US Coins

1897 Proof Morgan dollar's altered surfaces present opportunity

This 1897 Morgan dollar is a Proof, but its altered surfaces prevent a grading service from providing a numerical grade. It sold for $881.25 at a Nov. 10, 2014, Heritage auction.

Heritage Auction

An oft-repeated phrase is that “Proof is a method of manufacture and not a condition.”

Proof coins without wear are graded Proof 60 to Proof 70. Those that have light circulation may grade lower, in a Proof grade corresponding to the amount of wear, like Proof 58 for a coin with light wear at the high points of the design. Proof 60 represents the “base” of wear-free Proof coins, and a coin in this grade will likely have marks, hairline scratches in the fields, and perhaps a loss of reflectivity.

Here is one of three Morgan dollars Coin World is profiling in this Market Analysis that show the range of the Proof 60 grade in a series.

The Coin

1897 Morgan dollar, Proof, Altered surfaces

The Price


The Story

Based on the photograph alone, this 1897 Morgan dollar looks like a nice Proof silver dollar with clean surfaces and good contrast between the fields and devices.

However, Professional Coin Grading Service has graded it Proof Genuine, Altered Surfaces, Uncirculated Details. This can be confusing to collectors, but what it means is that the coin has no wear and is a Proof. However, it has surfaces that have been substantially artificially tampered with, likely to reduce the look of hairline scratches and make the coin appear to be a higher grade.

At $881.25, it presented a bidder with a rare opportunity to purchase a Proof Morgan dollar that is seemingly presentable, to the unaided eye.

Keep reading this Market Analysis:

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