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Counterfeit Detection: 1861 Indian Head Cent

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NGC - A die-struck fake is characterized by rough surfaces and less detail.

Read More: Counterfeit Detection Series.

In its day, the 1861 Indian Head cent was not rare. In fact, the Philadelphia Mint struck more than 10 million of them that year.

Today, however, it is the scarcest of the short-lived copper-nickel cent series issued in 1859-64. As such, it is a key date for collectors and, according to the NGC Price Guide, commands a hefty $1,550 in Mint State (MS)-65. Its collectibility and high value make the 1861 cent a target of forgers.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ( NGC) authenticators recently identified a counterfeit 1861 Indian Head cent in a submission from a collector. While it is not the most convincing fake, the piece is more deceptive than some.

The 1861 Indian Head cent forgery (top) displays rough surfaces, a result of the transfer process used to make the dies. A genuine example is above.

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