Web site visitor Craig Chambers writes:
"My uncle ran an ice cream franchise for many years from the 50's through the 80's and saved coins he thought might be valuable.
I was going through some coins he left me after he died, and one of them is a 1945-P nickel. It has a large P on the back. But, there was another 1945 nickel that came with it and it has no mint mark at all. I Googled this and found your article:
"The E-Sylum: Volume 7, Number 13, March 28, 2004, Article 9, COUNTERFEITING CIRCULATING COINS." However, this deals with a 1944 counterfeit, not a 1945. Do you have any information on a mintmark-free 1945 nickel?"
The article discussed "Francis Leroy Henning, who pled guilty to counterfeiting nickels, of all things, on December 29, 1955, and was sentenced to three years in prison for this on January 20, 1956".
Bob Leonard pointed out "Dwight H. Stuckey's booklet, The Counterfeit 1944 Jefferson Nickel (Published by the author, 1982)"
The booklet notes that "Henning made the notorious 1944 no-mintmark nickel, plus five other obverses including 1939, 1946, 1947, and 1953 (the last date remains to be discovered)."
Craig has TWO of the mintmarkless nickels, a 1944 and a 1945. He provided the images below. What do people make of them? Could the 1945 be a previously unrecorded date of the Henning counterfeits?
1944 No Mintmark Nickel
1945 No Mintmark Nickel
I posted the image of the 1945 reverse on our Facebook page for comment, asking "Who made this nickel? HINT: It wasn't the U.S. Mint."
Mathew Baca knew the answer. He writes:
Francis LeRoy Henning, aka "Henning's nickel"
Loren Gatch added:
He was in great need of a good five-cent cigar.
I asked Bob Leonard, who writes:
I looked at the images and the 1944 is a "genuine" Henning counterfeit (weak detail on Monticello, copper-nickel color), but the 1945 nickel is a normal Wartime silver nickel, as you can tell by the color. I believe that I can see traces of the mintmark over the dome, though it is quite weak. (Take another look).
Regarding Henning, though, according to an article in Coin World August 28, 1968, p. 33, Henning is known to have made dies with five different dates: 1939, 1944, 1946, 1947, and 1953. (He was afraid that tellers might become suspicious if all the deposits he brought in had the same date.) No 1945 is known.
Of these, the 1944 is the most obvious because it lacks the mintmark and is the wrong color. But the others can be recognized too; this article illustrates one of the 1939 counterfeits. All the Henning counterfeits can be positively identified though weak reverse detail, rough surface, and (in some cases) diebreaks.
Thanks! I had never seen a War nickel so worn down that the mintmark was gone. I zoomed in on the photo, but I'm having trouble seeing remnants of a "P" mintmark. I'll ask Craig to take a closer look at the coin.
These counterfeits are interesting and certainly rarer than the genuine pieces. Other than Stuckey's booklet and the Coin World
article, there's not much in the literature about these. Neat item, and a challenge to locate. Do any of our readers have examples of the Henning fakes? Anybody have a full set?
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
COUNTERFEITING CIRCULATING COINS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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