Counterfeit Detection: 1903 Barber Dime

Posted on 5/16/2023

Just because it's not a great rarity doesn't mean it won't be a target for counterfeiters.

The Barber Dime series (1892-1916) holds one of the greatest rarities in US numismatics, the 1894-S. Fewer than a dozen of these Proof coins are currently known to the collecting world, and on the rare occasion that they are offered at auction, they command prices over $1 million. Their value has attracted the attention of counterfeiters, who have created outright fakes or added an ‘S’ mintmark to an 1894-dated dime from Philadelphia. Third-party authentication is essential for any coin purporting to be an 1894-S Dime.

1894-S Barber Dime
Click images to enlarge.

In contrast, such scrutiny is often absent for the business strike 1903 Barber Dime. It’s not a key date, and generally isn’t worth over $100 except in Mint State condition, according to price guides. In fact, the 1903 business strikes with the ‘O’ and ‘S’ mintmarks are each more valuable. Because this is a coin that some collectors might skip certification for, it creates a different kind of opportunity for counterfeiters.

Genuine 1903 Barber Dime
Click images to enlarge.

NGC recently received a purported 1903 Barber Dime. Its weight is 2.57 grams, pretty close to the expected 2.5 grams. However, instead of being 90% silver, it is instead mostly copper (56%), zinc (30%) and nickel (11%).

Counterfeit 1903 Barber Dime
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Even without the equipment to run a metallurgical analysis, there are plenty of other problems that identify it as a fake. For instance, the scrawny digits in the date look quite different from those in a genuine example. And at the base of Liberty's neck, the initial 'B' (for the coin's designer, Charles Barber) is missing. There are also unexpected striations in the fields, which are particularly noticeable around the date.

Close-up of Genuine (left) and Counterfeit 1903 Barber Dime
Click images to enlarge.

Additional red flags include: Spikes can be seen emerging from the obverse rim to the right of ‘OF’; the leaves in the crown have sharper borders than expected but lack detail within; and there is an odd blob in between the two leaves at the bottom of the crown.

Counterfeiters will take advantage of any opportunity to make money, whether it’s a great rarity like the 1894-S Dime or a more commonplace coin like the 1903 Dime. Regardless of value, NGC offers a guarantee of authenticity and grade for the coins that it certifies.

Did you know? NGC has created a comprehensive Counterfeit Detection resource to help collectors and dealers identify counterfeit and altered coins. Visit

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