US Coins

Copper prices tempt counterfeiters: Fahey

Detecting Counterfeits column from April 11, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

As prices for early United States copper coins continue to increase, half cents and large cents from the 1790s are becoming targets for counterfeiters. 

The fake shown here was produced from transfer dies, where all of the details from a genuine model coin are transferred to a set of fake dies, resulting in a counterfeit that appears genuine at first glance.

The genuine model coin used to produce this fake is the Sheldon 158 variety (Penny Whimsy by William H. Sheldon). This variety is listed in United States Large Cents 1793-1814 by William C. Noyes as being scarce, but not rare.

It is the Style 1 Hair version, which is currently priced in Coin World’s Coin Values at $550 in Fine 12 and $1,000 in Very Fine 20.

Counterfeiters will often attempt to sell their fakes at one-third to one-half of retail prices, trying to attract bargain hunters, who may not have their purchases verified for years by a copper specialist or one of the major grading services.

This counterfeit only weighs 10.09 grams, compared to 10.89 grams for a genuine coin in high grade. I am not sure why this counterfeiter is having problems with the weight on his fake large cents, since the price of copper is pretty low.

It is possible that he is using worn out common date large cents as blanks, using extra pressure to obliterate any traces of the previous design. Using genuine coins as blanks would help with the color and texture of the resulting counterfeits, and the fakes would pass a sophisticated surface analysis test if one were performed.

Unfortunately for the forger, he is not paying much attention to the edge on his fakes.

Like other counterfeits ANACS has seen, this fake 1798 Draped Bust cent has a “modern-looking” edge instead of the 218-year-old edge that a genuine coin would exhibit.

The finer details of the design are a bit weak and ragged.

The enlarged image shows how Liberty’s profile appears to blend into the field, and both the right obverse field and Liberty’s face exhibit a rough, uneven texture that is not due to corrosion.

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