Graders at ANACS have identified what could be a deceptive struck counterfeit 1934 Peace dollar produced on blanks of 90 percent silver like those used for genuine coins.
Senior ANACS Numismatist Michael Fahey said Sept. 11 that the fake has the weight (26.73 grams), diameter (38.1 millimeters) and thickness of a genuine Peace dollar, and also has the specific gravity of 10.3 that would suggest the piece is composed of the 90 percent silver alloy used for a genuine silver dollar. The counterfeit also as the same edge reed count as a genuine Peace dollar.
Fahey said ANACS could find no indication that the fake was struck on a previously struck silver dollar.
Fahey said the ANACS grading staff believes the obverse, reverse and collar dies were fabricated via a transfer process.
“All of the fine details on the coin are accurate, indicating that it is the product of transfer dies, where a genuine coin is used to transfer details to a set of fake dies,” according to Fahey.
Fahey said the transfer process captures the fine details from the coin that will transfer to the dies and later be used as diagnostic points on any pieces struck from the transfer dies. However, specialists do not agree on details of the transfer process.
“Some numismatists feel that when a mold is taken from the genuine coin, that mold eventually becomes the die,” Fahey said. “The idea is that a type of resin or ceramic is used to make the mold, and is then hardened to die strength.
“Others think that a second transfer process is used, where all the details of the genuine coin are transferred from the mold to a metal die.
“The important part of the process, from [ANACS’s] viewpoint, is that when you use a genuine coin to make fake dies, all of the marks and defects on the coin end up as repeating depressions on the resulting fakes. When a counterfeiter tries to correct these problems on a fake die, they end up leaving tool marks that are often even easier for us to pick up.
“As long as they avoid polishing their dies the same way the U.S. Mint does, and as long as they do not have access to the presses and other striking technology used at the Mint, they will always leave diagnostics on their fakes. Getting the luster right still seems to be a major problem with counterfeiters,” Fahey said.
Details raised on a die are recessed on the struck piece, while recessed details on a die appear raised on the struck piece.
“The accuracy and precision of the transfer die process for this coin is excellent. It would be easy for virtually any collector or dealer to miss this fake, if they just took a cursory look at it, assuming that the odd luster is just the result of dipping,” Fahey said.
The piece examined by ANACS also shows evidence of tooling by the counterfeiter to conceal his work, Fahey said.
“In addition to the tooling, there is a multitude of die polish lines in the fields, indicating that the counterfeiter took the time to carefully polish his dies,” Fahey said.
Fahey said a side-by-side, 360-degree rotation examination of the fake and a genuine Peace dollar showed no difference in the number of reeds or in the spacing between reeds on the fake.
While the mintage for the genuine 1934 Peace dollar is 954,057 coins — the second lowest circulation strike mintage for the series — the issue is considered by experts to be a relatively common date for availability.
So why would anyone want to counterfeit it?
Fahey said with the deceptive fake could trade for $100 to $150 — multiples of the intrinsic value of the silver in a Peace dollar, which, with 0.77344 troy ounce of pure silver, is worth between $25 and $26 at current levels — if in Uncirculated condition and overlooked as a counterfeit.
Fahey said the counterfeit 1934 Peace dollar was discovered by ANACS authenticator/grader Kat Oviatt while grading a recent submission of a box of U.S. coins.
Oviatt first noticed the 1934-dated piece exhibited an unusual “sheen” when rotated under lighting, Fahey said.
Under magnification, the piece revealed a number of odd markings on the coin, including a raised oval inside the O of GOD, tool marks in the field below WE, and a set of three reed marks that did not look like normal contact marks, Fahey said.
According to Fahey, reed marks are contact marks caused by the edge reeding from one coin hitting the surface of another coin, leaving a mark that mirrors the reeding.
Upon closer inspection of reed marks in the field to the left of Liberty’s forehead, ANACS graders pinpointed fine die polish lines running uninterrupted through the reed marks.
“Since contact marks like these occur on a coin after the strike, and all genuine die polish lines end up on dies before the coin is struck, this combination is impossible on a genuine coin,” Fahey said. “The closer we looked, the more oddities we located.”
Fahey said he, fellow ANACS senior numismatist J.P. Martin, and John Roberts, ANACS director of attribution services and a Morgan and Peace dollar specialist, concurred with the assessment that the purported 1934 Peace dollar was indeed counterfeit.
The following is a detailed list of diagnostic points compiled by the members of the ANACS grading staff who examined the counterfeit to help better identify it and other possible examples:
➤ Reed mark depressions in the left obverse field and on Liberty’s eyebrow.
➤ A depression below Liberty’s eye and another on her nose.
➤ Oval tooling inside the O of GOD.
➤ A series of tiny depressions in a line between the W of WE and the 1 in the date.
➤ A series of tool marks between the 9 in the date and we
➤ Tool marks in the field between the R and the T of LIBERTY.
➤ A small crescent depression in the hair, and two depressions in the field below TRUST.
➤ A series of curved tool marks running parallel below E PLURIBUS UNUM, not crossing the eagle’s neck.
➤ A small depression at the top of the R in PLURIBUS.
“We really need to see another example of this fake to positively ID all of the repeating depressions, but from surface texture and die polish evidence, we are as close to certain as we can be [that it’s counterfeit],” Fahey said.