Counterfeit Detection: 1908 Quarter Eagle

Posted on 5/10/2021

The problems with this low-quality fake start with a glaring error: The design is supposed to be incuse.

The Indian Head Quarter Eagle series that began in 1908 was born from President Theodore Roosevelt’s displeasure with the designs on US coinage at the turn of the century. The ensuing rebirth of America’s coinage was carried out by skilled sculptors such as Bela Lyon Pratt, who designed this series. His design was revolutionary not only for its artistic brilliance but also because it is incuse: The devices, including the Indian, eagle and the various letters and numbers, are sunken into the coin’s surface, rather than rising above it.

Genuine 1908 Quarter Eagle
Click images to enlarge

NGC recently received a counterfeit of this design that would’ve appalled both Pratt and Roosevelt for its poor quality. In fact, its creator was so careless that the counterfeit wasn’t even struck with an incuse design, which alone is enough to condemn this as a fake.

Counterfeit 1908 Quarter Eagle
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The dies were made from scratch, and don’t even come close to matching the original. Notice the fine detail within the feathers in the headdress on the original, a feature that is absent on the counterfeit. A closer look reveals horizontal lathe lines on the face and headdress of the Indian that were left over from the die-making process. These lines are likely the result of the use of a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine to carve the die steel rather than the work of a sculptor and a reduction lathe, as was often used by mints around the world at the time the genuine example was struck.

Close-up of obverse of genuine coin (left) and counterfeit
Click images to enlarge

This sloppiness continues on the reverse, where the eagle design varies considerably when compared to a genuine example, especially in the shape of the head. Additionally, note how different the motto text appears from the genuine coin.

Close-up of reverse of genuine coin (left) and counterfeit
Click images to enlarge

The counterfeit is also grossly underweight at 3.18 grams, considerably less than the expected 4.18 grams. That’s because the counterfeit is struck in a composition of 62% Copper and 38% Zinc, rather than what it should be: 90% Gold and 10% Copper.

Whether this was initially intended as a serious attempt to fool collectors can be left to speculation. However, the wider interest in vintage coins as an asset class today renews the importance of identifying counterfeits like this. NGC helps make the marketplace for coin collecting safer by backing its determinations of authenticity with the NGC Guarantee.

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

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