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Counterfeit Coin Detection – Fake $5 Indian Half Eagle with “Stock Reverse”

Counterfeit 1915-S $5 Indian Gold Half Eagle / stock reverse

By Max SpiegelNumismatic Guaranty Corporation ……

NGC receives countless fakes struck from stock dies.

Many counterfeit coins, especially gold coins, were struck from stock dies, which were reused on multiple issues. A counterfeiter saved time and money by using one die, such as the reverse, over and over while swapping out the obverse to change the date.

The edge was also frequently struck from a stock die and many counterfeits can be identified solely from the repeating issues seen on this often-overlooked “third side.” Researchers have already identified a number of stock dies and more continue to be found.

NGC receives countless fakes struck from stock dies, and one of the most commonly seen is a reverse used on Indian Head half eagles. The most obvious problem with this reverse die is the wrong mintmark: the S should have bulbous and square-shaped serifs, but on these fakes, the top and bottom of the S are elongated with indistinct serifs.

Fakes are often purposely abraded or cleaned to disguise the fact that it is counterfeit, so some of the other minor characteristics of this reverse may not be visible on all specimens.

The mintmark, however, is a dead giveaway, and collectors should try to familiarize themselves with the style of mintmarks on genuine coins. Auction records, specialist books, and the Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties are particularly useful for mintmark studies.


Indian Head half eagles (as well as their quarter eagle counterparts) are among the most difficult coins to distinguish genuine specimens and counterfeits. Nonetheless, when a number of coins exhibit the same flaws the task is made much easier. Armed with some basic knowledge about stock dies and mintmark styles a collector can avoid some of these frequently encountered fakes

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Numismatic Guaranty Company
Numismatic Guaranty Company
NGC was founded in 1987, and for coin grading, its opening heralded the introduction of a new standard of integrity. From the beginning NGC focused on only one objective, a standard of consistent and accurate grading. As NGC has grown to become the leader in third-party grading services, we have maintained a steadfast and uncompromising commitment to this standard. The knowledge, integrity and dedication of NGC's team of grading experts ensures you a level of grading consistency unparalleled among grading services. This record of consistency, built over the years, has helped to foster greater stability throughout the rare coin marketplace.

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