Counterfeit Detection: 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel

Posted on 4/13/2021

A look at the date shows this counterfeit of a popular Buffalo Nickel variety is definitely crooked.

The Buffalo Nickel series (1913-1938) is relatively easy to collect, even in Mint State, so numismatists who are looking for an extra challenge will often seek out rare varieties. These include ones where there was doubling on a die (such as 1916 and 1935), ones where all or part of a buffalo’s leg was missing from the die (such as 1936-D and 1937-D) and overdates, such as the rare 1918/7-D.

Genuine 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel
Click images to enlarge

In the early years of the US Mint, overdates were a byproduct of cost-saving measures to get further life out of a functional die by changing the date and using it for a subsequent year. However, the 1918/7-D overdate occurred because of an error at the Mint. The working dies needed to be impressed at least twice from a hub with an annealing process in between. It appears that in late 1917, a working die that had already been impressed with a 1917 hub was subsequently given an impression from one dated 1918, therefore causing this dramatic overdate.

NGC has graded nearly 1,000 examples of this variety, the vast majority of them in grades of VF or lower. Because so few have been certified in Mint State, any such coin is worth tens of thousands of dollars, according to the NGC Price Guide. This creates an incentive to produce counterfeits, an example of which the NGC grading team recently encountered.

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

Overall, the counterfeit exhibits poor strike and poor details. The weight is 5.4 grams, making it nearly 10 percent too heavy. A metallurgical analysis also finds the coin is 69% Copper, 27% Zinc and 4% Nickel, when it ought to be 75% Copper and 25% Nickel.

Close-up of poor details on the reverse of the counterfeit
Click images to enlarge

If there’s any doubt about the fake coin’s nature, take a close look at the date itself. On the counterfeit, the digits lack precision. The second '1' is shorter and askew when compared to the first '1.' The top of '7' is misplaced within the top circle of the '8,' which looks especially glaring when compared to a genuine example.

Close-up of a genuine overdate (left) and the counterfeit overdate
Click images to enlarge

Even seasoned numismatists can have trouble spotting counterfeits. If you have any doubts about your authentication abilities, remember that NGC backs its determinations of authenticity 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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