By Jack D. Young, Early American Coppers (EAC) ……
This is intended as a summary of the documented counterfeit 1798 “S-158” large cents to date, including several listed sellers. The “source” coin, the example most likely used to create the dies to strike the other copies was unknown when we became aware of the first several examples offered for sale on the Internet in 2015; a possible source example was recently discovered to have been sold in the same venue November, 2013.
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Possible “Tooled Source” internet 2013; Known 1798 S-158 Obverse (courtesy PCGS)
Possible “Tooled Source” internet 2013; Known 1798 S-158 Reverse (courtesy PCGS)
Note: A concern with this “source” example is that there are only so many higher-grade genuine S-158s known/ documented, and this one is not one of them; it could just as easily be another struck copy.
In the fall of 2015 a fellow EAC’er (member of the Early American Coppers Club) alerted the EAC Copper Notes group to an apparent deceptive fake 1798 large cent, changing how many of us view the hobby going forward! From the discussions this prompted in that forum and the following Penny-Wise articles written on the subject we suddenly became aware of a new level of “struck counterfeits” (actually I’ve been told the correct term is fake, replica, etc. since early copper isn’t “current currency”), so genuine appearing that this one, and ultimately many others were in top tier TPG holders. This example, a supposed “S-158” appeared to be a new variety, an “improbable die state” as another respected long-time EAC member noted, or in fact fake.
The “Y” in LIBERTY was too long for any known 1798 large cent, the reverse die break was partially tooled away as not seen for this variety before, and there were a series of blemishes including “dimples” on the bust as struck. The notice of this one opened the floodgate, as I found another example on eBay, then another member reported a 3rd, and then a 4th appeared again on eBay, eventually adding up to eight total documented examples currently, all with common “dimples”, scratches and other circulation marks, which just can’t be. These are all apparently in the dies, impressing these common identifiers in all examples struck; individual pieces have other marks, damage and inflicted “weathering”, possibly to try to hide the truth, but a diligent eye can still help flush them out.
The first reported example was purchased in an internet auction; the following shows the approximate date of purchase and the internet seller including any additional info available.
Purchased as a possible new variety- verified as a struck fake. (Image overlaid on genuine one; image courtesy an EAC Member)
Posted on Copper Notes as a fake; owner ultimately sent it back to the TPG under their guarantee
This example was submitted to a much respected long-time EAC member and large cent cataloger and confirmed to be a fake. It also shares the main attribution marks of the source and other struck copies; sold “raw” on the internet, now in a TPG holder (image courtesy EAC)
Most damaged of examples seen so far; currently owned by an EAC member
This one sold originally in a 2013 Americana auction; it apparently was then cracked out of the TPG holder and re-certified by another TPG and listed in a 2014 ANA auction.
Note: for anyone who saw my CoinWeek article on 1836 Gobrecht dollars, two of them were in the same 2013 auction venue, one in the same auction as this 1798 “S-158”, the other in the evening edition.
Images and Lot Description Courtesy Stack’s Bowers
After this 2014 auction this example was resold on the internet; the seller later recalled it from the buyer after the news of this variety was discussed in EAC.
Mail Bid example from a California coin shop- Price List # 168ga; only known example with the S-158 attribution on the TPG label.
Images without the slab (courtesy NGC)
This example was found in another cert series; nothing known beyond the cert images (courtesy NGC)
The next example was reported by ANACS in a Coin World article. Again, this example displays the same sister marks as the other members of the “family”.
Note: “sister marks” are the shared marks in common with both the source and fakes struck by the transferred dies. Uncommon marks may be techniques the counterfeiters are using to disguise their “fake coins” struck with the same set of transfer dies. Common techniques include different toning; additional contact marks, changing the strength of the impression, adding additional contact marks, corrosion, etc.
With this last one we have now accounted for eight examples of these apparently struck copies plus the possible source example; I can only assume the source is/was a genuine coin, or there are now nine!
“Family” portrait as follows:
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 suspected struck clone and a known genuine one, and the visual attribution/ sister marks documented on all examples known; the page for these follows.
I can report this research has been a collaborative effort with many EAC members and non-members instrumental in the sharing of images and info in the effort to “get the word out”, and I would like to thank you! Again I’ve drawn no hard conclusions about what is real or what is “Memorex”, but am convinced more than one of these is counterfeit. I would ask that the readers be on the lookout for other duplicate examples and REPORT them; remember, the truth is out there!