Counterfeit Detection: 1915-S Buffalo Nickel

Posted on 9/12/2023

A missing letter and misshapen numbers are among the red flags signaling this fake.

While the Buffalo Nickel series has some varieties that are very pricey, all of the standard issue coins can be found in low Mint State for, at most, a few thousand dollars. The 1915-S has one of the lowest mintages of the series at just over 1.5 million. Today, it is a semi-key date that is worth about $1,000 in low Mint State.

Genuine 1915-S Buffalo Nickel
Click images to enlarge.

NGC recently received a purported example of a 1915-S Buffalo Nickel. Unfortunately for the submitter, this is nothing more than a poor-quality fake. Its devices show low flat relief. And the designer’s incuse initial ‘F’ (for James Earle Fraser) appears to be missing entirely. Perhaps the counterfeiter was having trouble with it on the counterfeit die and just decided it would be less of a risk to omit it altogether.

Counterfeit 1915-S Buffalo Nickel
Click images to enlarge.

The date on the counterfeit seems to be bulging, with bubble-like digits, which are especially glaring when compared to the genuine example. Interestingly, the ‘5’ on the counterfeit appears to be a little sharper than the other digits. This likely means the counterfeiter was using the same hub to create multiple counterfeit "working" dies, to which they then added the final digit. This would allow them to create even more fake Buffalo Nickels from the 1913-1919 era more easily.

Close-ups of the genuine (left) and counterfeit 1915-S Buffalo Nickel
Click images to enlarge.

Finally, the counterfeit’s rim, which ought to be flat and smooth, instead exhibits concentric lines. This counterfeit has plenty of red flags, but that’s not always the case. If you are not sure whether a coin is the real deal, remember that NGC backs its determinations of authenticity and grade with the NGC Guarantee.

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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