World Coins

Detecting Counterfeits fake British 1887 gold 5-pound coin

Great Britain produced an 11-coin set in 1887 to celebrate the 50th year of Queen Victoria’s reign, commonly referred to as the Jubilee design. This set of coins ranged from a silver threepence to a gold £5 coin. The gold £5 coin, with a weight of nearly 40 grams and a content of 1.177 ounces of pure gold, is larger than a U.S. gold $20 double eagle.

In circulated or mishandled condition, the 1887 gold £5 piece is not worth a significant amount above its gold melt value (currently about $1,400), but this issue has been popular with collectors for many decades. As a result, it has caught the attention of counterfeiters, who have produced quite a few fakes over the years.

The featured counterfeit was struck from fake dies produced using the transfer process. Through a series of steps, all of the design details on a genuine model coin are transferred over to a set of fake dies. Depending on the skill of the counterfeiter, the resulting fakes can range from high quality reproductions that are difficult to detect, to crude imitations that collectors can spot easily.

On the obverse of this fake, an incuse line runs diagonally across Queen Victoria’s shoulder, beginning above the necklace and ending near the rim at 5:00. While it is possible that the model coin had a large dent or gouge in this area that transferred over, it is more likely that this line is the result of a defect in the fake die, due to its size and appearance.

The coin also shows a raised diagonal line in the field between the queen’s chin and the V in VICTORIA. Both of these can be seen without magnification, and no genuine example should have this precise defect combination.

On the reverse, many of the finer details of the St. George and the Dragon design are a bit mushy. The initials B.P. between the bottom of the rock and the rim at 5:00 are just blobs on the fake. These are the initials of Benedetto Pistrucci, chief medalist at the Royal Mint, who designed the reverse. Unless they are flattened by surface damage, these initials will be legible on genuine coins, but loss of details during the transfer process has reduced them to formless lumps on this fake.

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