Counterfeit Detection: 1802 Draped Bust Silver Dollar

Posted on 9/16/2014

This spurious 1802 dollar is a good example of a typical counterfeit Bust Dollar seen by NGC graders.

The Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Reverse silver dollar was introduced in 1798 as an update to the Small Eagle Reverse type that had been minted from 1794 to 1798. The new design was similarly short-lived and just six years of business strikes were produced. (The 1804 Dollar was struck only in proof and not until the mid-1830s.)

On the surface, the 1802 would appear to be the rarest Heraldic Eagle Reverse dollar with a reported mintage of just 41,650 pieces—the lowest of the series. However, 1802 dollars are more available than the mintage suggests, and many numismatists speculate that 1802-dated pieces continued to be struck into the following year. Q. David Bowers, for example, estimates the actual mintage to be approximately 80,000 coins.

Despite their relative availability, there is significant interest in the 1802 dollar from both type collectors and series specialists. As a result, prices for 1802 dollars easily exceed $1,000 even in the lowest condition. Values climb to five figures in AU 50 and higher grades.

The high demand and values for Bust Dollars (both Small and Heraldic Eagle types) has led counterfeiters to extensively target this series, and NGC regularly receives fakes of all dates, including the 1802. This spurious 1802 dollar, for example, is typical of counterfeit Bust Dollars seen by NGC graders.

The two issues with this piece that immediately catch one’s eye are the pockmarked fields and the soft design details. The fields do not appear abraded, as one might expect from an early dollar, but instead have a corroded and abnormal look. Both the obverse and reverse are softly defined, and the uneven level of detail in different areas is a red flag.

Counterfeit 1802 Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Reverse Silver Dollar
Click images to enlarge.

A closer inspection reveals additional problems, such as the raised lump above the middle star on the reverse and another to the right of the arrows. These raised lumps are almost never seen on genuine coins. There is also unusual design doubling at the date and the bottom of the eagle.

Counterfeit 1802 Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Reverse
Silver Dollar Close Up. Click image to enlarge.

The counterfeiter cleaned and artificially toned this forgery, a common tactic to make the coin appear old and distract from the more important authenticity issues. These methods and tricks employed by con artists are seen again and again so familiarity with them is crucial to counterfeit detection. Individually, each problem is enough to raise suspicion, and taken together they easily condemn this coin as a fake.

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

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