The Morgan dollar series has been heavily counterfeited over the
past 10 years, with fakes flooding into obscure locations such as flea
markets, garage sales and Internet sales.
Collectors generally do not have to worry about the authenticity
of purchases from reputable coin dealers and auction companies, as
these firms are quite good at screening out the fakes.
The counterfeit shown here is a little different from the typical
fake Morgan dollar.
Most of the fakes we see at ANACS can be quickly identified by
crude date digits, and others by their lack of proper design styles
(for example, an 1885 dollar with a 1921 style eagle on the reverse).
The counterfeit featured in this column is a cast copy that was
produced from a genuine Morgan dollar, so the date digits, lettering
and design style are accurate.
On first glance, the coin was not an obvious counterfeit. Our
initial impression with this counterfeit was that it was a lightly
circulated piece that had been heavily polished.
Further examination showed that the surfaces were a bit rough and
lightly pitted in the fields, and the weight of the coin seemed a bit
“off” (if you handle enough coins, you eventually learn what the heft
of a genuine silver dollar or $20 gold piece should be). Weighing the
coin confirmed our suspicions, as it weighs 24.74 grams. This is
approximately 2 full grams less than a genuine coin should weigh,
which is well outside the tolerance levels.
Other diagnostics for this counterfeit are rims that are more
pronounced than on a genuine coin, slightly ragged details in Miss
Liberty’s hair and the eagle’s feathers, and edge reeding that is
shallower than it should be.
Collectors need to be on their guard with this type of fake, as
the light weight would be hard to determine if the coin were in a holder.
In the case of this 1892-S Morgan dollar, with a Very Fine piece
priced at $175 and an Extremely Fine coin priced at $500, many
collectors would be tempted to take a chance on a polished About
Uncirculated piece being offered for $100 to $150.
Unfortunately, if the coin turns out to be a fake, it contains at
most $10 to $20 in silver.
Definitely not a bargain.
Michael Fahey is a senior numismatist at ANACS in Denver, Colo.