Counterfeit Detection: Fake 1894 Liberty Nickel

Posted on 12/12/2017

Both sides of this coin offer clues that it isn't genuine.

NGC graders are accustomed to seeing altered mint marks and counterfeits in the Buffalo Nickel series. On the other hand, counterfeits are much less commonly seen in the Liberty Nickel series. However, one was recently seen on a submission to NGC.

The coin is a facsimile of an 1894, which is the second most valuable date in the series. It is most likely a transfer-die counterfeit, made using a die copied from another coin. (To learn the difference between transfer-die counterfeits and other types, visit

Genuine 1883 Liberty Nickel (left) and a fake 1894 (right)
Click images to enlarge.

The counterfeit caught by NGC was not particularly deceptive. Above are the obverses of a genuine Liberty Nickel on the left and the fake on the right. The counterfeit has much softer details overall, which is especially noticeable when you look closer.

Genuine 1883 Liberty Nickel (left) and a fake 1894 (right)
Click images to enlarge.

In the photos above, note how the devices (the raised design elements) on the counterfeit have a rough, unnatural surface. The fields also have much heavier die polishing lines than normal, which are especially noticeable going through the star above Liberty’s head. This polishing gives the coin an odd, unnatural luster that would not be seen on a genuine US Mint product. Additionally, note the low level of detail in comparison to the genuine piece. The stars look like blobs on the fake, and the fine hair detail is all but non-existent.

Genuine 1883 Liberty Nickel (left) and a fake 1894 (right)
Click images to enlarge.

The reverse suffers from the same soft details of the obverse, especially around the periphery. Notice how sharp and well-defined the word “CENTS” is on the genuine example, whereas on the fake it melts into the field. As was the case on the obverse, the reverse devices are pimpled and the fields have incorrect luster and odd, heavy die-polish lines. These lines, which resemble die scratches, are especially noticeable above the denomination.

Close-up of the date on the counterfeit 1894 Liberty Nickel
Close-up of the odd lines and porous devices of the not genuine example

Although counterfeit Liberty Nickels are not often seen by NGC graders, numismatists must constantly be vigilitant when examining any coin. If there is any doubt, consider NGC-certified coins, which are guaranteed to be authentic.

Want to learn more about Counterfeit Detection? Visit

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