Counterfeit Detection: 1892 Half Eagle
Posted by Max Spiegel, NGC on 8/16/2013
The 1892 Half Eagle is a relatively common issue with a mintage of 753,480 pieces. This date can easily be located in circulated grades through MS 62, the grade most frequently encountered by NGC. At that level the NGC US Coin Price Guide reports a value of $710, which ranks it with some of the other popular Type coins from the Liberty Half Eagle series.
Counterfeits exist for virtually every date of US gold coins and the 1892 Half Eagle is no exception. Because this is a common date, the fakes were generally not intended to fool collectors. Rather, many of the spurious pieces originated in 1960s and 1970s in the Middle East (particularly Lebanon), where merchants preferred gold in coin form as a store of value. The merchants were not particularly concerned with the authenticity of the coin as long as it had the correct weight and composition.
A number of these Middle Eastern fakes ended up in the US, where private ownership of gold was illegal until December 31, 1974. Many of them were likely imported by people who wanted to own gold coins, but could not legally acquire genuine US gold coins domestically.
A counterfeit 1892 Half Eagle submitted to NGC is a typical Middle Eastern counterfeit. The coin has the same design, weight and composition as a genuine example. The finer details, however, are lacking. There is moderate softness on both sides but primarily at the digits and letters, which can appear almost cartoonish. There are also a number of raised lines—often seen on fakes—by the denticles, especially on the reverse. A few particularly noticeable raised lines can be seen above the D in UNITED and the F in OF. These are almost never seen on genuine specimens.
Although these Middle Eastern counterfeits were not manufactured to deceive numismatists, many have found their way into collections. As older collections are sold, the fakes will reappear in the marketplace. Luckily, the spurious pieces still have significant intrinsic value because of their gold content.