One of the most effective aids in counterfeit detection is a solid
knowledge of what features should be present on genuine examples. The
observational skills of the variety collector and the authenticator
often overlap. This is certainly true for Morgan dollars.
One of the more desirable dates in the set is the 1894 Morgan
dollar. Only 110,000 pieces were produced for circulation, all from a
single die marriage. Some of its characteristics have been known for
decades. A trait from a genuine example is pictured and described in
Counterfeit Detection, a 1983 compilation of articles written
by ANACS staff for The Numismatist.
In May 2004, a minor doubled die reverse was noted. While not truly
a new discovery, it was formally listed as VAM-3 in New VAM Varieties
of Morgan Dollars by Leroy Van Allen (VAM-1 and -2 are Proof strikes).
In addition to the slight doubling along the tops of the letters of IN
GOD WE TRUST, the reverse may be positively identified by a short
gouge above the inner toe of the eagle’s left (viewer’s right) toe. In
circulated examples, this spot is prone to being filled with dirt and
grime, but is durable because of its protected location.
The obverse die may be identified by careful inspection of the
date’s position. The left edge of the base of the 1 is near the left
edge of the third dentil from the point of the neck. The die may be
further identified by a patch of three die scratches off to the right
of Morgan’s initial. If a purported example does not exactly match
these features, it’s not a circulation strike 1894 Morgan dollar.
Before condemning a piece as a forgery, a comparison to Proof
examples should be made. Two of the three Proof dies have date
positions that are similar, but not an exact match to the VAM-3. A
comparison can be made by visiting the online archives of one of
several major auction houses.
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