By Jack D. Young, Early American Coppers (EAC) ……
One of the “coins” left out of my previous CoinWeek article on damaged source coins (for use in creating counterfeit dies) is this “mystery” 1872-S half dollar. Many of our documented source and counterfeit examples were discovered in one of the large internet sales venues, and watching sellers associated with them in the past has led to new discoveries. Many of these sellers are actually interconnected, buying and selling among each other, and the list continues to grow. The subject example for this article came from reviewing the offerings of one of these sellers; the “coin” was suspicious by association as a result and warranted additional research and investigation in my opinion, but was beyond my experience and focus of Early American Coppers (yes, as previously noted I am an active member of EAC).
August 2016 Internet example
The issues with this one became quickly apparent when I tried to match the reverse to the known ’72-S reverses- the mintmark of this example did NOT match in either size or location to known ones, and my suspicions widened. Calling upon a couple of EAC members for advice I was directed to another prominent club in early Numismatics, the Liberty Seated Collectors Club (LSCC). I quickly learned that a group of club members there had discovered examples of this “mystery” coin prior to my research efforts and had already unraveled the truth about it, which they willingly shared.
Similar to several of the early copper fakes we have documented, this “variety” could also be described as an improbable die state/ die marriage, as the obverse “die” was from an 1872-P example, the reverse from an 1875-S, and I’m told the edge from 1876 (due to the number of reeds in total)- a kind of Frankenstein’s monster if you will! As a side note, unlike the examples reported in my prior article the source coins for this one are unknown currently and considering there were two coins involved it is speculative if they will even be discovered!
Unlike many of the prior varieties of discovered struck fakes the surfaces and strike of these are very good, with few telling differences (of course the die marriage is major!) to cause concern in hobbyists like me who are well out of their comfort level and focus with this series, and many would be hard pressed to suspect this as a counterfeit. And these are convincing enough “on the surface” to be encapsulated by Third-Party Graders (TPGs), with mine actually making it into two different TPG slabs.
Writer’s example (images courtesy NGC)
In order to better help hobbyists identify the possible struck fakes going forward I have developed a single page “Attribution Guide” to summarize images of the source example (if known), a struck clone and a known genuine one, and the visual “attribution/ circulation” marks (the terminology established by a fellow EAC member is “sister marks” for the common marks going forward) documented on all examples known; the page for these is as follows:
More attribution pages to follow depending on interest!
As always, the research continues to be a collaborative effort with many EAC members and friends participating.
Liberty Seated Half Dollars Currently Available on eBay