US Coins

'Smith Counterfeit' cent a curious oddity

This “Smith Counterfeit” 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath cent is actually a well-worn genuine coin that has undergone extensive modifications to make it appear finer than it is. It sold for $2,585.

Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers

Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers, with McCawley-Grellman, The Copper Specialists, can be counted on to deliver hundreds of interesting Early American half cents and large cents in each of their auctions, which show the full range of quality within these respective collecting areas.

Although top coins like a 1793 Liberty Cap, Left half cent from the Missouri Cabinet graded Mint State 63 brown that sold for $114,563 capture headlines, their Jan. 25 to 27 pre-Long Beach auction offered other fascinating pieces. 

Here is one of three coins Coin World is profiling in its latest Market Analysis:

The coin

1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath cent, altered, “Smith Counterfeit,” Fine 12

The price


The story

The “Smith Counterfeit” is a curious 19th century numismatic oddity. Coin World’s Paul Gilkes wrote in his Dec. 2, 2013, feature on contemporary counterfeits, “The Smith counterfeits were heavily circulated 1793 and 1794 cents that engraver William D. Smith — known as Smith of 1 Ann Street in New York City — re-engraved in the late 1850s and early 1860s to resemble higher grade 1793 cents. Some collectors suggest the Smith counterfeits are not counterfeits at all, but simply alterations to genuine U.S. Mint cents.”

Smith would begin with a well-worn host coin, and he extensively reworked both sides. The description notes that the present piece has a weight of only 157.1 grains, versus the standard 208.0-grain weight of a typical 1793 Flowing Hair cent, showing just how much metal was removed during Smith’s handiwork. 

Carrying an estimate of $2,000 and up, it brought $2,585.

Keep reading this Market Analysis:

Re-engraved 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath cent went unsold at pre-Long Beach auction

Moderate porosity leads to Basal State grade for 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath cent

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