped the auction to ask "WHY" they had been pulled?? Guy would only say that they were suspect---after he found out that I was the owner of the coins. Well, I did super at that auction---except for those 4 coins---they returned them to me as counterfeit---BUT WOULD NOT TELL ME WHY. Many years later---while I was trying to keep my son from collecting coins---I brought those 4 coins out to 'fool' my son---they did naturally. We then took them to a Baltimore Show. The gentleman at the ANACS table declared them to be counterfeit----BUT AGAIN WOULD NOT TAKE THE TIME TO SHOW ME WHY. But my son was standing with me and learning. Immediately after leaving the ANACS gentleman I told my son, David, to watch this---he knew to keep his mouth shut and just watch and learn. I walked down that very isle and struck up a conversation with an older dealer that looked like a nice guy. At the proper time, I pulled out one of the Liberty gold pieces---and then one of the Indians. The dealer liked them. I let the man go to the point of about making me a offer---then I told him that they were counterfeit. He was shook up and immediately grabbed for a loupe. I did all of this to show my son the bad side of coin collecting---a learning experience as it were. Well, it took me years to figure out why those coins were counterfeit. I finally did----and Tom B confirmed it when he visited me recently. But my point in telling this story is this. No one was willing to help me. I had to learn for myself. How can we expect 'anyone' to start to collect these gold coins---other than in holders? They would not have a prayer at identifying a counterfeit gold coin. And, as Charlie and Hoot and jom and James have said----you got to know your stuff to collect these pieces---both as to grading them and telling their 'originality'. I was lucky. I got these coins till this day. Have made a lot of money just on the gold content of the pieces. But, in telling this story on these NGC boards, I hope that maybe I have helped someone from making a 'bad' mistake. You must know your series----BEFORE YOU BUY THEM. Bob [supertooth]

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Wow, Bob, that's a terrific story. THANKS for sharing your experience, and I like how it really dovetails with the theme of this particularly educational thread.

 

James

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Bob, that was an interesting story about your experiences with this series. It also is interesting that dealers would not tell you what the diagnostics of the fakes were. I guess that they just didn't want to be involved, which is too bad. I have been very lucky (not clever) in purchasing coins from this series. What I have mainly had problems with (while learning) was buying sliders or cleaned sliders that were sold as MS coins.

 

The diagnostic that I look for now (as Jom and Hoot mentioned) is toning. All MS examples that I have seen which have not been dipped to death, have gold, pink or greenish toning on the field surfaces. If they do not have toning traces in these areas, I don't buy the coin.

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Supertooth: Great story but you never told us what it was about those coins that distingushed them as counterfeit. 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

 

Like OT has stated there are a LOT of difficulties when it comes to collecting these incuse designs. Not only do you have the "fake problem", which I'm afraid to say I'm not very good at detecting for the simple reason I don't see a whole hell of a lot of them, you got the grading problem (AU vs MS).

 

I just wish could sit down and look thru a ton of fake gold....it would be a learning experience.

 

jom

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Bob, first thing that comes to my mind is, "Whoosh, glad that those $20 CC weren't counterfeit!"

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Victor----You have a great sense of humor. But---you are right about the CC20's. But I had sent them all to ANACS---when they first started in Washington, D.C.----So I knew that they were OK

Jom----I am terrible with pictures. I keep saying that I will try to get better but my wife does it all and we have never sat down and spent the necessary time. However, I got an 1898 and a 1906 Liberty. Both coins have the 'funny' D on the reverse. Unless the mint used a reverse die from previous years, these two gold coins were struck from the same reverse die. Am trying to attach a picture of the D. Both coins have this same D---wavy at the bottom. Bob [supertooth]

1183792-18982-HalfRevD300.jpg.5360a06cb41eb4e2595f3d4f0e44865f.jpg

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1183792-18982-HalfRevD300.jpg

 

Bob, a tip for ya:

 

Once the image is attached and posted then click on your attachment, right click and save URL. Go back and edit your post and post image by clicking on "Image" and pasting the URL. Then unclick the "edit" box and submit for the image to show up on your post.

 

thumbsup2.gif

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I adore Pratt's design and wish we had more circulating coinage with different properties. This thread is also terrific as it shares information and experiences, which is something not everyone is willing to do. Someday, I will get my lazy butt in gear and purchase one of these beauties, already slabbed!

 

Bob's counterfeit quarter eagles were very well made pieces. The obverses had a nice look to them however, when the reverse of each piece was viewed you could see that they were struck from the same die. 893whatthe.gif Since they were "dated" eight years apart, this was an enormous red flag.

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Here are links to 1929-P quarter eagle and 1910 half eagle that were mistakenly erased:

Lot2493.jpgLot2493Rev.jpg

Lot2582.jpgLot2582Rev.jpg

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I put these back up because I had erased them accidentally (Bob, I am age challenged sometimes also). You can also note the the two dimples on the neck are not present on this half eagle, the ones that Hoot referred, to for reference.

 

Attached are (2) scans of a 1879-P (blown up) and 1907-P, $2-1/2 genuine quarter eagles showing the "FIVE D.", "D" shape for comparison to Bob's photo of a counterfeit quarter eagle "D.". Not only can the "D" shape be different but the dot size (to the right of the period) can vary in size and spacing on counterfeits.

1879-PQuarEagRev1.jpg

 

1907g2l.gif

 

Shown below (blown-up by Photoshop) is a counterfeit 1911-D Indian half eagle that was listed as raw on Ebay. Note that the second star to the right of the "Y" in LIBERTY is recut slightly.

03d3_1.jpg

This is a "SleazeBay" seller's photo and is not very sharp as is usual with counterfeits. They don't want potential marks to see the coin very well.

Edited by Oldtrader3

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