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Counterfeit Detection: 1913 Buffalo Nickel

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 Posted 10/12/2021  1:36 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add CCFPress to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
NGC - To create this deception, two coins became one.

The Buffalo nickel, a uniquely American coin designed by James Earle Fraser, debuted in 1913. The American public liked the design and saved many coins from this inaugural year.

The rollout of the new nickels hit a bump when rapid wearing of the date was discovered on circulating examples. This gave United States Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber the opportunity to modify the design. Among other changes, Barber cut away the mound under the buffalo at the bottom of the reverse, truncating it in a horizontal line just above the words FIVE CENTS.

A rumor spread that the initial "Variety 1" nickels would be recalled in favor of Barber's modified "Variety 2" design, which heightened interest in collecting the originals. As a result, an ample supply exists of "Variety 1" examples struck at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints.

All three facilities also produced 1913 "Variety 2" examples. The high mintage from Philadelphia means these carry little premium today. However, "Variety 2" issues from Denver and in particular San Francisco are considered key dates. The latter approach $1,000 in low mint state grades, making them some of the more expensive coins in the series. Such rarities, differentiated by a tiny mintmark, create an incentive for counterfeiting.

A purported 1913-S "Variety 2" Buffalo nickel was recently sent to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ( NGC) for certification. This particular coin is a bit light. A true nickel should weigh 5g, and this example comes in at a mere 4.44g.

The reason for this becomes clear after examining the edge, which numismatists sometimes call the "third side" of a coin. A close inspection reveals a thin line with numerous toolmarks, which are often left behind after a counterfeiter tries to conceal a significant problem with a fake. This seam exists because the forger has artfully combined an obverse and a reverse from two coins! NGC refers to this unusual alteration as "two halves joined."


This "two halves joined" nickel combines a Philadelphia obverse with a San Francisco reverse.
Artificial toning was applied to achieve a more uniform appearance.


The obverse most likely came from a 1913 Philadelphia nickel, while the reverse was separated from a relatively common late-date San Francisco issue. By combining these two pieces, the counterfeiter was able to approximate a higher-priced 1913-S Buffalo nickel.

In addition to the incorrect weight and edge seam, other telltale signs include artificial toning (to give both sides a uniform look) as well as the absence of the typical "ring" sound that is heard when a coin is lightly tapped.


A seam on the edge shows where the two halves were brought together.

If you are uncertain whether the coin in your hand is the real deal, remember that NGC backs its determinations of authenticity and grade with the NGC Guarantee.

Check out 1913 Buffalo Nickels on ebay.

Read More: Counterfeit Detection Series
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 Posted 10/12/2021  2:13 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Coinfrog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Pretty scary stuff!
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 Posted 10/12/2021  3:37 pm  Show Profile   Check jacrispies's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add jacrispies to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
This would be best presented in an album, like a dansco. One the edge is covered, it looks legitimate. But the edge is a dead giveaway with the toolmarks in my opinion.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  3:45 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Now I have to go look at the 1913-S V2 nickel in my Dansco.

It is low grade. I hope I am safe.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  4:42 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add fortcollins to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
This counterfeiter mated the 1913 obverse with a correct 1913-1917 reverse, which has the MMS-001 San Francisco mint mark style. The joined coins are also matching EMDS die states with matching AU grades and matching strong strikes. Very deceptive counterfeit.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  5:17 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add dave700x to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
That one is scary good.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  6:09 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add oriole to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The join line is faint but clear enough. However, most people would not look at the edge.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  6:15 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add NumisEd to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It seems inevitable that eventually, counterfeiters will be able to make coins that are indistinguishable from the real deal.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  6:23 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add bobby131313 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
They may already.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  8:52 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add fortcollins to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply


This. And it's scary.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  9:12 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add HappyHippo to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
So how was that made? Grinding two coins down to about half their thickness then gluing them together?
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 Posted 10/12/2021  9:15 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Coinfrog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
That's essentially correct.
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 Posted 10/12/2021  9:55 pm  Show Profile   Check jacrispies's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add jacrispies to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The article also says that the counterfeit lacks the "ring" of a genuine coin. So there may be some gap between the halves, or a substance that dampens the vibrations of the ring. That could be a hint of how it was produced. I'd imagine if the two halves were perfectly placed and somehow soldered together with no gap, the ring would sound genuine.
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 Posted 10/13/2021  9:34 pm  Show Profile   Check westcoin's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add westcoin to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
These are a tough fake to detect, I hate even more the ones where the coin is hollowed out and a new piece is fitted into the shell making the seam at the rim/denticle edge, you see that more with larger coins like half dollars and dollars. Very much like a Magicians coin, from the old "Scotch and Soda" coin trick. With new CNC and laser technologies these are only getting easier to do and better in quality.
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 Posted 10/13/2021  11:43 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add hokiefan_82 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I'd quit buying higher-dollar raw coins many years ago because I was nervous about missing some little detail and making an expensive mistake. Seeing examples like this only reinforces that .

@jacrispies - I don't think you could ever match the "ring" of a solid coin, no matter how well the two halves matched up. I believe there would still be a microscopic-level acoustic break at the seam which would alter the sound.
Edited by hokiefan_82
10/13/2021 11:45 pm
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