Counterfeit Detection: 1924-S Standing Liberty Quarter

Posted on 12/1/2019

A poorly added mintmark and lackluster surface didn't fool NGC graders.

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation

The Standing Liberty quarter is a beautiful design, and high-grade examples can be quite scarce. San Francisco issues can be particularly hard to come by, as their mintages often were much lower than their Philadelphia counterparts. (Notably, a 1924-S has a mintage of only 2.8 million, versus nearly 11 million struck in Philadelphia that year.) With these low numbers, San Francisco pieces in high, uncirculated grades often can bring 5 to 10 times the price of a Philadelphia coin in the same grade. For example, a “Full Head” 1924 Philadelphia quarter in Mint State (MS)-66 would be worth about $2,500 according to the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) Price Guide (ngccoin.com/priceguide/united-states), while a San Francisco issue in the same grade is listed at 10 times that amount! Obviously, this provides a lot of incentive for forgers to try to fool the unsuspecting with a phony "S" mintmark.

The photos here seemingly show a very nice 1924-S Standing Liberty quarter. The mintmark can be seen to the right of the lowest left star. It appears to be the correct shape and in the proper position. However, a closer look reveals a glaringly obvious issue with the area surrounding the mintmark—a patch of discoloration. This is a result of the glue that the forger used to adhere the “S” to the coin’s surface in an attempt to make a quick $20,000 or so.

Note how much more lustrous the genuine 1924-S looks than the altered example.
Click image to enlarge.

Luckily, NGC graders are trained to spot alterations such as this instantly. As can be seen in the close ups of the altered specimen, the mintmark is not part of the coin but rather is sitting on top of it.

Close ups of a 1924-S Standing Liberty quarter submitted to NGC reveal discoloration around the mintmark, which, when viewed from different angles, quite obviously was added to a Philadelphia example.
Click images to enlarge.

As is the case with Morgan dollars, the surface qualities of Philadelphia Standing Liberty quarters often are quite different from those struck in San Francisco. When viewing the genuine 1924-S, note how much more lustrous this coin looks than the altered example. The literally “lack-luster” appearance of the modified piece immediately would tip off any professional graders that the coin was not a San Francisco issue.

When it comes to key-date coins, especially in higher grades, it is very important to inspect those elements that make it valuable closely. (On a specimen like this one, for example, make sure to examine the mintmark area with a loupe.) Of course, all coins graded and encapsulated by NGC are guaranteed to be authentic and unaltered.

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

Did you know? NGC has created a comprehensive Counterfeit Detection resource to help collectors and dealers identify counterfeit and altered coins. Visit NGCcoin.com/counterfeit.

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