Counterfeit Detection: 1922 No D Lincoln Cent

Posted by Max Spiegel, Numismatic Researcher on 1/17/2012

The 1922 No D Lincoln cent has long been popular with counterfeiters but rarely do they go to the trouble of making dies.

As a well known rarity, the 1922 No D Lincoln cent has been the target of counterfeiters for decades. Numismatists have cataloged three varieties of 1922 No D cents: Weak D, Weak Reverse, and Strong Reverse. The latter, which was caused when excessive die polishing effaced the mintmark from the die, is the most popular of the three and generally considered to be the “true” 1922 No D. No cents were struck at Philadelphia in 1922, and these varieties have since become popular with collectors as distinct issues required for a complete set.

According to the NGC US Coin Price Guide, the 1922 No D Strong Reverse is worth $680 in Good condition. That price quickly rises in higher grades, and better circulated examples sell for nearly five figures. The 1922-D, on the other hand, is worth under $100 in all circulated grades. A counterfeiter could simply remove the D and attempt to pass it off as a 1922 No D, with a potentially huge profit.

There are not nearly as many fakes of the 1922 No D cents as there are of the 1909-S VDB and 1914-D cents. When an illegitimate 1922 No D cent is received by NGC, it is almost always an alteration. It is fairly easy for a counterfeiter to use a tool to scratch away the D, but this typically leaves prominent tooling marks, which aid in detection.

Counterfeit 1922 No D Lincoln cent
click image to enlarge

As I sat down to write this article, NGC graders identified a fake 1922 No D cent that was struck by dies. It is very unusual to see a die struck counterfeit 1922 No D cent because of the added work required to craft dies. This piece is not particularly deceptive: all of the details are weak, the surfaces have numerous tiny raised dots, and the color is off. There is also a strange “wire rim” at the upper left obverse. Nonetheless, since this fake was struck by counterfeit dies, there are undoubtedly many more like it. Pay close attention to this counterfeit and make sure to familiarize yourself with the diagnostics of genuine examples.

For more on counterfeit Lincoln cents, see NGC’s “Altered Key Lincolns” in the December 2011 issue of the ANA’s The Numismatist.

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