Coin Alterations by Removing Metal from the Surface

Removed Metal:

A fourth area of alteration is the general removal of part of a coin's metal surface, either to simulate the appearance of a particular variety, or the re-engraving of detail on the surface of a coin to try to give the appearance of a higher grade.

The most commonly seen alteration by the removal of detail should be fairly obvious: the 1937-D Three Leg Buffalo nickel, as the absence of less than a Gram of copper-nickel at one spot on the coin's surface turns a $2 coin into a $500-$1000 coin, in today's market.  Most of these seen, as the example below shows, are fairly crude, and lack the key authenticators of the genuine coin.  I have included some side-by-side shots of genuine and non-genuine coins for comparisons sake.

Altered coin showing the crude removal of the Bison's foreleg - also, this coin lacks the two critical authenticators of the geniune variety: the ridge of bumps running down to the ground beneath the Bison, and the "motheaten" look of the back leg.

A genuine 1937-D Three Leg Buffalo is shown below - notice the difference in the smoothness of the area missing metal above the hoof.  Also, this example shows the common die stress lines due to oversuse of the dies which led to the re-polishing which removed the leg.

Below, you can see the classic authenticators of the genuine coin.

 Re-engraving of Detail:

Another less commonly seen form of alteration is re-engraved detail.  This used to be common, especially where a tiny difference in one area on a coin can mean a difference in one or two grade levels.  While this used to be a thing of the past, it seems to be making a potential comeback, based upon the recent efforts of PCGS© to take "coin doctors" to task.  Some examples of older, slightly crude re-engravings are shown below, those that can be expected to pop out of older collections.

This first item is an 1906 Liberty Nickel, with the "I" of LIBERTY and the coronet line re-engraved.  This turns a VG/Fine coin into something which some dealers try to sell as a VF - the difference here is turning a $5 coin into a $15 coin, not a great deal but some apparently thought it worth the time.  The best signs are the small area that appears brighter and shows light scratches, where the metal on the surface was disturbed.

The next two examples are actually some that show up more often, the re-engraving of "missing" detail on Seated Liberty coinage.  Due to the excentricity of the strike characteristics of these coins, particularly on the Half Dollar, you commonly find coins that exhibit a very weak or no "B" in LIBERTY, but otherwise have the detail of a Fine or even VF.  Here, the alteration by strengthening a few lines in the shield and body of Liberty can double the potential value of the coin, but more importantly make it a faster selling item, as a VF Seated half is far less common than a VG/Fine.

The first coin is a better date 1856-S Quarter, with heavily re-engraved detail at the center of Liberty's body, as well as the sheild.  Flipping the coin over, a relatively experienced eye can tell that the worn condition of the Reverse does not match the supposed detail of the Obverse.  Either this was missed or ignored, or just forgotten by the engraver.

Below is a blown up image of the re-engraving, which shows the overly heavy, crude lines cut into Liberty to mimic the worn off gown lines.  The upper shield lines have also been re-engraved, hopefully obviously to almost everyone.  This coin was probably a VG before the "work" was performed.  As a VF 56-S Quarter is very scarce and a $200 or so retail coin,, you can see the economic incentive that tempted the "coin doctor".

The last coin here is an 1877 Seated Half, with partially completed re-engraving.  I presume that this was a test case or a practice coin, as the level of work done to this coin should not fool anyone, ever.  Oddly enough, this general form of coin doctoring can still catch even professionals unaware, as I occassionally find re-engraved Seated Liberty Quarters and Halves (Dimes seem to be too small to suffer this type of indignity, except in rare cases) in the inventory of other dealers, who didn't notice when they bought the coin!