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Counterfeit Detection: 1794 Talbot, Allum & Lee Cent

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Talbot, Allum & Lee Cents are a largely ignored but very cool and affordable way to get into early US Copper. Talbot, Allum & Lee was a New York Merchant Company doing mostly India Trade. They put a lot of these into circulation in both 1794 and 1795. The 1795 features a slightly different reverse design. The US Mint ended up purchasing a large amount of the coins from Talbot, Allum & Lee and used them as planchets for 1795 & 1797 Half Cents... You can even still see remnants of the Talbot, Allum & Lee design on many of them! The Red Book has a section devoted to the Talbot, Allum & Lee Cents as well:

Now to our featured coin, the counterfeit. Most likely contemporary. At first glance you see the die cracks on the reverse and may neglect to look closer. The design looks right, the date looks right... What we need to look for at this point are signs of it being cast from the mold of an authentic Talbot, Allum & Lee Cent.

When we look closer we can see areas around the coin that look pitted, and other raised areas that could be described as "bubbly" and are raised small lumps speckled across the surface. I think of this as air bubbles in the metal formed as it is poured into the mold and cools. While these early copper planchets were rough to begin with, and could even be pitted, they would not have the raised lumps and pitting would have a different shaped hole than the round, bubble like holes seen here.

The large lumps are even more prominent and very raised across the obverse devices on this example.

Moving on to the reverse we can see even more of this pitted texture throughout the fields between the devices, as well as some massive voids in the denticles along the rim. There are also a few small raised lumps throughout.

Looking closely at the center of the reverse, there are massive voids, and raised areas everywhere. The disturbance in the middle is quite extreme in hand, and is probably the most obvious initial detail, along with the central large raised lumps on the obverse, that alerts you that there is something off about this coin. On many examples it may not be as obvious and you will have to examine each coin carefully for signs of it being cast rather than struck on a blank planchet.

Authentic examples of this stunning early copper are actually quite affordable, only a few hundred dollars in the VF-AU range and typically around $1000 in Mint State... Far less expensive than the half cents struck on top of them, and a very attractive design! Keep an eye on our shop for quality, authentic Talbot, Allum & Lee Cents in the future, as well as tons of other stunning rare coins.


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