Gerald Tebben

Five Facts

Gerald Tebben

Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.

Coin World’s bloggers are not edited by Coin World’s editorial staff and blog posts reflect the views of the individual author.

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A genuine counterfeit

About the same time that Philadelphia coin dealer Ebenezer Locke Mason Jr. was creating electrotypes of Jefferson head cents (in the 1860s), New York dealer William D. Smith was creating his own 1793 cents from well-worn 1793 and 1794 cents.


The coins, largely unknown to the collector community, are called Smith counterfeits by cognoscenti. In a 2013 article on contemporary counterfeits, Coin World’s Paul Gilkes wrote, “Some collectors suggest the Smith counterfeits are not counterfeits at all, but simply alterations to genuine U.S. Mint cents.”

Smith took well-worn cents and extensively engraved the remaining surface, rounding Liberty’s cheeks and giving definition to her hair strands. The result — lightweight by necessity — is nowhere near original looking but has a not-unattractive, otherworldly presence that attracts collectors.

Stack’s in its 2007 John Ford XVII sale catalog, wrote that Smith was noted for his “trademark smiling Liberty, bold date, and abundant reverse berries.”

The description for an Extra Fine Smith counterfeit that fetched $2,990, said, “Their manufacture in the 1860s was not meant to fool anyone, but rather to make a nearly worthless cent (like a low-grade and granular Wreath cent, worth just pennies in the 1860s) into something admirable and perhaps suitable as a hole-filler in the place of the elusive high-grade cents of 1793.”

In January, Ira and Larry Goldberg sold a Fine 12 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath Reverse cent for $2,585. The price was about a third of what an unaltered Fine 12 piece would bring, but more than an unaltered poor coin would sell for.

The intriguing pieces are prized today for their whimsy and connection to mid-19th century collecting, when the hobby was young.

Next: Copy or counterfeit?


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Older Comments (4)
I'm really surprised that you plagiarized Richard Kenny's work and not make mention or reference his contribution to your article. You have truly misreported the coin pictured in the article. According to Kenny, the "Smith of Ann Street" collection is an extremely rare side collection off the mysterious "Engravers Variation Series 1793 to 1811" cataloged by Wayte Raymond and Walter Breen. Last advice, If you're going to plagiarize another writer from an obscure journal article, at least be on the same side as the original writer. Same goes for the Liberty Cap Article. Not COUNTERFEIT!!!