Counterfeit Detection: 1883 Half Dollar

Posted on 1/21/2014

A counterfeit 1883 half dollar features a large number of raised lumps in the fields and throughout the design elements.

The United States Mint shifted its attention from half dollars to the Morgan Dollar after its launch in 1878. As a result, Seated Liberty Half Dollar production plummeted and from 1879 to 1890 there was a series of low mintage issues struck exclusively at the Philadelphia Mint. During this period, the highest half dollar mintage, excluding proofs, was only 12,001 pieces, while the lowest was a mere 4,400 specimens.

The 1883 Half Dollar, for example, had an emission of just 8,000 coins. Unsurprisingly, even low grade 1883 Half Dollars sell for several hundred dollars although values for Mint State examples are comparable to those for the significantly higher mintage Philadelphia issues in the 1870s.

NGC recently identified a counterfeit 1883 Half Dollar that is typical of the Chinese-made forgeries that have entered the market in the last decade. The most noticeable issue with this piece is the large number of raised lumps in the fields and throughout the design elements on both sides. This is a key diagnostic for fakes; raised lumps like these are virtually never seen on genuine specimens.

Counterfeit 1883 Seated Half Dollar
Click images to enlarge.

The details are also unusually soft, even cartoonish in places. The digits in the date are particularly weak and slender when compared to a legitimate issue.

Click image to enlarge.

The counterfeiter artificially toned this coin to make it look older, a common practice for newly made Chinese fakes. This process has resulted in odd coloration around the stars and letters in the periphery as well as a few patches of exceptionally dark toning.

All of these issues make this counterfeit relatively easy to identify. Although this forgery targeted a rare date, similar Chinese-made fakes exist for virtually all classic US coins. By looking for the same diagnostics as seen on this piece, many of these spurious pieces can be quickly identified.

Interested in reading more articles on Counterfeit Detection? Click here.

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