It is always wise to be very wary of what you purchase, especially when it comes to buying valuable coins. The purpose of this page is to help you determine whether that “king of kings” doubled die you have your eye on is genuine. The specifics of this document and the photographs that follow are an example of what to watch for in struck counterfeits of valuable coins – this by no means is the only type of counterfeit nor is it the only die with which struck counterfeits are made, so do not pick any specific markers off of the photos of the counterfeit below and read them as being exactly what to look for in determining a 1955 doubled die to be counterfeit or genuine. Since there are other methods and other counterfeit dies used, certification or authentication BEFORE purchase is the only sure way to tell whether you have the “real deal” or a fake. Reading a bit between the lines, you can derive from my statement that you should either VERY WELL know what you are doing in buying an uncertified specimen, or stick to certified (slabbed) specimens.
The struck counterfeit documented here was sent in by K. Reichert, who was genuinely gracious in allowing me to examine this piece after having received it back from ANACS as a struck counterfeit. Very luckily, he is going to be refunded for this coin, but his case is an exception. MANY people are fooled by these coins because the method used to create them is very close to that which made the genuine specimens. Without detailed analysis it is very difficult to tell the difference between them.
This macro image of the struck counterfeit looks quite convincing. In fact, without magnification it is very difficult even for a seasoned specialist to detect. The only real sign of a counterfeit from this viewpoint is the rim of the coin. If compared to just about any other genuine cent from that era, it is a curiosity that the rim is nearly razor sharp and the edges of the coin are more rounded-off than a genuine cent. Other than that, this coin (without magnification) could easily be passed off as genuine. Its weight is within tolerance of a genuine cent (3.10 grams), its thickness is about right, and it appears to be made of the correct alloy.
Since more detail is required to assess the problems with the counterfeit, I have taken the liberty of using photographs of a genuine 1955 doubled die to compare with this struck counterfeit. The genuine doubled die, at the time it was photographed, belonged to collector Jim Hiironen. I use the genuine coin to compare to the counterfeit more so that you can see the differences side by side, but viewing a genuine coin at the same time as a counterfeit is not entirely necessary nor is it often possible. In that, it is important that you be able to recognize the characteristics of the counterfeit as it stands alone, not just in a side by side comparison with a known genuine specimen.
| The first photograph shows immediate problems that will carry forward to other photographs below. Note the thickness difference in the rim as described above. Also notice the acute flatness of the devices on the counterfeit. They seem rather wide, yet flat. The overall relief is lower, and the devices are the wrong distance from the rim. Notice how close “IN GOD” is from the rim on the counterfeit.
Another problem that will be revisited throughout these photographs is that some of the devices (such as the “D” in this photo) are unusually thicker than other devices on the counterfeit. Notice the equal thickness of different features on the genuine coin.
| The next image carries forth all of the previously mentioned problems, but adds another problem to the list. Notice the weakness and flatness to the left side of the “W” on the counterfeit. It is very likely that the planchet used for this coin was not subjected to an upset mill to raise the rim. Rather, the field of the die was curved to assimilate the relief of the rim. When the “W” was hubbed into the die, it was hubbed too closely to the curved rim, thus came out incomplete on top. A genuine 1955 doubled die will not show this sort of characteristic anywhere on the coin.
I feel it is very important to stress that this particular problem is evident on the “W” in “WE” on this particular counterfeit, but is by no means an absolute with all struck counterfeits. Weakness may show in a different area of a different counterfeit.
| The next image shows another curiosity usually found on counterfeits that will never be found on the genuine doubled does. Notice the cut “gap” in the center of the doubled “U” in “TRUST.” This was likely done because the separation between the devices did not show well, so a gap was added to the hub in order to make the resulting coins look more genuine.
Notice also that in this particular area of the coin the devices are all more or less properly spaced from the rim. As a side note, the dent in the rim on the genuine specimen is a coin hit, not a feature of the die.
| The face (actually the entire bust) shows notable weakness in detail, quite visible in this particular example as a lack of lower nose detail – namely the separation line that shows on the genuine specimen is non-existant on the counterfeit. The doubling shows above the eye on the counterfeit, but shows a distinct lack of shape to the primary eyelid, another “sign”.
Notice also the general lack of sharpness to the bridge of the nose, nostril, front of the eye, the crease in the lip, and the crease in front of the cheek. The list goes on and is evident throughout the design, this photo should be enough to give a general idea of the overall weakness in the counterfeit. The detail in the hair, ear, coat, and shoulder folds also carry this weakness.
| The area around “LIBERTY” is where these particular counterfeiters went really wrong. Notice how the “L” crowds the rim in the counterfeit, and it is quite misshapen by this. Again, this won’t necessarily be the case with all struck counterfeits, but something like this may be apparent with any number of them.
Notice also the lack of detail, namely separation lines, in the letters. Oddly enough, though, one of the signs of a genuine 1955 doubled die does show here – the angled “cut” across the top of the “E.” This is a feature of nearly all 1955 cents. A lesson – don’t just look for one thing – observe all the details.
| The last feature to cover on the obverse is the date. Both coins show the weak top of the 1, an apparent sign on all genuine 1955 cents…once again, study the whole piece. Signs of genuine attributes will often come through on counterfeits.
Notice, however, that there is a distinct “cut” between the “1” digits on the counterfeit. Again, a tooling effect probably done to separate the devices from one another to make the finished product look more genuine.
As mentioned above, the date digits appear to be somewhat shallower in the counterfeit, as well as more squared-off in relief.
Take note also that one of the markers for a genuine 1955 doubled die, the light NW-SE die scratches through the date are not present on the counterfeit.
| Finally, the reverse. This particular reverse shows a light class 2 doubled die with minor separation showing in the motto and right wheat lines. Of course the genuine doubled dies do not show this doubling. The relief on the entire reverse is also too shallow for a genuine coin. Interestingly enough, the top of the O in ONE is complete, which is a common weak point in genuine wheat cents. This can be attributed to the low relief being able to strike up more detail with less pressure.
The other typically known marker (sorry, no photo) is the X shaped die scratch to the left of the T in CENT. The counterfeit does not show this marker, although it does have die scratches in that area which could be mistaken for the die scratches on the genuine doubled die. One of the problems with using these die scratches as the only key for determining a coin to be real is that often the color or luster (or lack of) will effectively hide the presence of these scratches. Weak strike or any number of other slight anomalies can also make them weak and nearly invisible. Also important is the fact that the counterfeit shows a criss-cross pattern of very light and very thin die scratches throughout the reverse, also not present on genuine specimens.
I apologize for the depth of this article, but I wanted it to be perfectly clear from beginning to end that it is VERY important that you know all of the different possible attributes of a counterfeit doubled die, so you would be more aware when shopping for them. I also wanted to stress the importance in knowing that this is only one example die pair, NOT the only one used, so it is of equal importance to remember that the particluar anomalies shown on this counterfeit will not necessarily carry through to all struck counterfeits, and certainly not to cast counterfeits or those made by other, usually more crude methods.
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