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1944 Counterfeit Nickel - aka the Henning Nickel


Saor Alba
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One of the most enigmatic counterfeit coins that was ever produced and actually circulated:

 

henningnickel.jpg

 

These came to the attention of the FBI in 1954, apparently Francis Henning had been producing 1944 dated nickels for some number of years, and it is conjectured that he circulated approximately 100,000 of them before he was caught. Another 400,000 may have been dumped into creeks or rivers in NJ and have never been located.

 

The most glaring difference on this piece is of course the missing mintmark that was over Monticello on the 1942-1945 dated coins that were also about 1/3rd silver. This piece is approximately 80% nickel, with some steel and other elements. One of the mysteries is why did he make them, considering that given the materials, work etc. necessary that it was not economically beneficial to make these coins - if anything Henning probably lost money on them.

 

Another giveaway that identifies this piece as a Henning counterfeit is the loop on the first part of the letter R in Pluribus - this has been found on a very few 1939 dated nickels and some from 1945-6. The other dates are considerably scarcer to find.

 

But as proof of the fact that the American public doesn't really look at their change, these nickels continued to circulate for many years. It was not worth the considerable effort to make the public aware of them - and it is conjectured that the FBI turned over the blanks from these coins to the Philadelphia mint and they struck nickels on them in the mid 1950's.

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Thanks for posting the nickel. I vaguely remember reading about these in the past, but I think its the first time I've seen a picture of one. Neat coin.

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Interesting nickel. It's particularly interesting that he actually used a *higher* concentration of nickel than is found in genuine US coins. No wonder he lost money on them. It's really interesting that he both chose to counterfeit the second-smallest denomination of American coinage and decided to counterfeit a year with such a prominent mint mark. Had he made an extra 100,000 1940-dated nickels, they would probably still be circulating to this day.

 

I had heard about these some time ago, but always assumed that he intended to sell his counterfeit nickels, not spend them. The die is a relatively good copy, but it just fails to convince me. I think it would probably stand out like a sore thumb if I ever saw one of these in person. It's just too lacking in general detail, given how well-preserved the * is between the date and LIBERTY.

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No, I have been searching for years for one and had to buy this from another collector. They are difficult to find because nobody really wants to sell them.

 

Also owning one is illegal, n'est pas?

 

Fear not, your secret is safe with me. :ninja:

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Also owning one is illegal, n'est pas?

 

Fear not, your secret is safe with me. :ninja:

 

I am afraid with these the government even then thought they had bigger fish to fry - 1933 $20 Saints for instance. The guy got a fairly light sentence for counterfeiting, only 4-5 years - his next was much more severe - he moved onto $5 bills.

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