Counterfeit Detection: 1924 Huguenot Half Dollar

Posted on 8/1/2019

The silver content of this convincing fake exceeds U.S. Mint standards for classic commemoratives.

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation

The authorized mintage of the 1924 silver Huguenot-Walloon Tercentenary half dollar was 300,000, but only 142,000 were struck and issued. Of those, 87,000 were sold for $1 each through the Fifth National Bank of New York.

Surprisingly, instead of being returned to the mint for melting, the remaining 55,000 were released into circulation at face value. Today, the coins are worth much more than their face or bullion value. Uncirculated examples usually bring more than $100 each at auction, and the highest-graded pieces can fetch many thousands.

The Counterfeit Huguenot-Walloon Half Dollar (top) lacks the detail and smooth fields of the genuine specimen.
Click images to enlarge.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) recently received an example for authentication and grading that didn’t look quite right. Although it likely would not raise suspicion among many collectors and even dealers, anyone familiar with this particular issue would note that numerous details are missing. Whereas the genuine half dollar pictured above has nice luster, the counterfeit is lifeless, and its surfaces display a granularity uncommon to authentic specimens.

Note the grainy surface and poorly defined large sail on the fake (right).
Click images to enlarge.

The enlarged images above illustrate the differences between the two coins. The fake is visibly pockmarked and coarse, and the lack of detail is obvious. In particular, note how the inner part of the large sail, which has the same rough texture, seems to meld with the field. The masts and the side of the ship likewise are poorly defined.

If these shortcomings aren’t enough to condemn this coin, the silver content certainly is. The metal composition actually is too fine: instead of the standard 90-percent silver, 10-percent copper, the counterfeit is 95-percent silver, 5-percent copper. This is far outside U.S. Mint tolerances and further proves the coin’s spurious origins.

NGC has graded thousands of examples of this particular commemorative. Every certified specimen is guaranteed to be authentic.

Reproduced with permission from the March 2019 edition of The Numismatist, official publication of the American Numismatic Association

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