Counterfeit Detection: 1840 and 1857 Large Cents

Posted on 11/10/2015

NGC graders recently identified a pair of fake large cents that share some interesting characteristics.

Most collectors and dealers pay particularly close attention to key date, rare coins. Coins such as the 1893-S Morgan Dollar, 1877 Indian Cent, and 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent are usually inspected closely because they are frequently targeted by counterfeiters. However, as production of counterfeit coins has expanded over the last decade or so, the manufacturers of these phony coins have started to produce more and more common coins—fakes that are mostly meant to fool novice collectors. That is the case with these two large cents, which were submitted together in a collector’s submission.

The 1840 and 1857 Small Date Large Cents are not exactly rarities. The 1840 had a mintage of almost 2.5 million pieces, including Large and Small Date varieties. The 1857 had a Large and Small Date combined mintage of only 333,546, but this still is high enough to only make it a semi-key coin at best. Each of these coins, if genuine, would be worth near $250 according to the NGC US Coin Price Guide. Counterfeiters can produce them for cents on the dollar, however, so there is clearly still significant potential for profit.

Counterfeit 1840 Large Cent
Click images to enlarge.

At first glance, this 1840 Large Cent may look fine. However, a closer inspection reveals many flaws. One of the most noticeable is the strike. There is a lot of weakness in the hair, especially the curls near Liberty’s neck which are nearly nonexistent. Additionally, a knowledgeable large cent collector will note that the reverse type is one not used until 1843, with large letters as opposed to the small ones used on genuine coins of 1840.

Counterfeit 1857 Large Cent
Click images to enlarge.

That same weakness is clearly visible on the 1857 Large Cent as well. Additionally, the dates on both coins are not of the right style and are misshapen. They were likely hand-done (as opposed to created from a genuine coin), and hence are even more crude than the rest of the coin. They are simply not of the quality of a genuine US Mint coin.

Click images to enlarge.

What really stood out on these two counterfeits, however, was that both coins use the same reverse. Not just the same type (which is correct for an 1857 Large Cent), but an actual shared reverse. Look closely at the large defect on the rim at 7 o’ clock on both pieces.

A matching defect can be seen on both the 1840 (left) and 1857 coins (right).
Click images to enlarge.

As you can see, it is the exact same defect. Additionally, matching depressions can be seen on the “E” of “CENT” and on a leaf to the right of the bow.

Click images to enlarge.

Click images to enlarge.

Clearly, the reverse dies used to strike these two coins were created from the same genuine host coin.

Counterfeiters are branching out into lesser valued coins. These pieces are generally low quality and easy to spot—as long as you know what to look for. Collectors and dealers should be particularly vigilant.

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

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