Counterfeit Detection: 1875 Indian Head Cent

Posted by Max Spiegel, Numismatic Researcher on 7/13/2012

Many Chinese counterfeits are made from dies that are not directly copied from genuine examples, so much of the details are incorrect.

Cents have long been the target of counterfeiters because of the numerous key dates and the popularity of this denomination with collectors. The 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent is undoubtedly the coin most often seen faked or altered, but other commonly encountered counterfeit cents are the 1877, 1914-D, 1922 No D, and 1955 Doubled Die Obverse issues.

Several months ago NGC received a submission with five counterfeit cents. There was one 1909-S VDB in the group, and the other four coins were semikey Indian Head and Lincoln issues. Although none of these counterfeits were particularly deceptive, they share many of the same characteristics as other fakes that have originated in China in the last decade.

This fake 1875 cent, for example, has a badly misshapen date: the digits are fat and lopsided. Many Chinese counterfeits are made from dies that are not directly copied from genuine examples, so much of the details are incorrect. Another recurring problem is the poor design definition in the periphery, particularly the letters on the obverse. Oftentimes counterfeiters strike their fakes with less pressure than used by the US Mint. The final major problem that is seen on countless other fakes is the presence of odd raised areas in and around the design elements, including a raised line behind the Indian’s jaw.

Counterfeit 1875 Indian Head Cent
Click images to enlarge.

An experienced numismatist would probably never be fooled by this counterfeit, but there are many people who are unaware of the diagnostics that help identify these fakes. We continue to see counterfeits similar to this one in significant numbers, so it is useful to become familiar with their appearance and any obvious faults.