Paper Money

Detecting Counterfeits: Counterfeiter reuses edge collar

The B in LIBERTY, shown by arrow and in top photomicrograph on a 1924 “Stock Edge” counterfeit double eagle, has tooling marks angling down and left of the letter. On the coin’s edge, the center horizontal bar of the E has a raised line that curves upwards.

All images courtesy of ANACS; obverse and reverse images by Raymond Bruels III, photomicrographs by Brian Kent.

One of the better counterfeit Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagles is the “Stock Edge” fake. These counterfeits were commonly encountered in the 1980s. At the time, they managed to deceive hundreds of dealers and collectors.

Even though these fakes are technically excellent, with sharp details, accurate weight and gold content, and proper color and luster, they possess a diagnostic that makes authentication quick and easy.

Counterfeiters all seem to share one trait — they try to save money on production costs whenever they can. With the Stock Edge fakes, the counterfeiter used the same edge collar to produce all of his pieces, including counterfeit 1924, 1926 and 1927 Saint-Gaudens double eagles. Other dates have been reported with this fake edge collar, but these three are the most often seen.

To look for the diagnostic for this edge, find the E in E PLURIBUS UNUM on the lettered edge of the coin. You will need good lighting and a high quality magnifier, and you will most likely have to angle the coin under your light source to see this diagnostic.

The center horizontal bar of the E exhibits a raised line that curves upward.

The source of this raised line was most likely the slip of the counterfeiter’s hand while using a sharp engraving tool to strengthen or repair the E on the fake edge collar. If a Saint-Gaudens double eagle shows this raised line in this location, you can be confident that the coin is fake.

This specific counterfeit also exhibits a number of raised tool marks angling down from the left corner of the B in LIBERTY.

Most of the Stock Edge fakes have tool marks like these, somewhere on the coin.

Areas to check are the letters in LIBERTY, the rays above the date or below the eagle, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and around Liberty’s outstretched arm. However, always check the E first.

If there can be a bright side to a counterfeit, it is the current market for Saint-Gaudens double eagles.

Every Stock Edge fake ANACS has tested over the years contained the same amount of gold as a genuine coin.

Since the premium between the collector value of a common-date Saint-Gaudens double eagle and its gold content is very small, someone who ends up with a fake will not experience a major loss.

Michael Fahey is a senior numismatist at ANACS in Denver, Colo.

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