Counterfeit Detection: Altered Date and Added Mintmark 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel

Posted by Max Spiegel, Numismatic Researcher on 3/13/2012

The 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel is often altered, but diagnostics can aid in finding the counterfeits.

Counterfeit 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel
Click images to enlarge.

There are some coins that are often faked outright—i.e. with cast or struck counterfeits—and there are other coins that are frequently altered to have a different year or mintmark. The Buffalo nickel series is one where the latter is, if not more common, more deceptive, and NGC has seen numerous altered date and mintmark Buffalo nickels.

There are two primary factors that have resulted in a high number of altered Buffalo nickels. First, the series includes a number of widely collected varieties such as the famous 1937-D 3-Legged, the 1918/7-D, the 1936-D 3½-Legged, and several doubled dies. Second, there are many years where the Philadelphia Mint issues are common while the Denver and San Francisco Mint issues are very scarce. Adding a mintmark to a P-mint coin can often make it appear significantly more valuable. For varieties, it’s often easier for a counterfeiter to tool away part of the buffalo’s leg or change a digit in the date.

NGC graders spotted an interesting 1918/7-D in one submission. Not only was the D added, but the date was also altered to make it appear to be an 8 over 7. Under a loupe it becomes clear that although the position of the ‘D’ mintmark between FIVE and CENTS is virtually correct, it is poorly shaped with a bold top serif. The date is also incorrect; the top of the 8 is not as flat as it should be and the diagonal of the 7 through the bottom loop of the 8 is not in the proper location.

Genuine on Left, Counterfeit on Right
Click images to enlarge.

On many genuine overdates there is a die crack from the Indian’s hair braid towards the jaw; this altered date does not have that feature. The designer’s initial ‘F’ often resembles a ‘P’ on genuine specimens, but on this piece it is a distinct ‘F’. The 1918/7-D is often altered, but luckily there are a number of diagnostics that aid in identification of genuine examples. Another commonly altered Buffalo nickel is the 1937-D 3-legged, and in a future column we’ll share some of the diagnostics for that issue.

Read about another fake Buffalo nickel that NGC identified here.

Be sure to check out NGC’s Counterfeit Detection column published monthly in the American Numismatic Association’s The Numismatist.