There are numerous design flaws noted on this fake that reveal it is a poor imitation of one of the United States’ most beautiful coins
The obverse of the modern American Silver Eagle bullion coin features the magnificent Adolph A. Weinman design from the Walking Liberty Half Dollar of a century ago. It shows Lady Liberty walking toward the rising sun while clad in the American flag and carrying oak and laurel leaves. NGC has graded more than 14 million Silver Eagles, more than any other coin.
Recently, NGC received a Silver Eagle that had numerous problems, and it offers an excellent opportunity to review what to look for when evaluating the authenticity of these coins.
First, weigh your coin. In this case, the counterfeit Silver Eagle in question weighs 31.54 grams – about 1.4% higher than the expected 31.103 grams. That’s not enough to condemn it as a fake, but it should raise an eyebrow, given that they are struck in .999 silver.
Speaking of silver, a metallurgical analysis by NGC determined this coin is 65% copper, 21% zinc and 13.5% nickel… and less than 0.5% silver. While the average collector doesn’t have access to this equipment, you can still look at the edge (sometimes referred to as the third side of the coin) for a clue about its metal content. In this case, the coin is much too thick, as would be expected from a planchet that is mostly copper, zinc and nickel, which are all less dense than silver. If this coin had had the correct thickness with these metals, its weight would be so low that a test with a scale would have easily determined it to be fake.
The edge of this coin also holds another clue about its authenticity. The United States Mint recently moved the security notch to three o’clock, and this coin has the notch in the correct place. But there are too few reeds on the edge: only 149, which is dozens fewer than a genuine example would have.
Overall, the whole coin is dark and flat; it just doesn’t have the proper luster. It looks almost like an old milk-spotted Silver Eagle that has been heavily “dipped” in a solution in an attempt to make it more visually appealing. But even ignoring everything else up to this point, a close examination of the coin’s design definitively determines that it is a poor imitation.
You could play a long game of “spot the differences” with the deviations in the design on the fake. On the obverse, the fake has:
- Cartoonish berries amid the oak and laurel leaves
- Much less detail in the leaves themselves
- Stars that seem to just be sitting on top of the flag rather than being a part of it
- Stars that are missing entirely (look to the right of Liberty’s head)
- A striped background behind the stars instead of a much more delicate crosshatch pattern
- Striations on Liberty’s chest (which are linked to the counterfeit die production)
The reverse of this counterfeit Silver Eagle also has issues, including a lack of detail in the feathers of the eagle, as well as striations on the letters, another byproduct from the creation of the false dies.
While this coin doesn’t look anything like it should close up, at arm’s length, it would likely fool many collectors.
* * *