A few of my previous columns discussed the improving quality of
counterfeits coming from Asia.
The fake 1795 Flowing Hair silver dollar shown here is a good
example of this trend. At first glance, it is a perfectly
acceptable-looking early dollar in circulated condition. The surfaces
and color of the coin look like a typical cleaned example, which is
not unusual for early U.S. silver coins.
This fake is an accurate reproduction of the Bowers-Borckhardt 27
variety (Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States,
A Complete Encyclopedia by Q. David Bowers, with Mark
Borckardt), one of the most common die varieties for this design.
Interestingly, the easiest marker for this die pair, a die scratch
in the left obverse field between the top hair curl tip and the star
at 9 o’clock, has vanished on the counterfeit. While this marker may
have accidentally disappeared during the transfer process, it is also
possible that the counterfeiter intentionally removed it from the fake
die, thinking it was a defect.
Using magnification, the finer details remaining on the fake are a
little fuzzy. However, the easiest diagnostic for detecting this
counterfeit is the edge of the coin. On a genuine Flowing Hair dollar,
the edge is lettered HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT, with ornaments
between the words. On the fake, the word HUNDRED is spaced as if it
were two words, HUND RED. This same edge collar was also used on other
early dollar fakes, including 1795, 1796 and 1797 Draped Bust dollar counterfeits.
One last diagnostic to keep an eye on is the contradiction in
condition between the coin’s surfaces and its edge. While the coin
appears to be well circulated, the edge lettering looks like it
belongs on a coin that grades About Uncirculated or higher. With any
suspicious coin, you should always check for abnormalities like this.
We must assume that the improvements with these counterfeits will
continue. With the fake shown here, the counterfeiter has accurately
reproduced the design, the weight, the metal content and the basic
look of a genuine coin.
Once counterfeiters realize that these counterfeits can be
detected with a quick glance at the edge of the coin, they should
begin to make the necessary corrections, and our job gets a little bit harder.
Michael Fahey is a senior numismatist at ANACS in Denver, Colo.