A Case Study in Deception

Posted: 5/10/2011

A holed and expertly plugged 1870-CC Half Eagle was recently submitted to NGC for grading. This extremely deceptive coin was of particular interest.

1870-CC Half Eagle Plugged
click image to enlarge

There are a number of ways that people alter a coin to either “improve” its appearance or fool a collector. These practices, such as whizzing or tooling, can be difficult to detect, even to a trained eye. Not long ago NGC received one extremely deceptive coin: a holed and expertly plugged 1870-CC half eagle.

This coin was particularly interesting because we were able to determine that the holed coin, graded XF Details by NGC, was sold at auction in September 2010. After it was sold, someone carefully plugged the hole and re-engraved the missing details. This person, who likely refers to himself as a “coin restorer,” would likely argue that the appearance of the coin has been improved now that the hole is gone. Nonetheless, the originality of the coin has been compromised, and it has the potential to fool a collector into thinking that the coin is better and more valuable.

1870-CC Half Eagle
click image to enlarge

Click images to enlarge.

The submitter to NGC may have had no idea that this coin had been holed and plugged. The plug is quite subtle, and the coin has been cleaned to make it appear more uniform and disguise the handiwork. NGC considers acceptable conservation to be noninvasive: surface contaminants should be removed, but the coin’s surfaces should never be irreparably altered.

Before and after pictures show how dramatically this coin was changed. While a few people might argue that restoration enhances the coins appearance, we feel that this is deception and hurts collectors and dealers. A holed coin may not be the most attractive example, but plugging it only does more damage.

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