Counterfeit Detection: 1866 Seated Liberty Dime

Posted on 3/29/2022

Even a new collector would notice the lack of detail on this fake.

Circulation-strike 1866 Seated Liberty dimes have mintages of 8,000 for Philadelphia issues and 135,000 for San Francisco. These are not key dates in the series, but they aren’t exactly inexpensive either; examples sell for hundreds of dollars in all but the lowest grades.

Despite the dramatic difference in mintages, both coins live in the same neighborhood of rarity. In lower grades, Philadelphia examples carry a premium over their San Francisco counterparts. The former were primarily used to make exact payments to depositors of bullion. However, in Mint State, San Francisco dimes are more valuable. This is because these coins were predominately used in circulation, since the West refused to accept paper money.

A genuine 1866 Seated Liberty Dime (top) and its spurious counterpart (bottom).
Click images to enlarge.

Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) recently received a counterfeit 1866(P) dime that raises numerous red flags. The most glaring is the font used for UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on the obverse. Note that the letters on the genuine example feature elegant variations in the thickness of the lines. In contrast, the counterfeit features a font reminiscent of a 1950s typewriter.

Certain parts of letters, such as the top of the E in STATES, fade jarringly into the surrounding field. This shows the poor quality of the handmade dies. A close examination of the date exposes its roundness and lack of sharp, flat surfaces found on a genuine example. Additionally, many details are missing from Liberty’s body and the wreath.

This counterfeit, which features rounded numerals and fading letters, was easily detected by NGC. The genuine coin is shown on the top right.

The counterfeit weighs 2.62g, which is much heavier than the expected 2.49g. Genuine examples comprise 90-percent silver and 10-percent copper, while this fake is 56-percent copper, 26-percent zinc and 18-percent nickel. Not all counterfeits are as easy to spot as this one. If you have any doubts about a coin’s status, remember that NGC backs its determinations of authenticity and grade with the NGC Guarantee.

Reproduced with permission from the January 2022 edition of The Numismatist, an official publication of the American Numismatic Association.

Did you know? NGC has created a comprehensive Counterfeit Detection resource to help collectors and dealers identify counterfeit and altered coins. Visit

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