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Struck Counterfeit Coin of the Week: 1787 Massachusetts “4C” Half Cent + 1-Page Attribution Guide

Struck Counterfeit Coin of the Week: 1787 Massachusetts “4C” Half Cent + 1-Page Attribution Guide

By Jack D. Young, Early American Coppers (EAC) for CoinWeek …..
A comment I have heard in regards to these latest struck fakes is that the counterfeiters do not copy low-grade or common coins; the subject of this latest article begs to differ and I titled my previous Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4) News Letter article “A Story of a Curious “4-C Massachusetts 1⁄2 Cent”. This article is intended as another installment disclosing discovered current deceptive struck counterfeits and establishing one-page attribution guides for each; the research continues to be a collaborative effort with many participating numismatic clubs, Facebook “Dark Side” members and other friends participating.

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1787 Massachusetts “4C” half cent. Images courtesy Jack D. Young

After seeing this “coin” listed for auction on the Internet by one of members of the same group of apparently connected sellers I monitor I immediately turned my “suspicious eye” on it; starting with the third-party grading certification I became even more suspicious of this one, as the online cert verification stated “Grade: CONTACT CUSTOMER SERVICE”. I pulled the pics from the listing and emailed them to several C4/EAC folks I know for their opinions, as this was my first look at a Massachusetts copper. The results drove more questions, as the pics weren’t great and the “coin” wasn’t in-hand but everyone who reviewed it stated concerns about its possible authenticity; another consideration was the possibility it was an unknown die state/variety, so how cool would that be?

Biting the bullet, I decided to “win” the auction (for an undisclosed embarrassing price) and turn this research article into another personal learning experience thanks to the help of several “copper friends”.

One of the initial steps I take in investigating an interesting “coin” is to compare it to images of a known genuine example. There are many outstanding coin related web sites to use as resources to this end (auction houses, TPG sites, etc.). In this case I found a similar example of the same variety on Heritage Auction’s website and created the comparison images as follows:

1787 Massachusetts “4C” half cent, Jack D. Young and Heritage Auction example comparison

Left: Writer’s example (image courtesy of NGC); Right: Genuine example (image courtesy Heritage/HA.com)

The red circles highlight areas of differences between these two examples. From this review it became more apparent how to search for other ones, concentrating on the differences to a known one AND the apparent damage noted at the lower eagle/date area of the suspect one.

1787 Massachusetts 4C half cent, additional internet examples

Two additional internet sale examples

Note the longer bow, “reworked” die break, and the same reverse “damage”, the ding on the first “7”, flattening of the lower branch and notch in the tail feather over “8” of these examples.

1787 Massachusetts 4C half cent reverse diagnostics

Since my C4NL article ran last fall we have found two more examples of this one; the first in December 2016 was encapsulated by one of the TPGs, the second example was listed on the Internet in June 2017 and was raw. That makes the current count seven documented examples – with no way to know how many more are actually “out there”!

The attribution page follows.

1787 Massachusetts 4C half cent counterfeit attribution 1

Struck Counterfeit – May 2016 internet (writer’s example)

1787 Massachusetts 4C half cent counterfeit attribution 2

Possible “Source” Example; Genuine Example (courtesy HA.com)

Key Attribution Points:

1787 Massachusetts 4C half cent counterfeit attribution 3

Longer Bow (Far Left, Center Left); Tooled/removed obverse die break (Center, Center Right); Reverse Damage (Far Right)

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Best Regards,

–Jack D. Young, EAC 5050

MORE Articles on Counterfeit Coins by Jack D. Young


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. I have one that has the longer bow no curve near foot but spacing is closer and no breaks on back date. Would love info on it so I don’t mislist it.


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