Counterfeit Detection: 1793 Flowing Hair Cent

Posted on 5/12/2015

Tool marks and raised lines identify a counterfeit 1793 Flowing Hair Cent.

The first coins struck by the United States Mint were the half cents and large cents made in 1793. All half cents from this year bear the left-facing Liberty Cap design, while large cents feature three major design types: Flowing Hair (Chain Reverse), Flowing Hair (Wreath Reverse) and Liberty Cap. There are also a number of highly collectible varieties of 1793 half cents and large cents.

Not surprisingly, many collectors seek a representative of the first coins struck by the United States Mint. Chain cents are particularly desirable because of their interesting and unusual design, but all 1793 types are eagerly sought-after by collectors. As a result of their popularity and relatively low mintages, 1793 Half Cents and cents are quite valuable and sell for thousands of dollars even in the lowest circulated grades.

Counterfeit 1793 Flowing Hair Cent
Click images to enlarge.

Counterfeiters have long targeted these coins. Many fakes were likely produced to fill holes in the sets of collectors who could not afford a genuine example. Although this original purpose may not have been nefarious, these sets eventually reenter the marketplace and are purchased by unsuspecting buyers.

NGC occasionally receives submissions of spurious 1793 Half Cents and cents, such as this 1793 Flowing Hair, Wreath Reverse Cent. While it may look like a moderately worn example at first glance, a careful inspection under a loupe reveals several telltale diagnostics of counterfeit specimens.

Among the most noticeable issues are the tool marks immediately below the bust caused by a counterfeiter using a graver to scratch away some other flaw. Near these tool marks are several raised lines, which are virtually never seen on genuine examples. Diagnostic raised lines can be found immediately above and below the first leaf, and another is seen to the left of the 7 in the date.

Diagnostics (l to r): Tooling Marks; Raised Lines
Click images to enlarge.

In addition, the color of the reverse is blotchy and unnatural. The fields around the letters in STATES OF have a particularly manipulated appearance.

The majority of 1793 Half Cents and large cents are seen in low-to-mid circulated grades and many genuine specimens have problems that include scratches and environmental damage. This can make authentication especially difficult. With examples worth thousands of dollars or more, it is important to be absolutely certain that the coin is genuine.

Interested in reading more articles on Counterfeit Detection? Click here.

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