Monday, July 15, 2013

There really was a 1913 Liberty Nickel?

1913 was a big year for the United States Mint.  This was the year that the mint rolled out a new design that is called the Buffalo nickel.  This is also the year that 5 Liberty Head nickels were produced.

There were only five issues of the Liberty Head nickel.  All of the examples of the nickel are accounted for, so making a counterfeit is tougher.  Even though it is tougher, there are still some ways to make a counterfeit example of this coin (and there are plenty out there).

The first way a counterfeit coin can be made is called the lost wax method.  This type of method takes some wax and embeds one side of an authentic coin into it.  Once the coin is removed, an image of half of the coin is left behind.  This process is done for both sides.  Since all of the 1913 nickels are accounted for, the person creating the mold redoes the year portion on the mold to read 1913.  The two molds are put together and a hole is formed in the mold and molten metal is poured into the mold, creating a coin.  The wax is then taken off of the coin (or it could have melted away when the metal was poured in) and any excess metal is filed off and the coin is finished.

One way to tell this type of counterfeit is by looking at the edge of the coin.  There is a good possibility that there will be the remnants of a seam from the mold.  Also look at the date of the coin.  1903, 1910, or even 1908 Liberty Head nickels are very plentiful, and it would be easy to alter these dates.  Examine the coin for any possible date tampering.

Another way to counterfeit a coin is to create your own set of dies.  This method, if done right, can create some coins that can come very close to looking like the real deal.  Just like the lost wax method, a die will need to be made for each side of the coin.  The dies can either be heated up and a host coin is imbedded into it, or the dies can be engraved if the person is good enough.  The date is going to be harder to disguise, since the die is made of metal.

This method makes it tougher to tell if you have a fake or not.  One thing to look for is what’s called a “weak strike.”  When someone produces a coin from a pair of homemade dies, the images on the coin (like Miss Liberty) are more than likely going to be faded, or missing in spots.  The areas to look at are the edges of the obverse and the reverse.

So if you run across a 1913 Liberty head nickel, be cautious.  What kinds of items have you run across that made you think twice about it?

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