Counterfeit 1911-D Quarter Eagle
by Max Spiegel, NGC Numismatic Researcher
The 1911-D is the key Indian Head quarter eagle. Read about two unusual alterations and how NGC experts discovered these two type of counterfeits.
There are a number of methods used by counterfeiters to add a mintmark to a coin, but probably the crudest is called “chasing.” Rather than take a mintmark from one coin and glue, solder or emboss it to another, the counterfeiter will use a metal tool to sculpt a mintmark out of the coin’s surface. As a result, there will be prominent tool marks in the field nearby and the mintmark will usually be malformed. This method is most frequently used to alter digits in a date, such as an 8 to a 3, and it is rather unusual to see a chased mintmark.
The 1911-D is the key Indian Head quarter eagle with a mintage of just 55,680 pieces, by far the lowest in the series. According to the NGC US Coin Price Guide, even in circulated grades the 1911-D is worth thousands of dollars. The Philadelphia Mint 1911 quarter eagle, on the other hand, is one of the most common dates in the series, and boasts a mintage of more than 700,000 coins. By adding a mintmark to the common P-mint issue, the counterfeiter could realize a huge profit.
When you encounter a rare or better date coin, however, you should always look closely, especially at the date and mintmark. On this piece, the added D mintmark stands out like a sore thumb. The mintmark is too thick and the serifs are incorrectly sized. Many genuine 1911-D quarter eagles have a weakly defined mintmark that blends into the field, so the softly detailed D on this specimen is not necessarily diagnostic, but taken with the other flaws this serves as additional evidence. Examined under a loupe it becomes obvious that the mintmark was carved out of the surrounding field. Although this is not an alteration that collectors will often see, it is always good to be vigilant for new or different types of deception.
We received another altered 1911-D Quarter Eagle after last month's NGC eNewsletter was sent out . This piece, on the other hand, is an altered date. Both fakes began as legitimate Indian Head quarter eagles: the chased mintmark was a Philadelphia 1911, while the altered date was a 1914-D.
Alterations can be particularly deceptive because they began as legitimate pieces and, for the most part, have the same look and feel of an authentic coin. The chased mintmark was originally a Philadelphia Mint 1911, while the altered date was a 1914-D. This altered date is interesting and highly unusual because the entire date was effaced and then carved into the surface. There are a number of hairline scratches visible in the fields from the counterfeiter taking a filing tool to the coin. The intent was to remove the date, but in the process some of the other details, including the designer’s initials and the headdress feathers, were weakened.
Although the alteration was fairly well done, if you compare this piece to a legitimate 1911-D you will notice that all of the digits are a little off. A genuine 1911-D should have the final two 1’s in the date virtually parallel, and they should be the exact same size. On this altered date, each of the three 1’s has a different size and shape, and the final digit is slanted to the right.
After close study it was clear that this piece was originally a 1914-D. A lazy counterfeiter would have simply removed part of the 4 to form a 1, but this would have left a significant gap between the second and third 1’s. By carefully carving the entire date, the counterfeiter could come much closer to the correct spacing. This, however, caused significant scratches across the obverse.
This coin has other problems, including damage on the obverse and reverse, which the counterfeiter probably hoped would take the focus away from the altered date. (For more on this subject, see “Look Here, Not There” in the November 2011 issue of the ANA's The Numismatist.) Nonetheless, even a damaged 1911-D quarter eagle would be worth hundreds of dollars. Collectors should always look closely at the date and mintmark on key date coins and, if there is any doubt, compare to an authentic example.