Out of the ordinary bogus coins: Detecting Counterfeits

Counterfeiter targets common 1916-S Indian Head 5-cent coin
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 07/24/15
Text Size

Detecting Counterfeits column from the Aug. 10, 2015, issue of Coin World:

One of the initial steps in the authentication process is to determine if a given coin is worth enough to attract the attention of a counterfeiter. A 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent, a 1916 Standing Liberty quarter dollar, and virtually any U.S. gold coin qualifies at this step. A 1916-S Indian Head 5-cent coin does not. Coin Values lists a price of $15 for the 1916-S in Very Good condition, a value that would be off the radar for any self-respecting counterfeiter.

Despite this, we have the example illustrated here. It drew the attention of the ANACS graders when we inspected it for the requested variety of “Missing Designer’s Initial,” a popular die variety in the “Buffalo nickel” series. On a genuine coin, the F below the date (for designer James Earle Fraser) disappeared due to overpolishing of the obverse die. 

On this fake, the F is not visible, but due to a loss of details from the transfer process, where the design of a genuine coin is transferred to a set of fake dies. If the transfer process is performed properly, nearly all of the fine details end up on the fake dies — if the process is done poorly, the result is a less deceptive counterfeit.

Another diagnostic for this counterfeit is a straight die crack on the obverse, running diagonally from the rim at 8:30 to the back of the Indian’s head. Genuine dies used to produce circulation strike coins rarely exhibit straight die cracks.

For the Indian Head 5-cent coin specialist, the S Mint mark is another diagnostic for this fake. A genuine 1916-S 5-cent coin will have the same style Mint mark as a 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent or a 1913-S  Indian Head 5-cent coin. This counterfeit has a Mint mark that most closely resembles the style used in the 1920s and 1930s.

The weight, diameter and composition of this fake are all accurate, which is to be expected — there is no reason for a counterfeiter to deliberately reduce the metal content in a fake that contains less than 10 cents worth of copper and nickel. 

Many counterfeiters purchase genuine unstruck U.S. Mint blanks from the error community for their product, ensuring that the specifications will be correct.

More from CoinWorld.com:

Will the American Liberty High, Relief gold coin be a success?

Images of gold coin hoard discovered in Germany released by museum

Collecting gold dollars: Q. David Bowers

Metal detectorist discovers Nazi-era gold coin hoard

Household ordering limit set at 50 for American Liberty, High Relief $100 gold coin

Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

You are signed in as:null

Please sign in or join to share your thoughts on this story

No comments yet