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Counterfeit Detection: Take a Look at Whizzed Coins

Whizzed Indian head cent

Whizzed Indian Head Cent

A deceptive surface alteration leaves a genuine coin that can appear more valuable than it actually is

Among the more common surface alterations that NGC graders see in submissions from collectors and dealers alike are coins that have been whizzed. These are genuine coins but they get an NGC Details grade for the altered surface. Collectors should be aware such whizzing negatively affects the value of the coins.

These coins are mechanically processed using a rotating metal brush in order to impart a false luster onto the coin. When done well, the coins can be quite deceptive if you are unsure what to look for.

At first glance, the photos above seem like a pretty normal 1880 Indian Cent, albeit one with very odd luster. Also interesting is the weird shadowing of the letters on the reverse, as well as the difference in the color inside of the wreath. Additionally, a closer inspection reveals very odd surfaces.

Close-up of whizzed 1880 Indian Head Cent

In the detailed photo above, note the odd texture of the surfaces of the coin. They have a very strange dimpled appearance. This is a result of a heavy whizzing that literally melted the surfaces of this coin. When the surfaces cooled, they had this look.

However, this feature is usually only seen on the most heavily whizzed coin. On the other hand, a feature that can usually be found on any whizzed coin is a ridge of moved metal on one edge of the devices, especially the letters.

Close-up of whizzed 1880 Indian Head Cent

In the photo above, note the raised ridges as pointed out by the arrows. On almost every surface perpendicular to the direction of the metal brush (in this case, from the bottom toward the top), there is a very clear ridge of metal.

Here is another coin that was also whizzed. In this case, it’s a 1901 Barber Dime. While it is hard to see in the photo, this one actually has better artificial luster, as the coin was whizzed in a more circular motion, rather than the south-to-north whizzing on the Indian Head cent. However, it still has those tell-tale ridges, and the luster almost has the look of a hurricane when the coin is rotated, rather than the normal straight bands.

Whizzed 1901 Barber Dime

As you can see from the photos above, the actual surfaces of this coin do not appear to be as negatively impacted as those on the Indian Head cent. In reality, the entire surface of the coin has been destroyed to impart the false luster onto the coin, just as they were on the Indian. The person performing this alteration was much more skilled.

Whizzed coins can be very difficult to detect. However, if you know what the normal luster of an uncirculated coin of the type should look like, whizzed coins will stick out like a sore thumb. Additionally, make sure that you always inspect the amount of detail on a coin and compare that to its luster. The Barber dime, for example, has much less detail than you would expect on a coin that appears to be uncirculated due to the whizzing.

As always, coins numerically graded by NGC are guaranteed not only for authenticity but also not to have altered surfaces.

Did you know? NGC has created a comprehensive Counterfeit Detection resource to help collectors and dealers identify counterfeit and altered coins. Visit NGCcoin.com/counterfeit.


Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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