Counterfeiter fakes key-date 1886 Liberty Head 5-cent coin without using host coin

Detecting Counterfeits column from Dec. 8, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 11/21/14
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The 1886 Liberty Head 5-cent coin is one of the key dates in the series.

Only the 1885, 1912-S, and of course the ultra-rare 1913 Liberty Head 5-cent coins have lower mintages than the 1886 coin.

This scarcity is reflected in the Coin Values prices for an 1886 Liberty Head 5-cent coin, which range from $325 in Very Good to $2,500 in Mint State 63.

These price levels make the 1886 5-cent coin an obvious target for counterfeiters.

The fake shown here is a reasonably well-made counterfeit, with accurate design details and correct weight, diameter and thickness.

The counterfeiter did not want to go to the expense of acquiring a genuine 1886 Liberty Head 5-cent coin to use as a model coin, though.

Instead, a common-date coin was used to produce the dies, and the 1886 date was subsequently hand-cut into the faked die.

If you have a genuine example for comparison, the differences in the style of the date digits are a quick diagnostic for this fake.

Even though the counterfeiter did a fairly good job cutting the date into the fake die, he did not perfectly replicate the style and alignment of the date on a genuine coin.

Another diagnostic for this fake is the artificial circulation it has received.

Most struck fakes that are arriving in the United States from China have the appearance of an About Uncirculated to fully Mint State coin.

In contrast, this coin has been artificially worn down to a much lower grade. It was not done evenly, though — the obverse has the details of a Good to Very Good example, while the reverse appears to be Very Fine.

When an expensive U.S. coin has an unusual wear pattern like this, it should always encourage you to take a much closer look.

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