US Coins

Key-date 1916-D dime target of counterfeiters

Second segment of cover feature published in its entirety in the Feb. 1, 2016, Monthly issue of Coin World:

Included in Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth’s reference 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, the 1916-D Winged Liberty Head dime is, if not the most, one of the most counterfeited or altered United States coins ever issued.

The significant disparities in price, according to listings in Coin World’s Coin Values — $1,500 for a genuine 1916-D dime in Very Good 8, $5,500 in Extremely Fine 40 and $12,000 for Mint State 60, versus $5, $13 and $30 for a 1916 dime or $10, $24 and $38 for a 1916-S dime in the same grades — makes the 1916-D dime a prime target for counterfeiters.

Likely, many more counterfeit or altered 1916-D Winged Liberty Head dimes are in the numismatic marketplace than genuine examples, according to some estimates. That’s why it’s imperative when contemplating buying a 1916-D dime to acquire an example already graded and encapsulated by a major third-party grading service that will guarantee a coin’s authenticity.

I recall from back in 1990, two years after I began my tenure at Coin World, an interview with a collector from eastern Pennsylvania. He had been combing major flea markets up and down the eastern part of the state in search of as many 1916-D dimes as he could find.

Connect with Coin World: 

At the time, he had acquired a mind-boggling 250 pieces, all, coincidentally, in About Good 3 condition, and all at $50 each.

Only the individuals at the different flea markets where the collector acquired the coins fared well in the transactions.

After accumulating the entire assemblage, the collector took all of the coins to numismatic experts, where he learned that not one of the 250 dimes was a genuine 1916-D dime. All of them were alterations, having a D Mint mark added to a 1916 Philadelphia Mint strike.

The collector’s only consolation was that the altered pieces still carried the intrinsic value of the .900 fine silver each contained.

Read the rest of this feature on the Winged Liberty Head dime's 100th anniversary:

In The Complete Guide to Mercury Dimes, author David W. Lange explains the most common method used to execute a 1916-D dime alteration: removing a D Mint mark from a common date Winged Liberty dime and affixing the severed D, with epoxy or solder, to a 1916 Philadelphia Mint strike, which otherwise bears no Mint mark.

A D Mint mark so affixed appears to float above the surface of the altered coin, according to Lange.

“Realizing this, many fakers will then use a finepoint tool to work the Mint mark’s sides into the coin’s field,” Lange writes, warning further, “... Any signs of discoloration or tooling marks in the area of the Mint mark are reason enough to be suspicious.”

Lange explains that, while die-struck counterfeits within the Winged Liberty Head dime series are rare, some skillfully manufactured 1916-D counterfeits were fabricated during the 1970s.

“They were apparently struck from transfer dies which had been generated from authentic coins,” according to Lange. “In the case of the 1916-D counterfeits, although sharply detailed, they lack the textured fields and slightly diffused luster characteristic of this date, having the more brilliant surfaces typically seen in later coins.”

Community Comments