US Coins

Altered 1913-S 5-cent coin made from two coins

Detecting Counterfeits column from March 14, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

The 1913-S Indian Head, Bison on Plain 5-cent coin is one of the key dates to the series.

Only the 1926-S and the 1931-S issues have a lower mintage than the 1913-S Bison on Plain coin, and only the 1916 Doubled Die Obverse, the 1918/7-D, the 1936-D Three-and-a-Half-Legged Bison, and the 1937-D Three-Legged Bison pieces are worth more in lower grades.

Coin World’s Coin Values lists the 1913-S Bison on Plain 5-cent coin at $450 in Very Fine 20 and $700 in About Uncirculated 50. For these reasons, it is a coin that we always focus a bit more attention on when an example shows up in the grading room at ANACS.

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The example shown here is a rather good alteration, produced using a common 1913 5-cent coin for the obverse and a later date coin from the San Francisco Mint for the reverse. These two coins were expertly cut or machined in half, then pieced together and securely attached with an adhesive, most likely super glue.

Most of the time when alterations like this are made, they are not precise enough with their work to keep the weight of the resulting fake accurate. This piece weighs 4.32 grams, well below the standard weight of 5.00 grams for a genuine U.S. copper-nickel 5-cent piece. 

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On the other hand, the fake has the “ring” of a genuine coin (the sound a coin makes when it is dropped onto a hard surface), indicating the two pieces were carefully fitted together.

After the two halves were attached to each other, the edge of the alteration was gently buffed to hide the seam. Part of this seam is still visible (see the enlarged image), but only under magnification and good lighting.

Many “two halves pieced together” fakes try to hide the seam on one of the rims instead of on the edge, reasoning that a seam where the rim and the edge of the coin join will be harder to see. 

However, the easiest diagnostic for this fake is the S Mint mark. 

All genuine 1913-S Indian Head 5 cents have the same style “S” that appeared on the 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent. Collectors familiar with this Mint-mark style will have no trouble detecting the differences. 

The S Mint mark on this fake is the style used in the late 1920s and 1930s.

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