US Coins

Specialists confirm fake 1872-S Seated half dollar

Numismatist John Frost and Seated Liberty half dollar specialists Dick Osburn and Bill Bugert have confirmed what they call an extremely deceptive counterfeit 1872-S Seated Liberty half dollar, two examples of which the trio said had been certified by a third-party grading service.

Complete details about the discovery and investigation into the existence of the counterfeits are to be published in the March issue of the Gobrecht Journal, the printed periodical of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club.

Although examples were first identified in 2015, confirmation that the pieces are counterfeits wasn’t made until the Dec. 1 to 3, 2016, Houston Money Show, according to a notice sent to subscribers of the E-Gobrecht, the LSCC electronic newsletter.

Single examples of the fakes were sold on eBay in August and October of 2015, and in March and August of 2016, before what might be a fifth example surfaced. There is a possibility the fifth piece is actually the same piece as the second or third piece offered on eBay between 2015 and 2016.

Frost told Coin World that the two certified examples were grad­ed by Professional Coin Grading Service, one as About Uncirculated 53 and the other as AU-55.

The March Gobrecht Journal article will contain more extensive details, according to the trio.

Key diagnostics include:

??High and very small S Mint mark (this size/style Mint mark does not appear until later, in 1875).

??Die gouge next to the first T in TRUST.

“Both pick-up points are perfectly legitimate on some 1875-S coins, but not on the 1872-S,” according to Frost, Osburn and Bugert.

A presentation on the counter­feit half dollar was given as part of the LSCC’s Jan. 6 meeting at the Florida United Numismatists convention in Fort Lauderdale.

During the meeting, researchers indicated the counterfeiters used the obverse of a genuine Philadelphia Mint-struck 1872 half dollar to fabricate the counterfeit obverse die. The reverse die was created employing a reverse from an 1875-S Seated Liberty half dollar. Counterfeiters often use genuine coins in making counterfeit dies, but unless they use the same coin in making copy dies of both sides, mismatched combinations can result, as with the counterfeit 1872 coin. Numismatists have identified known genuine pairings of obverse and reverse dies by studying their distinctive characteristics as seen on the coins they struck. The pairing of known dies from two different Mints and two different dates were one of the apparent tip-offs that the coins were fake.

Frost said that PCGS officials were notified and are now aware of the counterfeits, including the AU-53 and AU-55 examples the grading service graded and encapsulated as genuine. The PCGS AU-53 piece was removed from its encapsulation and the owner of the piece compensated. The piece had been sold for $705 in Heritage Auctions' August 2016 Summer FUN sale.

The authors ask collectors and dealers who see additional examples to contact them, at

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