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1875 Quarter - The Verdict!

Here is the back story to the 1875 Seated quarter from the prior blog post.

I recently bought a small group of struck and cast counterfeit U.S. coins. The seller’s photo was zoomed out to show all the pieces I bought. In seeing the surface color of this piece and the X-chopmarks I didn’t really question it, and I assumed it was a previously undocumented transfer die similar to the other adjacent dated-pieces (e.g., 1876, 1878) in Bad Metal Silver. I was also excited that this piece was likely a previously undocumented die struck counterfeit – something I fully anticipated occurring given the scope of this book and quantity of pieces documented.

When this piece arrived, I examined the die details with my 14x loupe. What caught my immediate attention was the sharp die details on the coin, even in its fairly advanced level of wear. Such sharp die details are in large contrast with transfer die counterfeits which tend to have rounded die details and shallower strikes (sometimes considered ‘artificial wear’). This was my first red flag questioning whether my assumption that this was a period counterfeit was actually a period counterfeit or a deceptive genuine coin.

In my examination I ignored the surface color of the metal. I've been fooled a few times in thinking that because the color of the metal doesn't look right, I should just assume the coin is not genuine. However, most of the time the surface color will be an accurate indicator of the metal/alloy of the planchet, and therefore helpful in determining authenticity.

In weighing the piece, I got a weight of 5.87 grams. This is a 6% loss of weight relative to an uncirculated version of the same coin. That amount of weight loss is within the expected range relative to the level of wear exhibited on similar genuine coins of this type. In slight contrast, most of my 1876, 1878, 1878-S, 1888-S, and 1891 transfer die counterfeits struck on copper or brass planchets weigh between 5.2 and 5.7 grams with the exception of one which weights 6.3 grams. Thus, this was a second red flag questioning whether this piece was a counterfeit or potentially genuine.

The primary recommendation by blog post responders was for me to evaluate the specific gravity (SG) of this piece. SG for 90% silver is 10.31 and 100% copper is 8.96. I conducted 3 SG tests on this piece to account for potential variability or inaccuracy of testing as I do not do SG tests very much. The scale I have measures to 1/100th of a gram. My individual measurements included (1) 9.95; (2) 10.12; and (3) 10.67. Variability in the measurements was likely the* result of the absorbent string I used to hold the coin being suspended in the water, and thus that created some inconsistency overall relative to a non-porous type of string (e.g., fishing line) which I do not own. The average SG measure was 10.25, and this is an expected result for a 90% silver coin.

In conclusion, the SG measurement confirms this 1875 Seated quarter is genuine!

My hypothesis on how the coin came to look the way is does is as follows. The red/orange surface discoloration is possibly the result of iron oxidization/rust forming on the surface from some unknown, and reasonably prolonged environmental encounter. This likely occurred after the coin was in circulation for several years to wear down. After the discoloration, I’m guessing someone encountered this piece in circulation or elsewhere, was familiar with counterfeit Seated quarters, especially those struck on copper or brass planchets, reasonably assumed the color meant the piece was not genuine (like I have done before), and then put some chisel X-marks on the obverse and reverse to symbolize the piece was not genuine.

I appreciate all the participation that my prior past had, and I look forward to additional comments, posts, etc. from many of you in the future!

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