Counterfeit Detection: 2000-P American Silver Eagle

Posted on 6/28/2020

This spurious issue includes fuzzy details and missing elements.

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation®

The American Silver Eagle is one of the most popular coin series in the world. In fact, more than half a billion have been struck in a number of different finishes since it was introduced in 1986.

The majority of silver Eagles are bullion issues released in tubes. However, the United States Mint also sells proof versions directly to collectors. Because of the special way in which these latter coins are produced and handled, they usually sell for a premium. In 2000 the Philadelphia Mint struck 600,000 proof silver Eagles in what was the last year before production of such pieces moved to the West Point facility. The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) Price Guide lists a Proof (PF)-69 Ultra Cameo at $60 and a PF-70 Ultra Cameo at $300 — both much higher than the approximately $17 worth of silver that comprises each example.

Counterfeit 2000-P Proof Silver Eagle.
Click images to enlarge.

Recently, a purported 2000-P proof silver Eagle was submitted to NGC for certification. Unfortunately for the collector who sent this peculiar-looking piece, it is not genuine. While the counterfeit might fool a novice or someone simply who is not looking closely, a careful inspection reveals just how much this coin is a caricature of a real specimen.

The details are fuzzy, and the crosshatched pattern on the flag is completely missing, as are many details on Liberty’s body. Similarly, the reverse is a poor imitation of the original. The feathers and leaves are crudely detailed, and the die-polishing is sloppy as well. This is readily apparent in the area beneath the eagle’s beak, which is supposed to be mirrored but is instead frosted. Lastly, designer John Mercanti’s initials below the arrows are much larger than they should be.

Counterfeit 2000-P Proof Silver Eagle (left) and genuine, (right)

In addition to the poor workmanship evidenced by the dies, the coin only weighs 30.6g and has a diameter of 39.9mm. Genuine silver Eagles are 31.1g and 40.6mm in diameter. Lastly, a metallurgical analysis using X-ray fluorescent technology revealed that this fake is not even composed primarily of silver. It is struck in 83-percent copper, 12-percent zinc, 3-percent nickel and only 1-percent silver.

Many collectors think that counterfeiters only target high-value vintage pieces like 1877 Indian Head cents or 1893-S Morgan dollars. While such pieces are more regularly counterfeited, it is important to be consistently vigilant, as forgers are starting to create more common and less valuable issues. As always, coins graded and encapsulated by NGC are guaranteed to be genuine.

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


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