Counterfeit Detection: Oregon Trail Commemorative

Posted on 1/16/2018

A closer look reveals plenty of problems on this coin's surfaces.

The Oregon Trail commemorative has an iconic design that has made it one of the most popular of all silver commemorative types. The type had an overall mintage of over 200,000 pieces across 14 different date and mintmark combinations. This relatively large overall mintage (for the commemorative series) means that most collectors can acquire a nice example for around $150.

Most fakes of this type are executed relatively poorly due to the shallowness of some of the design elements, which are hard to replicate. One such counterfeit was recently seen by NGC graders.

Counterfeit 1926 Oregon Trail 50C (left) and genuine (right)
Click images to enlarge.

As you can see from the photos above, the counterfeit (left) has far worse detail than the genuine example on the right. The surfaces are also wrong on the counterfeit, as they appear quite grainy.

Close-up of counterfeit 1926 Oregon Trail 50C (left) and genuine (right)
Click images to enlarge.

A closer inspection shows the vast differences in workmanship between the two pieces. The waves around the coastlines are completely missing on the fake. Additionally, there is an area of raised metal in the field. These blobs of metal would not normally be seen on a genuine example. Also, note how poorly defined the letters of UNITED and OF are. Whereas they are bold on the genuine example, they seem to barely rise from the field on the fake.

Counterfeit 1926 Oregon Trail 50C (left) and genuine (right)
Click images to enlarge.

Close-up of counterfeit 1926 Oregon Trail 50C (left) and genuine (right)
Click images to enlarge.

On the reverse, the counterfeit also lacks the fine detail of the genuine example. This loss of resolution is a direct result of the transfer process that the counterfeiter used to create their false dies. This transfer process reduces the overall quality of the design and is especially evident on the bull’s head as well as the man. Additionally, the surfaces are very porous, as is the case on the obverse.

Although a lack of fine detail and porous surfaces are very evident on this counterfeit, it clearly fooled at least one collector. In fact, this piece came with four additional counterfeit commemoratives, including a Pilgrim, two Stone Mountains, and a Vermont. All had similar appearance issues. While these low-quality counterfeits would be caught by many collectors, it is always safest to purchase your coins in NGC holders, as they are backed up by the NGC Guarantee of grade and authenticity.

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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