Counterfeit Detection: 1877 Seated Liberty Quarter

Posted on 6/1/2019

This fake’s porous surfaces and substandard execution are sure to tip off observant collectors.

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation

With its mintage of nearly 11 million, the 1877 Seated Liberty quarter is not an especially rare date in the series. Since 1987, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has graded more than 300 examples in Mint State (MS), including 8 in MS 68. However, despite the coin’s relative availability, it still is a target of counterfeiters, as evidenced by the fake that NGC graders recently discovered in a submission. Although the piece is not especially deceptive, it and similar forgeries can fool some collectors.

This Seated Liberty Quarter has all the signs of a counterfeit, from its rough, porous surfaces to the oddly rendered denticles. At only 2-percent silver, the fake’s metal composition is not even close to the genuine article.
Click images to enlarge.

In this case, the counterfeiter used artificial means to make the coin look worn and toned in an effort to conceal its spurious nature. However, these alterations cannot camouflage the many problems with this specimen. One major concern is its composition: the coin contains hardly any silver! Whereas a genuine quarter would be 90-percent silver, this piece has only about 2 percent, with 64-percent copper and 32-percent zinc. It also is slightly heavier than normal at 6.32g (versus 6.25g for an authentic specimen).

The date on the genuine quarter (right) is strong and well-defined; the numerals on the counterfeit are rounded and irregular. Note how the denticles on the obverse of the real quarter meld with the rim, while those on the fake have a decidedly toothlike appearance.
Click images to enlarge.

Even without high-tech equipment, collectors quickly will note inconsistencies, especially when the fake is compared to a genuine example. For instance, while the date on the counterfeit is rounded and irregular, it is strong, bold and well-defined on the real deal.

Also a giveaway are the “toothy” denticles on the counterfeit. The forger failed to pick up on the more nuanced details of the original coin, such as the denticles that typically fade out as they approach the rim. In addition, the spurious quarter has rough, pitted surfaces, typical of lower-quality imitations.

The details on the reverse of the authentic specimen (right) are crisp and sharp, and the fields are smooth. Conversely, the devices on the fake are mushy, and the surfaces display numerous pits and lumps.
Click images to enlarge.

The details on the reverse of the genuine coin are crisp, sharp and smooth, with flat fields. On the other hand, the fake’s devices are mushy, and its surfaces are porous and riddled with tiny lumps of metal. For experienced collectors and NGC graders, a cursory glance is all that is necessary to reveal the coin’s true nature.

Authentication is the cornerstone of any numismatist’s repertoire. It is very important to study fakes and their key diagnostics. Poor details, rough surfaces and incorrect weights are obvious diagnostics to look for when evaluating a purchase. If you have any doubts, submit your coin for third-party certification. As always, coins graded by NGC’s expert numismatists are guaranteed to be authentic.

Reproduced with permission from the December 2018 edition of The Numismatist, official publication of the American Numismatic Association

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