The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 38, September 20, 2020, Article 30


The latest issue of ErrorScope from CONECA (The Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America) includes a nice article by Joe Cronin on fake mint errors. With permission, we're publishing an excerpt here. Thanks to Editor Allan Anderson for his assistance. -Editor

ErrorScope 2020 Sep-Oct There's no doubt that fake and altered coins are a major headache in the collector marketplace and that the problem is getting worse. Better and cheaper technology to make more convincing fakes is improving almost faster than the average collector can scrutinize them. And except for people looking for an opportunity to scam someone, nobody really wants to knowingly buy counterfeit or altered coins, right? Not exactly.

Though I certainly do not want to promote this dark side of numismatics or to reward those who counterfeit and alter coins, I do feel there is value in acquiring some fakes to study and compare them to known genuine coins, and more importantly to use that knowledge to educate others. In my area of expertise which includes U.S. Mint error coins, I feel the need to do so is even more vital. Very few people collect Mint errors, and even fewer know how they are made to know the difference between a genuine and non-genuine error. I find there are many coin dealers and collectors who go on about how many years of experience they have in the business and they "know an error when they see it." Sadly, many of them are wrong and can be quite arrogant, obstinate, and even hostile, and their seasoned longevity in numismatics means nothing if their knowledge is lacking.

If you can acquire some fakes and altered coins cheaply or at no cost, I highly recommend collecting some (especially errors if you collect them) because not only can you start to teach yourself what is genuine and what isn't, it will also help you better understand the minting processes of past and present. Understanding how coins are/were made – from planchet metal and die preparation to the striking and ejection processes – can be your greatest tool in learning how errors can occur and if they are likely genuine. So, yes, there is educational value in owning and studying some fake and altered coins.

1. The 1959 "Hofmann Mule" Lincoln Cent with Wheat Reverse

1959 D 1c Hoffman Mule

This is one of the most expensive "authenticity-in-question" coins I can recall. It is reported that Mark Hofmann, a Salt Lake City rare document collector and dealer, was going to be called out as a fraud by people in the Mormon Church who suspected he was trying to sell – and had already sold – forged historic Mormon Church artifacts (among other documents). He attempted to delay and deflect suspicion by making and sending pipe bombs to those pressuring him to see documents he claimed to have. Not having enough time to forge them, he upped his resume from a forger to a murderer of two people in 1985. Police suspected his involvement when he became injured by one of his own bombs (which he was attempting to deliver to a third person), but his statements didn't add up to the evidence; he was convicted on multiple counts including murder and is still in prison.

However, from his prison cell Hofmann claimed responsibility for the forging of this 1959 Lincoln cent mule after news of its discovery was made public. It erroneously has a "Wheat" reverse when it should have the "Lincoln Memorial" which was switched in 1959, thus the mismatched dies make it a "mule" error. Hofmann claims the police seized it from his house after his arrest and stole it, only to be found years later in the hands of a collector. If anyone had the IQ and means of making forgeries, it was Hofmann – the best known forger in American history whose documents even fooled national document examiners.

The Secret Service states his claims have no merit and asserted on two occasions the 1959 mule cent is real. Grading companies and error experts disagree. If it is not genuine, I am not sure if it would be a counterfeit or altered coin. Some say the copper planchet is real but the die strikes are fake, which means it's an altered coin; others believe the planchet and dies are both fake which would classify this as 100% counterfeit. What is certain is that it sold for $50,000 at a Goldberg auction in 2019. What will this disputed coin go for next time? (Photos used with permission from Glenn Onishi, COO of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, Inc.)

2. The 1964 "Piacentile/Sheiner" Lincoln Cent: Double-struck, Rotated in Collar (Obverse Only)

Sometime in the mid-1960s in NY City, a man named Victor Piacentile (a.k.a. Victor Pease) approached William Sheiner, the owner of Bronx Coins, to help him market some double-struck, rotated-in-collar 1964 Lincoln cents. Interestingly, they are only double-struck on one side – the obverse side – which immediately drew suspicion from knowledgeable collectors. (There are a couple genuine proof cents which have this error type, but the process of minting proofs is different.) Even more fantastic is that several more were claimed to have been discovered in sealed Mint bags. On top of that, they were all struck the same proportion of rotation (about 40 degrees counter clockwise)! How incredible! The pair even staged a public demonstration at a NY hotel where they opened "sealed" Mint bags and "found" a few more identical errors! Amazing!

Where it really got problematic for them was that they advertised in The New York Times and other publications that were mailed to various dealers and collectors. Over 100 were sold, with several sent through the mail. Of course, committing a crime (altering coins with a fake obverse die to scam buyers) and then using the mail is a federal offense, and each time it is done is another charge; it also involves conspiracy to commit a crime. After being tipped off to the U.S. Secret Service, the two wound up charged with various federal crimes and each got sentenced to 3 months in prison and 2 years probation. These are considered altered because the planchet and first strike is genuine, but the second strike was hit with a fake obverse die.

1964 Piacentile/Sheiner cents still pop up online and at shows once in a while with many sellers insisting they are genuine. (The mid-1960s, including 1964, were banner years for altered coins with fake die strikes. Though not every 1964 altered cent was made by this duo, ones that fit the description above very likely were.)

Other coins discussed include the gold-plated 1883 "No CENTS" Liberty "Racketeer" Nickel; the 1944 "No P" Jefferson "Henning" Nickel; one of the "Charles Silverstone" errors, a 2000 Virginia State Quarter Struck on a 1 Cent Planchet; and fantastic examples like foldover strikes, half dollars on nickel and dime planchets, wild elliptical clips, and even double denominations. -Editor

For more information about the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA), see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2020 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster