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.