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An Update on the (Counterfeit) Elephant in the Room

Counterfeit Coins: An Update on the (Counterfeit) Elephant in the Room

Counterfeit Coins by Jack D. Young, Early American Coppers (EAC) ……
It’s been a while since my last article on the subject of deceptive counterfeits for this venue (it is always awesome to have an article included in CoinWeek!). For this installment, I have updated the research article I published in C4’s Colonial Newsletter (a great group I am also a member of).

Just a brief introduction for this latest “variety” – I had the opportunity to discuss and review several interesting “coins” during the 2019 EAC Convention in Dayton, Ohio that I co-chaired (the third unofficial co-chair and probably hardest-working member was my better half, Laura). One of the examples I reviewed in-hand was a counterfeit “Hodder 2-B” elephant token “discovered” by my friend, fellow EAC’er and early copper specialist Kevin Vinton. Kevin told me there were several others like it with many in TPG genuine holders, sold through different auction venues, but he asked that I hold off on any further discussion while he continued his research.

Writer’s “discovery” example.

After a couple of months passed I became curious and Kevin and I spoke and decided to post the topic in our counterfeit-focused Facebook group (“Dark Side”) and start the discussion. Kevin included images of several like examples and we developed comparison images to genuine ones with the differences or “tells” to aid in the attribution of others “out there” (differences in RED):

Top: Obv comparison to a known genuine example on the right (courtesy PCGS). Middle: “Trunk” differences (genuine example on right). Bottom: “Feet” differences (genuine example on right).
Top: Rev comparison to a known genuine example on the right (courtesy PCGS). Middle: Right upper “opening” differences (genuine example on right). Bottom: Left “colon” differences (genuine example on right).
Right “colon” differences (genuine example on right).

Through the discussions and with additional research with a number of members participating in the search the list grew to six (the earliest from 2005), including one member’s CAC-stickered example. This was one of those ironic situations where he added images of his to the discussion and we had to tell him the bad news and confirm his as also being a counterfeit!

EF45 CAC example (returned to TPG)

As luck (or perseverance) would have it, I found another interesting example listed for sale in a current-at-the-time Stack’s Bowers auction listed as a “struck copy”. This high-grade version matched exactly the other counterfeits and was in the highest “state of preservation” we had seen to date. I was actually the under bidder in the auction as the bids hit $900 USD and exceeded my threshold of pain. Notice the common marks (in white”) with my example.

I posted this example and comparison images as a continuing discussion in my group and another friend stated it reminded him of an article in The Numismatist written by Eric P. Newman back in the 1960s. I immediately went to the website of the portal in his name (Newman Numismatic Portal) and started my search. The results were quick and the article was available there, entitled “AN ELEPHANT TOKEN NEVER FORGETS – FORGERY“; images as follows:

Image courtesy Newman Numismatic Portal.

What an amazing find! In the research of all of the current deceptive struck counterfeits I have been involved in (over 25 different denominations/varieties to date), the main focus is always to find the source coin. What is different about this “variety” is that the source example doesn’t appear to be a genuine coin but instead, it appears to be a struck copy (and not necessarily the latest Stack’s example) attributed back to 1965.

And giving Newman his due, he had also called out some deceptive Colonial counterfeits in the late ’70s – again in The Numismatist. One of those showed up in a TPG holder and was later matched to Newman’s images and proven counterfeit in-hand (I wrote a CoinWeek article on that one summarizing that research here).

Shortly after the Stack’s Bowers auction, I ran across another example for sale in a small local auction venue. This one matched the attribution points of the others and was holdered in an old PCI slab. Internet searches show this one sold six times in a period from 2013 through 2019, apparently not finding a happy home. Notifying the auction house of the status of this one, they agreed to pull the listing and stated they would forward my contact information to the consignor but I never heard anything from that. Just waiting to see it show up in another venue…

Image from an internet search
Image from an internet search.

The TPGs (except the defunct PCI) and the auction houses were all made aware of these counterfeits with certs being deactivated or removed (including CAC), so it was quite surprising to receive a note from my friend and colleague to look up a recently certified elephant token and see the Stack’s Bowers “struck copy” TPG-certified as one of the finest known of the variety.

TPG MS Certified (Stack’s Bowers “struck copy”).

Again the TPG was notified and the cert removed but the “coin” is still out there in the slab, as far as I know, just waiting to make its next appearance…

As a follow-up I have (like in many other summary articles) created a timeline of the examples we have documented and include it here; this helps determine the actual number of examples we have seen to date minus the repeats–nine in total counting Newman’s.

And an update since my original research! I continued to look for the TPG-certed “struck copy” to resurface in a selling venue and was surprised to find it listed by a very large metals and coin dealer in a March ’21 search. I sent a note to my contacts at both the auction site and the TPG, and was assured the sale was ended without a sale and the “coin” was returned to the TPG and removed permanently from the marketplace. Getting the word out worked well in this case.

I can again report this investigation has been a collaborative effort with several EAC/C4 and Dark Side members instrumental in the sharing of images and info in the effort to “get the word out”, and I would like to thank you.

Unlike my other articles, it is easy to draw conclusions about what is real or what is “Memorex” since the source and struck clones are ALL counterfeits!
And as in my previous articles, I would ask that the readers be on the lookout for other duplicate examples, as this one should be a pretty easy one to spot noting all the obvious differences as Mr. Newman spotted roughly 55 YEARS ago.

And if you do cross paths with this “elephant”, please take note and REPORT it, as the truth is out there.

As always, the research continues to be a collaborative effort with many EAC members and friends participating.

Read More Articles on Counterfeits by Jack D. Young Here !


Jack D. Young
Jack D. Young
An engineer by training, Jack D. Young is a researcher and author on the subject of the recent wave of deceptive struck counterfeits. He is the founder of the "Dark Side" Counterfeits and Fakes Facebook watch group, a participating member of Early American Coppers (EAC) since 2002, the Liberty Seated Collectors Club (LSCC), C4, the NLG, the ANA, and the ANS. Jack has consulted on the subject of counterfeits and their effect on the Hobby with staffers of the United States Senate Finance Committee, a senior member of the U.S. Secret Service (both with the ACTF as an Expert Network volunteer), and agents of both CBP and the Department of the Treasury. His work has appeared in various club journals, including The Numismatist, and he was acknowledged for his research by Q. David Bowers in the latter's The Copper Coins of Vermont (2018). The ACTF awarded Jack Young the Alan Kreuzer Award in 2019 and the PNG presented him with the Sol Kaplan Award in 2022. He started collecting as a youth, filling a Lincoln penny board with his grandmother, and continues to collect low-grade early large cents by date and some varieties.

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  1. This article flags what is only the “tip of the iceberg” with new technology like 3D printers and multi-dimensional scanners capable of working to + or – thousandths of a millimeter with all types of metal from lead to titanium. China in particular is flooding the rare coin market with any coin worth more than $100.

  2. Thanks Jack! It shows why collectors need to learn about the coins they are buying and not count on TPG. People need to go back to collecting coins instead of plastic slabs.


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