The 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar is a classic rarity in the
United States coin series. With a mintage of only 1,758 pieces, and
less than 10 percent of the mintage still in existence, the 1794
silver dollar is a highly desirable and expensive coin. It is
currently priced in Coin Values at $100,000 in Very Good 8
condition, with nicer examples exceeding half a million dollars.
Counterfeits of the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar have existed since
the late 1800s. At one time the most common method was to alter the
date on a 1795 Flowing Hair silver dollar. However, all 1794 Flowing
Hair dollars were struck from the same pair of dies, and no genuine
1795 Flowing Hair dollar is a close match to these dies, so even
skilled alterations were easy to detect. Counterfeiters then began to
produce cast copies, which ranged from amateurish to highly deceptive.
One of the problems with high quality cast counterfeits is that
you need a genuine coin to produce your casting molds. In the case of
the 1794 silver dollar, this can be much too expensive for the typical
counterfeiting operation, so the counterfeiters have turned to making
hand-cut dies. If the die cutter making the fake dies is skillful, the
resulting counterfeits can be a chore to detect by the average collector.
The struck counterfeit 1794 silver dollar shown here falls
somewhere near the middle of the skill range.
When you compare the fake to the images of a genuine 1794 Flowing
Hair dollar, you can see the differences in the position of the
lettering above Liberty’s head, the location and shape of the wreath
leaves on the reverse, and the appearance of the four hair strands
behind Liberty’s head.
Like many modern Chinese counterfeits, when you have images of a
genuine coin for comparison purposes, detection is pretty easy.
Without a genuine comparison piece, it can be much more difficult.
Even though the counterfeiter didn’t do the best job cutting the
fake dies, he or she did an excellent job with the edge lettering,
coming very close to matching the edge on a genuine coin. The
artificial wear that this fake has received also makes the piece more
“acceptable” at first glance.
Michael Fahey is a senior numismatist at ANACS in Denver, Colo.