Counterfeit Detection: Switzerland 1889B 5 Francs

Posted on 10/10/2023

Unnatural similarities between two coins mean they were struck with the same fake dies.

Switzerland created a uniform currency in 1850 that included a Silver 5 Franc coin with a design showing the seated figure of Helvetia (the female personification of Switzerland). In 1888, a new series was introduced with an obverse featuring the head of Helvetia, resembling the obverse of the Morgan Dollar (which is slightly larger and heavier).

This Swiss series, struck through 1916, has one of the most beautiful designs in Swiss numismatics and is highly collectible. Genuine examples of the 1889B 5 Francs are worth hundreds of dollars in About Uncirculated and can realize thousands of dollars in high Mint State, such as this one that is graded NGC MS 66 and realized $4,560 at a Heritage sale in May 2023.

Genuine Switzerland 1889B 5 Francs
Click images to enlarge.

Their numismatic value makes these coins an excellent target for counterfeiters looking to turn less than $25 worth of metal into something that appears to be much more valuable. Below are two counterfeits of the 1889B 5 Francs; one was seen on a popular auction website several years ago and the other is a coin from a submission to NGC.

Counterfeit Switzerland 1889B 5 Francs
Click images to enlarge.

Both coins were struck from the same false dies in a process that creates what is called a “transfer die counterfeit.” These high-quality fakes are difficult to spot because they typically have the correct weight and composition and are created using a genuine coin. The weakness of these fake dies is that they capture the same marks from circulation present on the original coins. These “repeating depressions” are then duplicated on every coin made using those dies. (These multiple depressions would not naturally occur in the same places on two different coins.)

Repeating depressions on the counterfeit coins
Click images to enlarge.

You can learn more about the different types of counterfeit coins at And if you have a collectible coin that you are uncertain about, remember that NGC backs its determinations of authenticity and grade with the NGC Guarantee.

Did you know? NGC has created a comprehensive Counterfeit Detection resource to help collectors and dealers identify counterfeit and altered coins. Visit

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free NGC eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the NGC eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List

Add Coin

Join NGC for free to add coins, track your collection and participate in the NGC Registry. Learn more >

Join NGC

Already a member? Sign In
Add to NGC Coin Registry Example
The NGC Registry is not endorsed by or associated with PCGS or CAC. PCGS is a registered trademark of Collectors Universe, Inc. CAC is a trademark of Certified Acceptance Corporation.