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NGC Counterfeit Detection: 1873 Half Dollar

Don’t be fooled by this coin, which bears a lot of obvious red flags


By Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) ……

A few weight changes occurred during the Seated Liberty half dollar series (1839-91). At the outset in 1839, the half dollars were struck on planchets that weighed 13.36g. This weight was decreased to 12.44g in 1853 and finally increased slightly to 12.5g in 1873, where it remained until 1964. The first change was prompted by the California Gold Rush, which made it profitable to melt silver coins, while the second change was done to create a round metric number in hopes of making the half dollar more friendly to international markets. Both transitions in weight were marked by arrows placed around the date.

The 1873 “Arrows at Date” half dollar isn’t a key date in the Seated Liberty series. In fact, it’s considerably less rare and valuable than 1873 “Arrows at Date” half dollars struck at Carson City and San Francisco. However, it can still sell for several hundred dollars in About Uncirculated condition. Earlier this year, Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) received a purported example of the 1873 “Arrows at Date” half dollar.

A genuine 1873 Seated Liberty Half Dollar (top) and a counterfeit (bottom).
A genuine 1873 Seated Liberty Half Dollar (top) and a counterfeit (bottom).

NGC was quickly able to identify this poor-quality counterfeit half with its numerous red flags, all of which collectors should look for when purchasing a coin. To start, be sure to weigh the piece. This half dollar is a scrawny 11.8g, well outside mint tolerances. Another helpful diagnostic is to examine the date, which is misshapen on this counterfeit. Notice the top-right of the “7” and the middle of the “8.” Crude counterfeits often have trouble replicating the elegance of a genuine piece.

The date on the counterfeit (bottom) is misshapen, particularly on the numerals "8" and "7."
The date on the counterfeit (bottom) is misshapen, particularly on the numerals “8” and “7.”

An examination of the rest of the coin reveals plenty of other problems. This fake is peppered with lumps in the field, and certain devices (such as the world HALF on the reverse) appear extremely porous. Fine details, such as the eagle’s tailfeathers, are missing, and the denticles at the rim appear weak and shallow.

A porous texture is visible on many of the devices, as seen on the reverse.

Finally, some odd discoloration is visible on the counterfeit half dollar that would not occur on a genuine silver coin. This particular fake contains mostly copper and zinc. The lower density of these two metals explains the half dollar’s low weight and the tarnish.

NGC has graded more than 1.8 million half dollars (including more than 30,000 from the Seated Liberty series) and backs its determinations of authenticity and grade with the NGC Guarantee.

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Numismatic Guaranty Company
Numismatic Guaranty Companyhttps://www.ngccoin.com/
NGC was founded in 1987 and has become one of the largest third-party grading services. Their parent company is the Certified Collectibles Group (CCG).

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