The desirable 1802/0 Draped Bust, Reverse of 1802 half cent is a
scarce date in the series.
The coin is cataloged as Cohen 2 in Roger S. Cohen Jr.’s American
Half Cents: the “Little Half Sisters.”
Coin Values prices this variety at $2,250 in Very Good 8 and $5,000
in Fine 12, making it an obvious target for counterfeiters and
Very few 1802/0 half cents exist in choice condition, no matter the
amount of remaining details — the average example is damaged and
corroded, and a number of the remaining genuine pieces have been repaired.
Cast, not struck
The counterfeit shown here is a cast produced from fake casting
molds, not a struck counterfeit made from fake dies. Both the obverse
and the reverse design details match those of a genuine coin,
indicating that an authentic 1802/0 half cent was used to produce the
fake molds. After this counterfeit was made, it appears to have been
deliberately “roughened up” to exhibit a more natural appearance. This
process was successful, as the fake looks exactly like a genuine
example at first glance.
Many cast fakes can be detected by closely examining the edge of the
coin for a seam, where the two casting molds were joined together. The
seam for this particular fake is the junction of the obverse rim and
the edge, and this seam was then hidden by damage. Notice how the
obverse rim has been flattened in several areas, especially around 2:00.
Checking the weight
Since the rough, corroded surfaces make it difficult to accurately
assess the coin, other methods need to be employed.
For some reason, many cast counterfeits of early U.S. coins are well
outside the normal weight range for a genuine coin. The standard
weight for a genuine 1802 half cent is 5.44 grams, with most
circulated pieces weighing between 5.0 and 5.4 grams. This cast fake
weighs 7.45 grams, which is much too heavy. Unfortunately, the average
collector will not have an accurate scale on hand when inspecting
potential purchases at a coin show or other venue.
For this reason, I strongly recommend that collectors deal either
with a well-respected copper specialist or one of the major grading
services when adding a rare copper coin to their collection.
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