There is no question that being engaged in the lovely trade of numismatics is going to expose one to numerous types and degrees of counterfeit coins. These counterfeits can range from the completely obvious to the advanced and deceiving. The novice person is usually astounded at how easily the trained eye can catch counterfeits but there are some standard features and tricks that the interested can learn to apply quickly.
This monthly post will highlight coins that we have either found when purchasing coin collections or, simply put, someone screwed up on and missed. Most of the time, the counterfeit coins that we have were detected during the purchasing process and the newly informed client just donated the coin(s) to us for the cause. Anyway, hopefully these simple examples will provide some clarity as to what to try and detect.
The 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln cent is one of the most talked about “rarities” in 20th Century United States numismatics. While the absolute rarity of the coin is not what many think, it is the coin that every kid who had a paper route, coin interest or liquor store tried to find in change back when that was possible. It was the stopper to the series for those trying to put together a complete collection by getting their elbows dirty. Given that the scarcity and demand were widely known early on, it became a prime target for the inspired and crooked to play with.
There were four obverse dies used to produce the 1909-S V.D.B. cent and they are all relatively the same to someone who is untrained. I would suggest referencing the following link, http://www.pcgs.com/News/Counterfeit-Vs-Authentic-1909-s-Vdb-Lincoln-Cents, for a visual of the diagnostics of the four obverse dies.
The image below is an example of a coin that had the mint mark added to the obverse field just below the date. The counterfeiter basically expertly placed an S on an original 1909 V.D.B. cent. Therefore, the host coin is real but has been altered to try and fool someone into paying the premium for the rarity associated with the 1909-S V.D.B. coin. This particular example is a pretty good attempt at deceiving someone.
Here are the things that identify this coin as bad. First, the position of the S below the date, 1909, does not match any of the known dies used to strike this coin. Granted, it is unlikely many people are going to memorize these four positions so that diagnostic alone is tricky. Secondly, and more importantly, is that the mint mark appears to be just a little off when compared to the date. Upon further inspection, with a loupe, the mint mark is noticeably higher than the numerals of the date with a much sharper edge in relation to the fields it would have been struck on. It requires placing the coin’s rims vertically between thumb and finger and tilted backwards only a few degrees to see this with magnification of 6x.
Hopefully, this little post helps you to see an example of what is out there, lurking for your hard earned money. Trust us, the only way you learn this stuff is the hard way.