Counterfeit Detection: 1872 Two Cent Piece

Posted on 10/13/2015

NGC graders identify two counterfeit 1872 Two Cent Pieces with depressions and weak denticles.

The Two Cent Piece is one of three unusual—and unsuccessful—denominations of United States coins introduced in the second half of the 19th Century, the other two being the Three Cent Piece and the Twenty Cent Piece. Authorized in 1864 when the country was in the midst of the Civil War, the Two Cent Piece was intended to help alleviate the shortage of circulating coins.

It was moderately successful in its first two years, with mintages of nearly 20 million pieces in 1864 and more than 13 million pieces in 1865. Demand quickly waned, however, and by 1872 emissions dropped to a mere 65,000 circulation coins. The 1872 was the final business strike in the Two Cent series and the denomination was discontinued the following year after a small number of Proofs were issued.

With the lowest mintage of any regular issue in the series, it is no surprise that the 1872 is also the most valuable. In VF, the most common circulated grade, the NGC US Coin Price Guide reports a value of $900. This climbs to $5,800 in MS 64 RB, the most frequently seen Uncirculated grade at NGC.

NGC does not often see counterfeit or altered Two Cent Pieces, but graders recently spotted two spurious 1872 Two Cents that clearly have the same origins. These fakes are notable for the significant number of depressions on both sides—the counterfeiter undoubtedly heavily abraded these pieces to disguise the fact that they are not genuine.

Counterfeit 1872 Two Cent Piece
Click images to enlarge.

In addition, the obverse is relatively strong (save for the “WE” in “IN GOD WE TRUST”) while the reverse is extremely soft, particularly at the wreath. The denticiles are also quite weak and in some places are entirely indistinct.

Counterfeit 1872 Two Cent Piece
Click images to enlarge.

The dramatically varied appearance is a particularly strong indication that these coins are counterfeits, as are their overall poor quality. A comparison to genuine examples, even those in low grades, confirms that these cannot be an authentic US Mint issues. Given that two of these fakes were seen by NGC in short succession, it is reasonable to assume that these are new entrants into the marketplace and therefore collectors and dealers should be particularly vigilant.

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