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HomeUS CoinsFrom the Dark Corner: Top Five Counterfeits I Have Seen, Part I

From the Dark Corner: Top Five Counterfeits I Have Seen, Part I

By Jack D. Young, Early American Coppers (EAC), and the Dark Side Group ……

Jack Young at the 2018 Whitman Expo. CoinWeek Editor Charles Morgan (far right).
Jack Young at the 2018 Whitman Expo. CoinWeek Editor Charles Morgan (far right).

After the submission of my 50th exclusive CoinWeek article on counterfeits, Charles Morgan sent me a note asking if I’d thought of doing one on the five or 10 most deceptive counterfeits I’d ever seen and what tipped me off about them. I responded that I thought that was a great idea!

But writing more articles on all of the fakes appearing in many different selling venues got in the way, and now, after 65+ articles published on CoinWeek, I find myself revisiting the idea! And I’m writing it under my “Dark Corner” brand instead of my current “Fun with Fakes (FwF)” because every one of the following has had one or multiple examples certified and slabbed as genuine by a major third-party grading service (TPG) or two. These are the ones that keep me up at night, and certainly are not “Fun”…

Just some brief history: all of these and approximately 20 other examples can be traced back to one counterfeit “ring”. The moneyman was in China; he purchased genuine examples, many from good dealers on eBay (the “Bay”), and then shipped them to the “den” in College Station, Texas, where various seller IDs sold the clones on the Bay. I am not aware if anyone knows where the counterfeits were actually “coined”.

I had the opportunity to present my findings on these at the time to the U.S. Secret Service in a face-to-face meeting, compliments of my friend and anti-counterfeiting activist Beth Deisher back in 2018.

As a result of that meeting, I had follow-up phone meetings with both a Texas Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent (who was aware of the location I had identified to the Secret Service) as well as a Treasury Department agent on the same subject. Although I never heard what happened (I was told I would most likely not), the group disappeared, including all seller IDs on eBay, and I didn’t see any other new varieties from them again.

For each entry on this list, I will include the best images available–including full slab images if the example has been reported and the cert number dealt with–but I will redact the cert numbers of any still open.

So, here is my list of the top five most deceptive counterfeits that I’ve encountered since we saw the first one back in the fall of 2015, in ascending order:

  1. 1796 S-85 Large Cent
  2. 1872-S Seated Half Dollar
  3. 1798 S-158 Large Cent
  4. 1836 Gobrecht Dollar
  5. 1797 S-139 Large Cent

Detailed attribution information on each can be found at the links above.

1796 S-85 Large Cent

OK, so #5, the 1796 S-85 Large Cent.

This one was identified as a fake by a friend and colleague from Early American Coppers (EAC) for reasons apparent when compared to a genuine example. My initial thought was it could have been tooled but would not dispute the evidence. Interestingly, I found another example with matching major attribution marks but some apparently enhanced details, leading me to believe that the counterfeiters tooled the original dies. Further research resulted in finding the original holed example, and we realized they were actually repairing damaged genuine coins to make the dies.

Subsequently, this one was certified by a major TPG, and images taken highlighted the apparent “star” in front of the face and doubled ONE CENT, leading to more and deeper research.

Combination image of the subject example 1796 Liberty Cap Cent.
Combination image of the subject example 1796 Liberty Cap Cent.
Previous TruView. Image: PCGS.
Previous TruView. Image: PCGS.

As a result, this example was proven to have been struck over a later date Large Cent cull (another of my initial suspicions); the main buyer had purchased cull Large Cents from a couple of Bay sellers during the time we were researching these.

CAD image showing the understuck outline of a later date large cent host
CAD image showing the understuck outline of a later date large cent host

The total population includes two TPG-certified specimens, a couple of raw examples, and the known damaged genuine source coin.

Shown in the slab with my prototype “Dark Side” bean.
Shown in the slab with my prototype “Dark Side” bean.

The main repeating attribution points are as follows:

Attribution pickup points of fake 1796 cent.

This is the only example I have been able to document struck over another later date coin!

1872-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar

Next (#4) is the 1872-S Liberty Seated Half Dollar.

This was the “coin” that got me introduced to the Liberty Seated Collectors Club (LSCC) after finding a raw example listed on eBay by one of the known connected bad sellers.

Like the 1796 S-85, the 1872-S Half Dollar was initially “suspicious” due to the seller that was offering it, and after further review, the coin was not attributable to a genuine known variety for the date and mint. I reached out to the LSCC, and a member responded that they had also found an example–this one in a TPG holder–and described what was wrong with them.

It actually took experts to figure it out, and as several articles have explained, the reverse was wrong for an 1872-S, although I found another in the same TPG’s holder as genuine.

More specifically, the obverse was reportedly from an 1872-P by mint state, the reverse with this unique (for an 1872-S) sized mintmark and location is from an 1875-S, and the reed count (yes, experts count edge reeds) was from an 1876!

I referred to it as a sort of “Frankenstein’s Monster” coin, with a couple of certified examples and a couple of raw ones but no documented genuine source coin, the only one we did not find for this group.

One image of this one is courtesy of my friends at NGC (who have not authenticated one), as well as in-hand images taken of the two slabbed examples.

Combination image of the subject example Courtesy NGC
Combination image of the subject example Courtesy NGC
Two PCGS-certified examples. Image: Jack Young.
Two PCGS-certified examples. Image: Jack Young.

And the main repeating major attribution points as follows:

1872-S Counterfeit Pickup Points.

So ends Part I. If the bottom two of my top five counterfeits didn’t scare you, just wait for the final three! Part II in draft, so please stay tuned.



MORE Articles on Counterfeit Coins by Jack D. Young

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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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