Counterfeit Detection: Walking Liberty Half Dollars

Posted on 2/11/2020

A fistful of what appeared to be vintage silver coins turned out to be fakes.

NGC recently received a submission of 14 seemingly Gem Uncirculated Walking Liberty Half Dollars. While they have odd luster and surfaces, the coins are quite flashy. From a distance, they may even appear quite attractive.

However, a closer look reveals their true nature. Every single one of them is a modern counterfeit of the same origin.

Counterfeit 1935-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar
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Genuine 1935-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar
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As you can see from the two photos above, the counterfeit actually has stronger details than the genuine coin. This is most notable on the sun rays, which are much more pronounced on the fake. However, the fake has numerous other issues that may not be evident at first glance.

The whole obverse has odd surfaces and die polish that is just not seen on genuine examples. Also note the strange horizontal lines across the body of Liberty, as well as the diagonal lines in front of her rear foot. That is some sort of die damage that was not properly removed by the counterfeiter, and similar lines can be seen between the sun rays and the dress.

“S” mintmark on counterfeit (left) and genuine (right) 1935-S Walking Liberty Half Dollars
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Designer’s Initials on counterfeit (left) and genuine (right) 1935-S Walking Liberty Half Dollars
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The reverse also has numerous issues. It, too, has the same strange surfaces as the obverse, as well as the horizontal lines, although they are less pronounced. Also note the incorrect shape of the “S” mintmark and the nearly completely missing designer’s initials.

A close-up of the eagle’s claw on the counterfeit 1935-S Half Dollar reveals lines from the creation of the fake die
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This coin appears to be another in a recent spate of fakes struck from laser-engraved dies. While it certainly appears the “resolution” of these counterfeits is getting better, all it takes is a good loupe to see the lines left over from the creation of the dies. Lastly, the coins were all about 1 gram underweight and were struck in 59% Copper, 37% Zinc, 3% Nickel, and a mere 1% Silver as opposed to the normal 90% Silver and 10% Copper.

Counterfeit 1943-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar also in this submission
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Counterfeit 1920 Walking Liberty Half Dollar also in this submission
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The collector may have been deceived by the flashy luster of these counterfeits. However, an expert who has seen many high-grade Walking Liberty halves would recognize these coins as counterfeits. If you feel unsure in your authentication ability, you should buy coins already encapsulated by NGC, as they are 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 NGCcoin.com/counterfeit.


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