US Coins

1796 dated fake an interesting case

Detecting Counterfeits column from Feb. 15, 2016, issue of Coin World:

This month’s fake is one of the more interesting counterfeits I have encountered in the last year. It has a number of diagnostics that make the authentication determination fairly easy, but the way it apparently came into existence makes it an attractive “case study.”

First of all, this fake 1796 Liberty Cap cent appears to have been struck from counterfeit transfer dies. These dies would have been produced using a genuine model coin. The fake is an accurate reproduction of the Sheldon 85 die variety.

With so few examples of Sheldon 85 available, it is possible that a member of the large cent community may be able to identify the genuine coin that was used as the model coin.

The weight of the fake is 10.33 grams, which is approximately 0.6 gram less than the weight of a genuine example in higher condition. Early copper coins can lose a lot of weight due to heavy wear, surface corrosion, or other problems, but the overall appearance of this fake is not that of a heavily worn, corroded or damaged example. 

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A closer inspection of the fake also reveals weak, ragged details throughout, especially in Liberty’s hair and the leaves in the wreath. Additionally, the right obverse field appears to have been repaired, although this might have transferred over from the genuine model coin. 

The edge of the fake has a sharp, modern look to it. Many counterfeiters pay little or no attention to accurately reproducing the edge on their fakes, an omission that makes detection that much easier for us.

A number of raised lumps and depressions appear on and around BER in LIBERTY.

While these defects may have transferred over from the genuine model coin, it is also possible that they are the result of poor die production techniques. 

Finally, a small crater appears just to the left of Liberty’s ear, and a number of pits are on her neck.

Again, these might have transferred over from the genuine model coin, or they might simply be defects in the copper blank used to strike the fake.

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