US Coins

Fake 1875-CC 20-cent coin: Detecting Counterfeits

During an average day at ANACS, I will inspect between 500 and 1,000 coins. Most of them are quick and easy, certainly not a challenge from either an authentication or attribution viewpoint. Then there are coins like the 1875-CC Seated Liberty 20-cent piece illustrated here.

The denomination is rarely counterfeited. We will run across a poorly-made fake of the rare 1876-CC piece every now and then, but for the most part we see only genuine examples of this date. 

The fake shown here is rather remarkable for the amount of detail that was transferred over from a genuine coin to a set of fake dies. The peripheral areas of this counterfeit exhibit crisp die cracks and sharp die flow lines, normally an indicator that the coin is genuine. Additionally, the weight, diameter, thickness, and composition are all accurate, and the overall appearance is that of a lightly cleaned genuine coin.

However, the finer details of the central devices on this fake are not as sharp as they would be on a genuine example, with a bit of mushiness on Liberty’s upper gown details, and on the eagle’s breast feathers. The 1875-CC 20-cent coin often comes with a slightly weak strike in the centers, but on the fake these areas are more fuzzy than weakly struck, similar to the appearance of a photocopy that was made from another photocopy.

As is often the case, the counterfeiters did not pay much attention to the edge of the fake.

Rather than the lightly beveled edge with metal flow lines that would be seen on a genuine coin, the fake has a sharp, squared-off edge with a reflective surface, similar to a modern Proof. (The 20-cent pieces have a plain edge, not a reeded edge like most silver coins from this time period.) 

The counterfeiters also had a problem with the field area below STATES on the reverse. This area is rough and bumpy, with a number of light depressions that have a different texture than typical contact marks. By itself, this field area is not a conclusive diagnostic, but when combined with the other defects on the coin, it forms a strong pattern.

You should be on your guard.

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