An 1881-CC Morgan dollar housed in what its buyer believed was a
genuine government-issued GSA encapsulation has been determined by
Independent Coin Grading authenticators to be a modern Chinese counterfeit.
Additionally, while the holder in which it was contained might be
government issued, it’s not the kind the General Services
Administration employed from 1972 through 1980 to market thousands of
Uncirculated Morgan dollars discovered stored in Treasury vaults.
ICG experts believe the plastic holder in which the counterfeit
1881-CC dollar was housed is likely the kind of unsealed holder the
U.S. Mint has used to house numismatic sets of Presidential dollars
for public sale.
The GSA dollars are extremely popular among collectors and even
common dates garner a premium because of their pedigree.
Each Mint State coin from the Treasury vaults was sealed in a
special, slablike case.
A thin black and silver cardboard box held the slab and contained
a numbered certificate.
Many of the original boxes and cases were destroyed as coins were
sent to grading services; nevertheless, GSA coins in original holders
can still be found with a little searching, according to Randy
Campbell, senior numismatist and authenticator at ICG, and a noted
authority on U.S. silver dollars.
Campbell said July 18 that on July 13 — the final day of the
three-day Florida United Numismatists Summer Convention in Orlando — a
couple brought the suspect 1881-CC GSA Morgan dollar to ICG’s bourse
table at the show. The couple appeared at the grading service’s booth
to receive a free verbal opinion on the grade of the coin soon after
an announcement had been made over the bourse public address system
that ICG was offering such services.
Campbell said that the coin exhibited a more subdued luster such
as might be found on an 1881 Morgan dollar struck at the Philadelphia
Mint, not the frosty white appearance one would encounter with a
genuine 1881-CC Morgan dollar struck at the Carson City Mint.
In addition, the counterfeit exhibited evidence of having been
cleaned, with residue or coating where the relief meets the field, he said.
The coin also exhibited other diagnostic anomalies indicating a
counterfeit status, Campbell said.
Campbell said after he and fellow ICG grader and authenticator F.
Michael “Skip” Fazzari examined the coin, they turned to determining
the authenticity of the holder and black insert securing the coin in
The two authenticator-graders determined that not only was the
black insert counterfeit, having silver printing on black cardboard
instead of on black plastic, but the plastic holder was not of the
type that would have been used for issuing the genuine GSA dollars.
It was determined the plastic holder is likely of the type
currently used by the U.S. Mint to house numismatic sets of Proof
Presidential dollars for sale.
The two parts of the set holders are snapped together and not
permanently sealed, whereas are the GSA holders.
6+ out of 10
In terms of quality, Fazzari rated the counterfeit GSA 1881-CC
Morgan dollar at a 6+ on a scale of 1 to 10.
Fazzari indicates it’s the type of counterfeit that is
sufficiently well made to fool roughly 40 percent of professional
dealers at a show who might not give the piece more than just a
cursory examination since it was housed in what initially appeared to
be a genuine General Services Administration holder.
The quality of most of the Chinese counterfeits that ICG has
examined, according to Campbell and Fazzari, is crude, especially in
the execution of the date digits.
Using fluorescent lighting under 7X magnification, defects were
easily recognizable in the 1881-CC dollar’s relief.
Lumps of raised metal are present on Liberty’s neck and jaw on the
obverse and a tooling mark is evident on the reverse exiting the
eagle’s left wing, just below the U in TRUST.
Noticeable differences are also seen in the quality and execution
of the CC Mint mark on the counterfeit 1881-CC dollar when compared
against the appearance of the CC Mint mark on a genuine Morgan dollar.
Fazzari purchased the counterfeit GSA 1881-CC Morgan dollar in its
holder from the couple for an undisclosed sum.
Fazzari plans to use it in educational presentations on
counterfeit detection. ■