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NGC Counterfeit Detection: 2002 American Silver Eagle

A counterfeiter hoped that this computer-generated fake would fly under the radar

 

By Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) ……
The American Silver Eagle is the flagship silver bullion coin of the United States. Its obverse features Adolph A. Weinman’s renowned Walking Liberty design used on the half dollar from 1917 to 1947. From its inception in 1986 until a design change in mid-2021, the Silver Eagle featured on its reverse a heraldic eagle motif created by esteemed sculptor and former United States Mint Chief Engraver John Mercanti.

2002 American Silver Eagle. Image: NGC.
A genuine 2002 silver American Eagle. Image: NGC.
Counterfeit 2002 American Silver Eagle. Image: NGC.
Counterfeit 2002 American Silver Eagle. Image: NGC.

Recently, Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) received a submission of a purported 2002 American Silver Eagle. This particular coin’s problems begin with its size. It is much thicker than expected because it was struck on a planchet made mostly of nickel and copper instead of silver, which has a much higher density. This was clever on the counterfeiter’s part, as the Silver Eagle is more likely to be weighed than subjected to metallurgical testing or have its thickness measured.

Take a close look at Liberty's arm on the counterfeit (right). It's clear that this coin lacks the quality of an original.
Take a close look at Liberty’s arm on the counterfeit (right). It’s clear that this coin lacks the quality of an original.

The coin also has very poor details that are especially evident upon close inspection. Look at Liberty’s outstretched hand on the obverse (above) or the letters in E PLURIBUS UNUM on the reverse (below).

The letters E PLURIBIS UNUM are poorly detailed on the reverse of the counterfeit (bottom) in comparison to the genuine coin (top).
The letters E PLURIBIS UNUM are poorly detailed on the reverse of the counterfeit (bottom) in comparison to the genuine coin (top).

The dies for this fake were probably created using a computer numerical control (CNC) machine, which is essentially a computer-controlled lathe. This process left behind some telling marks, such as lines throughout the design that are particularly visible within the shafts of the arrows on the reverse.

With 10.5 million struck, 2002 Silver Eagles are easy to acquire, and genuine Mint State 69 examples sell for well under $100 USD, so why would a counterfeiter target this coin? For one, there is still plenty of room for profit, as the fake is struck in metals that are much less expensive than silver. In addition, the forger might have seen this coin’s commonality as an asset because some collectors might be tempted to skip third-party certification or only give it a cursory glance.

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Interested in reading more articles on Counterfeit Detection? Click here.
 

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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