Counterfeit Detection: 1895-O Barber Dime

Posted by Max Spiegel, Numismatic Researcher on 3/22/2013

A fuzzy, porous appearance and misshapen date helped idenitfy this 1895-O Barber Dime as a counterfeit.

The Barber Dime series, minted from 1892 to 1916, has only a handful of semikey to key dates. The 1894-S, struck in proof format only with a mintage of just 24 pieces, is undoubtedly the most famous, but this coin is not collected as part of a circulation issue set. The most challenging of these circulation strikes is the 1895-O, which had the lowest mintage of any regular issue with 440,000 coins produced.

According to the NGC US Coin Price Guide, the 1895-O trades for $570 in VG, $2,610 in XF and $5,730 in MS 60. Although counterfeit or altered date and mintmarked Barber Dimes are not particularly common, NGC graders did identify a fake 1895-O in a recent submission. A comparison of this counterfeit with a genuine example reveals a number of significant differences.

Counterfeit 1895-O Barber Dime
Click images to enlarge.

Perhaps the most obvious issue is the weakness of the design elements. Liberty’s head nearly blends into the fields and all of the letters and devices have a fuzzy, porous appearance. A genuine example, unless extensively circulated, would exhibit much sharper details. There are also some unusual missing parts of the design, likely a result of poorly made counterfeit dies crumbling. Large pieces of the T in UNITED and right reverse rim are missing, along with smaller pieces of other letters.

A less obvious problem with this coin is the misshapen date, but this is yet another diagnostic to prove its nefarious origins. The coin has been artificially toned to disguise the fact that it is a fake—a common tactic, especially when it is an otherwise low quality fake. When you look past that, however, it is a relatively easy counterfeit to spot.

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