Counterfeit Detection: 1862-S Liberty Head Quarter Eagle

Posted on 10/10/2017

The lack of details in Liberty's hair indicates this isn't a rare piece.

Nineteenth century United States gold is a very heavily counterfeited area of numismatics. In fact, high-quality fakes have been around since the 1960s. Due to this extensive counterfeiting, NGC graders often see multiple examples per week.

This particular coin was recently received by NGC for grading. It appears to be an 1862-S Liberty Head Quarter Eagle. With a mintage of only 8,000 pieces, a genuine example of this issue would be worth well into the five figures in this grade.

However, this coin is not genuine.

Counterfeit 1862-S Liberty Head Quarter Eagle
Click images to enlarge.

At first glance, there are no obvious red flags with this coin. This piece is likely of the correct weight and is certainly gold. However, there are a few problems with the coin when it is examined more closely.

Weak details are evident in Liberty’s hair
Click image to enlarge.

As you can see in the photo above, there is a distinct lack of details in the high points of Liberty’s hair. This loss of detail comes from the transfer process used to make the false dies and would not normally be seen on a genuine example. This lack of details can also be seen on the eagle’s feather on the reverse.

Spikes emerging from the denticles
Click image to enlarge.

Additional issues can be seen around the rims in the photo above. The spikes coming from beneath the denticles are not something that would usually be seen on a genuine piece. These are the result of the counterfeiter attempting to remove imperfections from the dies. In the end, they end up leaving these tell-tale “tool marks,” which can help a collector with the authentication process.

An overall weakness of strike as well as tool marks emerging from the denticles are two ways in which a skilled authenticator can identify counterfeit early US gold. Higher-quality fakes might require a reference such as the US Gold Counterfeit Detection Guide from Whitman.

Of course, if you have any doubts about your authentication abilities, buy a coin graded by NGC, which is always guaranteed to be authentic.

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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