US Coins

Fake 1916-S Walking Liberty half dollar error: Fahey

Detecting Counterfeits column for June 13, 2016, weekly issue of Coin World:

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.

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