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Struck Counterfeit Coin of the Week: 1803 “C-3” Half Cent + 1-Page Attribution Guide

Struck Counterfeit Coin - 1803 "C-3" Half Cent

By Jack D. Young, Early American Coppers (EAC) …..

This is the third article in the series reviewing an early half cent (17th in the series on the counterfeit subject) and is one of the three little sisters “varieties” documented so far. This is the only example known to date with two possible versions; one I call the “original”, the second the “restrike’, which resulted in two different attribution pages…

Jan ’16 “P-W” Example (image courtesy Bill Eckberg)
Jan ’16 “P-W” Example (image courtesy Bill Eckberg)

This “variety” like the 1805 “C4” was documented both in EAC’s Copper Notes FB page and in an article written by Bill Eckberg in the January 2016 issue of “Penny-Wise”. And like the 1806 “C1” half cent reported previously here this variety was also included in a group of early coppers submitted for certification back in 2015, but with a twist- two apparent “die states” were submitted, one “original” to one TPG, and one “restrike” to another!

This featured variety also shares a characteristic with several others we have discussed previously, as this one appears to be another “improbable die state”…

 NGC Cert: 2657329-020 - 1803 1/2 Cent - Grade: NOT GENUINE
NGC Cert: 2657329-020 – 1803 1/2 Cent – Grade: NOT GENUINE

At this point in this discussion, it seems best to review a known genuine example of 1803 C-3 half cent (technical support courtesy of my friend and fellow EAC’er Ed Fuhrman) and details associated with the typical documented strike characteristics and die states.

Image Courtesy Goldberg- Manley Die State 4.0
Image Courtesy Goldberg- Manley Die State 4.0


The Goldberg example is considered die state M4.0 (“M” for Manley); the term “die state” refers to different stages of the deterioration of the die and the resulting progressive impact on the coins as struck and are attributed according to Ronald P. Manley’s 1998 The Half Cent Die State Book, 1793-1857.

In this state of the dies one can see 3 major attribution points- 1) the bulging at the “18” in the date, 2) the crooked die crack from the obverse rim at 10 o’clock into the top of the hair ribbon, and 3) the arcing reverse crack that starts at the rim and goes through the right arm of the 2nd T in STATES and eventually ends going through the F in HALF.

Another relevant point to note with this variety is the typical weak strike of the reverse, which in this example shows as a loss of detail indicated by the large green circle (even though it was graded MS60+ in the auction); I have chosen to use green to highlight die state/ die strike markers in this discussion, but maintain the previous convention of white circles to show other common attribution marks (between comparison images) and red for non-common marks.

Per Ed, weak areas on the reverse are known on all authentic examples but can be located in different areas.

The following images show the initial TPG submitted example marked in the same manner for comparison between these two.

Image Courtesy NGC (marked up by Author!) Example # 2
Image Courtesy NGC (marked up by Author!) Example # 2

Both examples appear to show the same die state markers of M4.0, while the area of weakness is lower on this example than the Goldberg one and practically washes out the berry (in red). The other marks in red are not seen on the genuine example and will be shown to be helpful attribution marks for the balance of examples discussed further in this review!

At nearly the same time I posted the NGC example back in December 2015 on our EAC Facebook page Bill was reviewing a similar “coin” purchased by a friend and responded by posting his discovery; per Bill’s response he stated “The coin has a VEDS (very early die state- author) reverse and a MDS (mid die state) obverse, which should be impossible. I was pretty sure it was fake based on the relative die states of the two sides, and this coin, too, shows the same two marks on the neck that Jack’s coins show. The model appears to have been a M4.0 example, but the reverse arcing crack has been mostly smoothed down (traces remain) as has the crack to the hair on the obverse. For some reason, the engraver has put a raised central leaf vein on the upper left leaf that does not appear on any of the photos in Manley or Breen”.

Bill’s images include a close-up of the strengthened leaf area and obverse and reverse images highlighting two apparent matching marks seen in all of the suspect examples documented to date (blue arrows).

Images Both Courtesy Bill Eckberg. (Jan 2016 “P-W”) Example # 3 (Top); Note: red arrow- missing berry, blue- re-engraved “vein” (Bottom)

And during a long participative discussion on both of these Ed Fuhrman posted what we believe to be the genuine source example (to make the dies) for striking the clones; comparing it to the NGC submitted one these “two” appear to be the same coin, as not only do all the markers match but the toning appears to match as well!

1803 C-3 source coin and counterfeit

After the post one of the members sent a note regarding a second TPG’s submission package that appeared to include one of the suspect 1803’s; this example appears to match the same improbable die state of Bill’s documented example. The following image compares Bill’s images to this 2nd submitted example (again, white marks indicate common ones between these two).

Image Courtesy PCGS (marked up by Author!) Example # 6
Image Courtesy PCGS (marked up by Author!) Example # 6. Note: missing berry.

Common marks between the two suspect examples include the “ding” on the upright of the “T” of LIBERTY, the scratches on the face and hair, an obverse scratch at approximately 8:00, and the missing berry above “H” in HALF (also all seen on the probable source coin, although the berry is weak but still visible); the die cracks of the Manley die state have been reduced and/or partially tooled away on these two examples, and they both share the re-engraved upper leaf not seen on any genuine example. Note, the prominent scratch from the “E” over the top of “C” in CENT seen on the probable source coin is not evident on these suspect ones.

These two examples are the only documented ones to date of this counterfeit “die state” I refer to as “restrikes”…

During and after the post discussions we continued searching for additional suspect examples through several internet selling venues including major auction houses; two particular ones stood

out, with several of the attribution marks identified in reviewing the previous one’s direct matches, but several interestingly not!

As a preview for Part II, I include the following set of images; to be continued with a focus on the “originals”, a timeline of discovery, and attribution guide.

As always, the research continues to be a collaborative effort with many EAC members and friends participating; the focused Team of watchers/ researchers on our Facebook page “Dark Side” continues to be vigilant in the documentation and communication of these latest deceptive threats to our hobby! 1-Page attribution guide follows.

Best, Jack.

1803 “C-3” Half Cent “Struck Counterfeit Guide”


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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