Detecting Counterfeits column for June 13, 2016, weekly issue of
While major errors are commonly encountered with modern U.S. coins,
they are virtually nonexistent with design types like the Standing
Liberty quarter dollar or the Walking Liberty half dollar. If genuine,
the double-struck 1916-S half dollar shown here would be worth many
thousands of dollars. Sadly, it is another example of the type of
counterfeit being produced by the counterfeit factories in China.
Making the “fake” determination is not all that difficult, once you
take a close look at this counterfeit. The design details are rough
and ragged, with some raised lumps around the STA in STATES. The
digits in the date have been hand-cut into the fake die, and the S
Mint mark is the wrong style for a 1916-S Walking Liberty half dollar.
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Hand-cut dates and Mint marks are commonly seen on fake coins coming
out of China. It allows the counterfeiter to use a common date genuine
example as a model coin. Once all the main designs are transferred
over to the fake dies, the date and Mint mark can be altered on the
counterfeit die, saving the expense of acquiring an expensive date in
Mint State condition.
Another diagnostic is the shape of the coin. A genuine double-struck
error should be much more distorted around the area of the second
strike, since the off-center strike would be out-of-collar. This fake
is nearly round, which is a red flag for any similar error coin. If
you take a look at images of genuine double-struck errors online, you
will see that the second strike usually forces metal outwards.
The counterfeiters did match the weight and composition of a genuine
coin when they produced this fake, something that they do not always
accomplish. We did not perform any type of in-depth surface analysis
on this fake, since the visual diagnostics are completely convincing.
I am certain, however, that specialized testing would reveal the
source of the silver as modern — definitely not from mines in the
Western United States in the early 1900s. These counterfeiters are not
advanced enough to make blanks for their fakes from genuine coins,
which would be the way to defeat advanced analysis techniques.