Counterfeit Detection: 1793 Flowing Hair Cent

The edge was a dead giveaway for an electrotype counterfeit of this early American coin.

As counterfeiting technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, the fakes that NGC graders see are becoming more of a challenge to detect. Most often seen are the transfer-die counterfeits, which are basically clones of an original coin struck from a fake die.

However, transfer-die fakes are not the original “cloned coins.” Rather, that distinction goes to electrotypes, ones of which was recently submitted to NGC.

Counterfeit 1793 Flowing Hair Large Cent
Click images to enlarge.

At first glance, nothing seems amiss about the coin pictured above. It appears to be a nice, circulated 1793 cent with plenty of detail still left and glossy fields. (The 1793 cents were among the first struck by the US Mint – initially with chains on the reverse and later with leaves.)

Unfortunately, this coin is anything but original. If you look at the third side of the coin, the edge, there is a major issue.

These composite images show the obverse of a genuine 1793 Flowing Hair Large Cent with its edge (left) and the counterfeit (right)
Click images to enlarge.

In the photos above, it is very clear that there is something going on with the edge on the coin to the right. Note the crude nature of the lettering, as well as the extensive tooling.

This counterfeit is an electrotype. (For more details on electrotypes, see our article here. )

Electrotypes are created from two hollow shells of the obverse and reverse, which are then filled with metal to create the weight of a genuine coin. The forger then filed down the edge and added their own edge lettering in an attempt to make the piece more deceptive.

Close-up of “HUNDRED” on the edge of a counterfeit 1793 Flowing Hair Large Cent
Click image to enlarge

Due to the extensive amount of tooling on the edge, the seam between the two pieces has been relatively well hidden. However, this seam is still visible in some places, such as through the top of the letters of “HUNDRED.” This is not something that would be seen on a genuine piece. Also, notice the extremely crude nature of the lettering, which is easier to see in the close-up.

As is always the case, any coins certified by NGC are guaranteed to be authentic.

Did you know? Four cents made NGC’s List of Top 50 US Coins Targeted by Counterfeiters, including the 1909-S VDB, the top coin on the list.


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