Counterfeit Detection: 1855 Seated Liberty Quarter

Posted on 5/26/2020

Rounded features and poor definition identify this coin as a fake.

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation®

With a mintage of more than 2.8 million pieces, the 1855 “Arrows at Date, No Rays” quarter is not a particularly rare offering in the Seated Liberty series. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has graded nearly 200 examples, with the highest being an eye-catching Mint State-67+★. However, a specimen recently submitted to NGC caught the graders’ eyes for another reason: it was a counterfeit.

TOP: Counterfeit 1855 Quarter
BOTTOM: Genuine 1855 Quarter
Click images to enlarge.

The coin initially appears to be a lightly circulated example. However, many problems quickly become apparent. The overall surface has a light porosity, and the coin is not well struck. A portion of metal is missing from the shield and the “8” in 1855.

Additionally, Liberty’s hair is lacking fine detail, and pitting is especially prevalent in the folds of her dress. The lines that run through the stars that surround her are poorly defined. The closeups show the rounded nature of the devices, particularly around Liberty’s face and the date. On the reverse, the shield lines are almost completely obliterated, as is much of the detail in the eagle’s wings.

Liberty's features and the date are round on the counterfeit (top) when compared to a genuine quarter.
Click images to enlarge.

The coin weighs the standard 6.2g, but X-ray fluorescence showed that the alloy is not the expected 90-percent silver/10-percent copper. Rather, it consists of 65-percent copper, 29-percent zinc, 5-percent nickel and a mere 1-percent silver!

While this counterfeit was not particularly well-executed, it apparently deceived the collector who submitted it. It’s always important to thoroughly inspect any specimen you are planning to buy and compare it to a genuine examples. Also remember that counterfeiters don’t only target high-value pieces; spurious versions of just about every vintage U.S. coin can be found in the marketplace today. Luckily, coins graded by NGC are guaranteed to be genuine.

Reproduced with permission from the February 2020 edition of The Numismatist, official publication of the American Numismatic Association.

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