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The Hunt for the Elusive 1953 Henning Nickel

I recently had the privilege of being sent a 1953 Henning nickel to study and document from the collection of Ron Akers, as shown here.

To provide better context as to why I’m so excited by this is because I struggled to even find a photo of this dated Henning nickel when I published Bad Metal Copper and Nickel back in 2019; I’m still missing a clear and quality photo of a 1953 TD.1-TD.A variety. At the time of publication, I could only find one low-quality photo of an example which was posted on the internet from an unknown owner. None of the major collections of circulating contemporary counterfeit U.S. coins I knew about and studied had/have an example of this variety in their collection. This alone demonstrates the overall rarity of this counterfeit coin. In addition, about 2 years ago another example of this variety sold on eBay and the winner contacted me with additional photos. Unfortunately, those photos were not to the high-quality I was looking for despite my requests for better photos. Thus, being able to photograph an example with my own equipment is currently the highest quality image of this variety I’m aware of, although better photographers could do a superior job than what I’m currently capable of achieving.

The example shown here is the TD.1-TD.B die marriage in the early die state without the ‘Dot’ above the left-side of the dome of Monticello. Henning is only known to have created one (1) 1953-dated obverse die, but apparently that was married with the two (2) documented reverses, A and B. This die state of reverse B has the perfect R in PLURIBUS thus making it more challenging to identify a Henning nickel based on die characteristics alone. However, in my book I hypothesized, with ‘???’ in Table 10.4 on page 245, that when this early die state of reverse B was used it was struck on an overweight planchet (relative to genuine nickels weighing 5 grams when new). This was consistent with the one and only example of 1947 TD.1-TD.B that I studied, and along with all other varieties using the TD.A reverse die. By weighing this example, I was able to confirm my books hypothesis for this variety because this example weighs 5.29 grams, and that weight is in the generally observed range of 5.2 to 5.5 grams on these overweight Henning planchets.

With an in-hand examination of a 1953 Henning nickel, I was hoping to identify and confirm definite or potential die markers for the obverse die and this reverse die state. Unfortunately, I was unable to confidently make such a conclusion for either die with this example. However, one potential obverse die marker could be present along the rim at 3 o’clock between T, above the Star, and at the 1. The rim here is uneven and wavy. A second potential obverse die marker is that most of the rim tends to bleed into the tops of the peripheral letters, and thus the rim is not separated from the letters as is found on genuine coins. With additional examples of this variety to study these may be confirmed die markers. Finally, I find that the reverse die is essential ‘perfect’ for lack of a better description. And in sum, if this planchet was not measurably overweight, this would have been a ‘perfect’ counterfeit Jefferson nickel!

For Mr. Aker's contribution to studying this piece, I sent him a copy of the first Bad Metal book as both a token of my appreciation and because I had a secret 'bounty' to study this specific counterfeit coin. I have another such 'bounty' for Bad Metal Silver which is yet unclaimed.

If you have one of the rarer Henning nickel dates or varieties, such as 1946, 1947, or 1953, and even 1939, I'd like to hear from you in order to at least collect more data on these pieces to build a stronger picture of Henning's production sequence.

I have more blog posts in the works. If you have ideas for topics you'd like to read more about please let me know.


Winston Zack

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Feb 05, 2023

This is a most amazing find indeed!!! I love the history and lore of the Henning nickels! I have been searching for an original copy of the 1982 Henning pamphlet to no avail. I doubt one will ever turn up and most have been lost to History. I am however very grateful for your 2019 Bad Metal Copper and Nickel book! It is the most informative book in existence to touch on these Wonders we call Henning Nickels! I highly recommend this book!! I will cherish it forever even though my cat chewed part of the books spine leaving small pin holes. She must have smelled some fishy coins!! Lol!!! Anyway I am a collector of these Hennings. The 1946,1947…

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