Counterfeit Detection: 1857 Half Cent

Posted on 4/10/2018

Problems abound on the obverse and reverse of this crude fake.

The Half Cent denomination that had existed since the US started minting its own currency in the late 1700s was legislated out of existence in 1857. Though this year is scarce among the Braided Hair issues, low Mint State examples can still be found for under $1,000.

NGC recently received an example of a Counterfeit 1857 Half Cent. Because only one set of dies was used to create these coins, variances are not to be expected. Therefore, an initial glance at the obverses of the genuine and counterfeit should make a collector uncomfortable.

Obverse of the 1857 Half Cent: a genuine example (left) and the counterfeit
Click images to enlarge.

First, the details of the date on the counterfeit clearly do not match the genuine example. The numbers differ markedly – the elegant variations in width of the strokes within individual numbers are clearly missing on the counterfeit.

Likewise, the letters of LIBERTY in the tiara also vary considerably from the genuine version.

The stars surrounding the obverse are mere blobs – like the other features of the counterfeit, they are not clearly defined.

Looking at the reverse reveals similar problems. For instance, the berries within the laurel wreath appear much too large on the counterfeit.

Reverse of the 1857 Half Cent: a genuine example (left) and the counterfeit
Click images to enlarge.

The letters on the reverse do not match the genuine version. Just look at the M in AMERICA; on the genuine version, the left and right side of the M are parallel to each other, while on the counterfeit, the left and right side slant toward each other.

Also note that the E in the word CENT on the counterfeit is broken at the top, which is not something that would be seen on a genuine piece.

This case offers some insight into identifying a particularly crude fake. However, there are plenty of much more sophisticated counterfeits in existence. Remember, any coin certified by NGC is guaranteed to be authentic.

Did you know? NGC has created a comprehensive Counterfeit Detection resource to help collectors and dealers identify counterfeit and altered coins. Visit

Discuss on the NGC Chat Boards

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free NGC eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the NGC eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List

Add Coin

Join NGC for free to add coins, track your collection and participate in the NGC Registry. Learn more >

Join NGC

Already a member? Sign In
Add to NGC Coin Registry Example
The NGC Registry is not endorsed by or associated with PCGS or CAC. PCGS is a registered trademark of Collectors Universe, Inc. CAC is a trademark of Certified Acceptance Corporation.