by Frank M. Zapushek,

How many altered coins do you have in your collection? Many collectors never know until they start selling their collections. In this article, we will share with you some of the coins that collectors have brought to us for authentication. I will explain the method used to examine these coins.

The first coin is a 1914 D Lincoln cent. In AU condition, this coin sells for between $750 and $900. The AU specimen shown below should have sold for about 50 cents.

When examining the coin, we first notice the wide space between the number 9 and the second 1. The authentic 1914 D does not have this space.

On most examples of this altered coin, you can see the tooling marks that removed the portion of the first 4. If you can not see the tooling marks, then usually there is a lower field between the 9 and the second 1. Look at the spacing between the first 1 and the 9, then the spacing between the second 1 and the 4. This should make the spacing between the 9 and the second one jump out at you.

On a good altered coin, you will find no tooling marks, just the space between the 9 and the second 1. The field will not be lower between the numbers. But, the style of the “D” mintmark is different on the 1944 D Lincoln cent and the 1914 D. This coin has the wrong style mintmark for the 1914 D. Also remember that mintmarks can be glued onto a 1914 P to make it look like a 1914 D.

We can understand why dishonest people will alter a 1914 D. It can be sold for a nice sum of money. But why would someone alter a 1945 S to a 1915 S? An AU specimen of a 1915 S Lincoln cent only sells for between $55 and $75.

Maybe the dishonest person knows that the collector will not examine the 1915 S as carefully as he would a 1914 D. Maybe it is easier to sell four or five altered 1915 S coins than to sell one altered 1914 D.

This example is a very poor altered coin. Notice all the tooling marks between the 9 and the second 1. This coin also shows tooling marks above the second 1. This might be an attempt to make the alteration look like surface damage.

Next is a coin that everyone has heard about. The 1943 steel Lincoln cent plated in copper. The example shown to the left is a very good altered steel cent.

No signs of zinc or steel shows anywhere on the coin. The inside of the letters OD R B and inside the numbers 9 & 4 show no buildup of copper. This is the first place to look for signs that a coin has been plated. The inside of these letters and numbers will be filled with the plating and not well defined.

The first test is to weigh the coin on a gram scale. A steel cent should weigh 2.75 grams, while the copper cent weighs 3.11 grams. This coin weighed 3 grams, so it could be either a plated steel cent or the real McCoy.

The second test requires a very expense piece of equipment. A magnet, any magnet, even a refrigerator magnet. Place it over the coin….if the coin jumps to the magnet it is steel plated with copper. Guess what, this coin jumped to the magnet.

When examining coins, think back to your days as a child. When your world first started to grow. Remember when your parents were teaching you to cross the street. Your parents instructed you to stop, look both ways and listen for cars.

I would recommend the same thing for your coins. Stop, examine all three sides of the coin and think!

If your are looking for a 1914 D Lincoln cent, take a 1913 D coin with you. Compare the D mintmark on the 1913 D to the D on the 1914 D. The same style of mintmark was used in both years. Also take a very close look at the area around the D mintmark. Is there any sign of glue or other foreign material around the mintmark? If the field around the mintmark looks different, do not buy the coin. Remember that the field around the mintmark should be as smooth as a babies bottom.

Have a question, need an answer, drop me a line. Frank M. Zapushek PO Box 1993, Bloomington, IL. 61702. Or you can email me a Your question could be the next article. No charge for authentication or questions. Hope to see you at an upcoming show!