PCGS graders have identified a rare Colonial sporting a radically new appearance. The piece is an elusive 1792 Washington Eagle Cent – 13 star reverse, lettered edge; (Baker 21) from the Ted Craige collection, sold by Stacks Bowers on two occasions in 2013 (the Americana Sale 1/13 where it brought $3,055 and the ANA Sale 8/13 where it realized $9,988). The coin traces its pedigree back to Mayflower’s Stern’s Sale in December 1966. It was a pleasing light brown specimen with Fine sharpness, but was unfortunately holed at 12 o’clock on the obverse. There had also been a crude attempt to re-engrave the stripes on the shield on the reverse. Only about half a dozen examples are presently known, with at least half of these damaged in some way.
Earlier this year, there was considerable excitement at PCGS when we received what appeared to be a new, previously unknown example of this significant Colonial rarity. While the planchet was rather dark, the coin appeared to be undamaged and certainly worthy of a grade. It was only after some serious detective work that things began to look a bit strange. Some telltale marks began to match up, and despite looking superficially nothing like the holed piece, PCGS was able to conclude that the recently received coin was, indeed, none other than the Ted Craige specimen.
The quality of the alteration was nothing short of phenomenal. Not only had the surfaces been darkened to a very natural-appearing (though not particularly attractive) color, but also the re-engraving on the shield was gone and the hole had disappeared without a trace. Missing detail from where the hole had once been was flawlessly reconstructed. Even the stars at the top of the reverse seemed to once again be visible. PCGS founder David Hall noted it was easily "one of the most deceptive and clever alterations I’ve ever seen. The quality of the work was so good, it’s scary! Had this one somehow slipped by, it could have easily brought $30,000 or more."
While PCGS is justifiably pleased with the sleuthing effort from the grading room, this coin serves as a powerful reminder that one cannot ever let down their guard and that some truly talented "doctors" are out there and capable of some very deceptive work. Obviously, expert authentication of rarities is a must for all serious coin buyers.