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V15 2012 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 31, July 22, 2012, Article 16

PHILADELPHIA MAN SEARCHES RIVER FOR HENNING NICKELS

We've discussed the Henning counterfeit nickels before. Here's an article from Philadelphia about a man looking to find the stash of counterfeits Henning dumped in a local river. -Editor

Francis L. Henning He was an enigma to the authorities and a curiosity to collectors, a man who could have made bundles with his brains.

But not all of Francis L. Henning's plans were foolproof or legal, and he fled South Jersey in 1955 with the feds on his tail, dumping buckets full of shiny evidence in local waterways. On Oct. 28 that year, Henning, looking both distinguished and defeated in a light suit, stood for a mug shot in Cleveland, where he was making $700 a month as a mechanical engineer — more than twice the national average for the era.

Henning was a counterfeiter who strategically dreamed small, it seems, to fly under the radar of the agency he figured would be looking for fakes: the Secret Service. Henning made hundreds of thousands of fake nickels in a machine shop in rural Erial, Camden County, all by himself, using a 250,000-pound press and sheets of cupronickel that cost him thousands of dollars. Then he'd launder the money for real bills at local banks, posing as a vending-machine operator, the Associated Press reported after his arrest.

Now, almost 60 years later, Henning's name still carries some notoriety in the coin-collecting community — the same eagle-eyed group that first noticed Henning's "slight mistake." A local banker and member of a Camden County coin club alerted authorities after he noticed Henning had omitted a "p" found on 1944 nickels — a mint stamp that indicated the nickel would come from Philadelphia. "He made one slight mistake and it tripped him up," a Secret Service agent told the AP.

Neil Schwartz The "Henning nickel," as it's known among hobbyists, has become a bit of an obsession for a mild-mannered advertising rep from Cherry Hill who spends most of his free time with a metal detector. Neil Schwartz could buy a Henning nickel, probably for less than $50, but he's looking elsewhere: a stretch of muck in the Cooper River that he asked the Daily News not to divulge.

"It's not for the money," he said over French toast at Ponzio's Diner in Cherry Hill last month. "It's for the thrill of it."

To read the complete article, see: Stalking the Cooper River for thousands of fake nickels (articles.philly.com/2012-07-16/news/32698938_1_nickels-secret-service-mechanical-engineer)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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