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Time to up our game against fakes

2014 U.S. Coin Digest

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As shocking as it is to learn that the Chinese are counterfeiting Carson City Morgan dollars and the General Services Administration plastic holders that house them, I think I was even more surprised by something else in my conversation with Randy Campbell and F. Michael Fazzari of the Independent Coin Grading Service.

Campbell said that the fakers are working their way down the numismatic value chain and reaching coins where counterfeit examples were unknown just a year ago.

He specifically cited two Lincoln cents, the 1924-D and the 1912-D. For someone like me thinking that fakers would go after the usual suspects, the 1909-S VDB, the 1914-D, this was a double surprise.

Campbell said these are coins that collectors and dealers don’t give a second thought to. They just want a grade and then finish a transaction. Or if they are a little more thorough, check to see if the mintmark isn’t one that was added to a genuine Philadelphia coin. That kind of alteration has been a commonplace threat to higher valued Lincolns for the 50 years I have been a collector. It has not occurred to anyone just yet that coins like the 1924-D and 1912-D need to be evaluated now for their basic genuineness as well as their level of wear, says Campbell.

I am so out of touch with the two dates that I had to look up both prices in the “Coin Market”price guide.

The 1924-D runs from $37.50 in G-4 to $170 in AU-50. The 1912-D starts at just $6.50 in G-4 and goes up to a value of $110 in AU-50.

It hardly seems that counterfeiting these two coins would be worth the trouble. Obviously, China is the low cost producer for more than just the usual consumer goods.

Worse, if coins are processed to look worn, that very process helps to disguise the telltale tool mark signs of fakery around letters and design elements.

I would like to think I would spot a fake Lincoln cent if one came my way, but if I wasn’t even considering the possibility that lesser valued cents were being faked, I can easily see how I can be lulled by a false sense of security.

Thanks should go to Campbell and to Fazzari for raising the alarm at the Florida United Numismatists convention about the CC dollars, which justifiably grabs headlines. However, sounding the alarm over these Lincoln fakes is just as important, because there are enough of us old dogs still active in the hobby who need to learn the new trick of being vigilant for fakes where none existed before.

We can do it, but together we will have to up our game. That will be something of a challenge.

Coming my way at the same time as the fake news was a letter from a reader asking about two-headed Lincoln cents with the smaller portrait of the 16th President stamped into the field of the obverse. This kind of souvenir has also been common in my 50 years in the hobby, though I do not know when the first one appeared.

Is that letter writer ready to learn about fake 1912-D and 1924-D Lincolns?


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