Counterfeit Detection: 1888-A Prussian 10 Marks

Posted on 7/26/2020

A poorly detailed gold counterfeit replicates a coin that never existed.

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation®

In 1888 the Berlin Mint (represented by an “A” mintmark) struck 189,125 gold 10-mark coins that feature the profile of Emperor Wilhelm I. Following his death on April 9, 1888, Frederick III ascended the throne and was depicted on an additional 876,224 pieces. He served for a mere 99 days, dying on June 15, 1888. Frederick was succeeded by his son, Wilhelm II, but no 10-mark specimens were struck in 1888 bearing his portrait.

As such, the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) grading team was intrigued to see one in a recent submission. It is, of course, counterfeit. Clearly, the forger did not have a strong understanding of history, particularly regarding the emperors that appeared on the country’s 19th-century gold coinage. Surprisingly, the coin is struck on a gold planchet of the correct weight and fineness. However, its execution leaves much to be desired.

Counterfeit 1888A Prussia 10 Mark

As you can see from the photographs here, a genuine gold specimen of another date has far more detail than the 1888 fake. On the reverse of an authentic Prussian coin, the coat of arms on the breast of the smaller eagle shows four distinct quadrants, while that on the counterfeit is empty. Additionally, the overall design of the fake is noticeably soft.

The reverse of the counterfeit (left) differs greatly from genuine Prussian gold (right). Note the sparce details and crude lettering on the fake.

The legends on the counterfeit’s obverse appear to have been punched or crudely hand-engraved directly into the die. Whereas the letters on a genuine coin are uniform in composition, those on the fake are haphazard and merely approximate the shape of the letters and numerals.

Regrettably, the owner purchased a fake, but, given its valuable gold content, he should be able to recoup a significant portion of his investment. Had the collector looked just a little closer at the 1888-A 10 marks under low magnification or checked NGC’s World Coin Price Guide, he would have seen that it not only is poorly made, but also should not even exist. If you are unsure of your authentication skills, remember that coins purchased in NGC holders are guaranteed to be authentic.

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

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