HomeUS CoinsFrom the Dark Corner: An Authenticated Counterfeit 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar

From the Dark Corner: An Authenticated Counterfeit 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar

By Jack D. Young and the Dark Side Group ……
 

While my previous Dark Corner CoinWeek article featured a contemporary counterfeit Buffalo Nickel, this review features an example from another classic series – a 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar.

“Contemporary counterfeits” are a subset of the hobby, with the focus on fakes made in the period they circulated to pass as genuine in normal commerce. These are avidly collected and cataloged by various collectors and experts, with some worth considerably more than “face value”.

As I mention in the Buffalo article, my main go-to for information on contemporaries is my friend Winston Zack and his book Bad Metal. He is the one who brought my attention to the “authenticated” Walker.

As in all my previous Dark Corner articles, I will start with the certified genuine example as listed on eBay.

Screenshot of an eBay listing for a counterfeit 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar.
Screenshot of an eBay listing for a counterfeit 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar.
Obverse and reverse of a counterfeit 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar. Image: eBay.
Obverse and reverse of a counterfeit 1921 Walking Liberty Half Dollar. Image: eBay.

The same Third-Party Grader (TPG) certified this one genuine as the buff, so what’s going on? In my humble opinion, ATTRIBUTION, ATTRIBUTION, ATTRIBUTION (as I regularly say)… or lack thereof. Winston offered up his attribution images (from another example in his collection) and I added a genuine example as a reference.

Subject type example (left), genuine similar grade example (right)
Subject type example (left), genuine similar grade example (right).

Winston refers to this specimen as the “Fat Motto family”, for rather obvious reasons. And on the reverse, he notes that “the pine stem ends under the middle of B in PLURIBUS whereas on the genuine the pine stem ends on the right side of the B.”

Subject type example (left), genuine similar grade example (right).
Subject type example (left), genuine similar grade example (right).

He stated that he has “studied 10 examples. The average weight is 11.5 grams, planchet diameter is 30.55 to 30.6 mm, and planchet thickness is 1.7 mm. These are silver planchets – not sure of exact fineness, but it was high and potentially sterling silver”.

Here’s an obverse image comparison for reference:

Subject example (left), genuine similar grade example (right).
Subject example (left), genuine similar grade example (right).

Winston also added these images of another known example, and if I had reviewed the offerings on his website, I would have seen one!

Image from Winston Zack’s website
Image from Winston Zack’s website.

I missed the opportunity for this one, but after discussions for this article he found another example in his collection!

And my Dark Side collection example:

Author’s example. Image: Winston Zack / CoinWeek.
Author’s example. Image: Winston Zack / CoinWeek.

One thing I noticed between my new example and the subject certified one are the various “pock marks” on both reverses. More investigation is required.

Subject example (left), author’s example (right)
Subject example (left), author’s example (right).

And, as there often is in my Fun with Fakes articles, this one has a twist!

“1917” example; image courtesy Winston Zack
“1917” example; image courtesy Winston Zack.

This 1917-dated “fat motto” example shares the same reverse as the subject 1921.

Subject example (left), “1917” example (right)
Subject example (left), “1917” example (right).

Thanks again to Winston and all who helped with this research article; it was, as always, a team effort. And to my wife Laura, who has put up with me for 44 years this week!

And on a final note, we encourage collectors to be on the lookout for other examples of these 1917- and 1921-dated Walking Liberty Half Dollar counterfeit varieties – and there may be others with different dates that are related to this counterfeiter which have not yet been reported.

Best, as Always,

Jack


MORE Articles on Counterfeit Coins by Jack D. Young

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Jack D. Young
Jack D. Young
An engineer by training, Jack D. Young is a researcher and author on the subject of the recent wave of deceptive struck counterfeits. He is the founder of the "Dark Side" Counterfeits and Fakes Facebook watch group, a participating member of Early American Coppers (EAC) since 2002, the Liberty Seated Collectors Club (LSCC), C4, the NLG, the ANA, and the ANS. Jack has consulted on the subject of counterfeits and their effect on the Hobby with staffers of the United States Senate Finance Committee, a senior member of the U.S. Secret Service (both with the ACTF as an Expert Network volunteer), and agents of both CBP and the Department of the Treasury. His work has appeared in various club journals, including The Numismatist, and he was acknowledged for his research by Q. David Bowers in the latter's The Copper Coins of Vermont (2018). The ACTF awarded Jack Young the Alan Kreuzer Award in 2019 and the PNG presented him with the Sol Kaplan Award in 2022. He started collecting as a youth, filling a Lincoln penny board with his grandmother, and continues to collect low-grade early large cents by date and some varieties.

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