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

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

Jack Young's Top 5 Rare Coin Fakes, Part 2.

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

Charles [CoinWeek EditorCW] recently asked me to compile a list of the top five counterfeits that I’ve seen since the Dark Side Group began to coalesce back in the fall of 2015. The following is my list, in ascending order and with links to the relevant CoinWeek articles for detailed attribution information and diagnostics:

  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

In my previous installment, I reviewed the bottom two counterfeits on my list. In this episode, I review the top three, starting with the…

1798 ”S-158” Large Cent

The 1798 ”S-158” Large Cent is one of my favorites, having handled several fake examples from different venues, and it is actually the variety that started me down this rabbit hole in late 2015. It was also the subject for my meeting and presentation to the United States Secret Service in Washington, D.C..

The first one reported was initially investigated as a new unknown variety of 1798 Large Cent, but several more were almost immediately found after its discovery, with all having matching attribution marks.

The following images include the “discovery coin” (found by someone else), the first one I discovered, and another counterfeit from the same group of known eBay bad sellers.

Jack Young 1798 Draped Bust Cent Counterfeit Coins.
“Discovery coin”
, my 1st example, and a third different TPG certified example.

Interestingly, all three of the imaged examples were listed and sold by three different seller IDs, but all linked back to one listed “Company” and corresponding location in Texas.

The following image, courtesy of a friend and fellow EAC (Early American Coppers) member, was also used for one of my Facebook Group pages.

Image courtesy Tom Deck/ EAC
Image courtesy Tom Deck/ EAC

It shows marks and repaired areas common to all known examples, with a genuine coin on top.

“Bust crater” common to all of the counterfeits.
“Bust crater” common to all of the counterfeits.

Another certified example, this one initially considered a die state of S-158:

1798 Counterfeit S-158 Variety Plus Image.
1798 Counterfeit S-158 Variety Plus Image.

One of the interesting things to note is that we’ve documented nine of these, including the presumed genuine source example, all found in the late 2015 to early 2016 timeframe. We have not seen another, which makes me wonder how many more are out there in folks’ collections.

The main repeating attribution points are in the image below.

1798 Draped Bust Cent Counterfeit Markers.

1836 Gobrecht Dollar

The 1836 Gobrecht Dollar coming in at number two is a prolific TPG-certified counterfeit found in a major auction venue along with the ‘Bay. I’ve written a couple of articles on these.

“All in the Family”! Holed source example on the top right.
“All in the Family”! Holed source example on the top right.

As in many of the deceptive certified counterfeits, the genuine source example for the dies was damaged and repaired to make the false dies. The hole in this example was small and mainly affected the “OF” on the reverse, requiring tooling in that spot after plugging the hole. The most obvious result of the tooling was the tail of the “F”.

Repaired source example, genuine “OF”, struck counterfeit from a major auction house.
Repaired source example, genuine “OF,” struck counterfeit from a major auction house.
Last certified example documented, Chinese example also certified.
The last certified example is documented, Chinese example is also certified.

Since reporting these, one turned up a few years ago in a dealer’s inventory, also TPG-certified. I understand it was returned to the third-party grading service that “authenticated” it.

The main repeating attribution points are as follows:

Key Attribution Points for the 1836 Gobrecht Dollar.
Key Attribution Points for the 1836 Gobrecht Dollar.

1797 S-139 Large Cent

So, here we are at NUMERO UNO, the 1797 “S-139” Large Cent, the one that a friend and big-time Early American Copper dealer said kept him up at night, and another was convinced only when I showed him the evidence.

Possibly only one certified, this example was authenticated by two of the top TPGs. The other certified example is likely the repaired genuine source coin. There were a couple of raw examples found and documented, as well.

1797 Shelton-139 Draped Bust Cent Counterfeit.
1797 Shelton-139 Draped Bust Cent Counterfeit.

The genuine example had a series of deep scratches that were mostly smoothed out on the coin before making these false dies, leaving an obvious streak on the doctored coin and remnants on the struck fakes, which serve as attribution points.

This one is so good that it was included as #18 for the variety in the Early Copper condition census for large cents (“CC”).

1797 Sheldon-139 Counterfeit.

Supposed 1797 S-139 CC 18, net graded VF30

1797 Draped Bust Cent Counterfeit.
1797 Draped Bust Cent Counterfeit.

While researching this one, I asked a friend to do an image analysis. He “maps” a genuine coin in CAD/CAM and then maps the subject examples. His overlay includes two known bad examples; the “red” features are common only to the fakes.

A friend’s Cad overlays highlighting attribution points for the counterfeits.
A friend’s Cad overlays highlighting attribution points for the counterfeits.

These also match the “atts” that I had previously developed:

Counterfeit Markers of 1797 Draped Bust Cent.

So there you have it, the top five deceptive counterfeits that keep me and plenty of others up at night!

Best, as Always,

Jack


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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