This month’s counterfeit is an 1811 Capped Bust half dollar that
has the surface texture and overall appearance typical of a die-struck
fake from China. It is a reasonably deceptive counterfeit, but on
close examination enough diagnostics exist on the coin for the average
collector to spot it.
The weight of the coin is accurate, 13.35 grams — a genuine Capped
Bust half dollar weighs 13.48 grams when first struck. The loss of a
tenth of a gram due to light circulation is normal.
The surfaces of the fake are rough and bumpy, and the color is
very bright, but many genuine half dollars that suffer from corrosion
and a subsequent abrasive cleaning will have a similar look.
On the reverse of this fake, notice the extra metal filling the
tops of the 5 and the 0 in 50 C. Also, an odd-looking pit appears on
the rim at the 4 o’clock position. Additionally, the edge lettering is
too sharp, and the spacing between words on the edge is incorrect when
compared to a genuine coin.
Unfortunately, many coin holders do not allow for a good
inspection of the edge, and it is not always feasible to remove a coin
from its holder at a show.
Half dollar variety specialists will have an easier time with this
fake. The spacing of the date digits does not match up with any
genuine 1811 half dollar, and the reverse of the coin, with repunching
at the bottom of the U in UNITED, is from an 1809 half dollar,
Overton’s Reverse A from Early Half Dollar Varieties: 1794-1836 by Al
C. Overton and Donald Parsley. While we were not able to identify the
original obverse that was used, our best guess is that it was from the
1820s, judging from the style of Liberty’s face and hair.
This “mix and match” style of counterfeiting is commonly seen on
Chinese fakes. It appears that fake dies were produced from two
different coins, and the date was altered to 1811 on the fake obverse
die. I’m not sure why, since 1811 is a common date — perhaps this is
an economical way to produce an entire date set of fake Capped Bust
half dollars. Be on guard with your purchases.
Michael Fahey is a senior numismatist at ANACS in Denver, Colo.