US Coins

Modern carved Morgan dollar sells for $10,101

The Morgan silver dollar is one of the most popular American coins, but what a Russian artist did to one example made all the difference in a recent auction.

A carved Morgan dollar, featuring a 1945 gold 2-peso coin from Mexico serving as “bait” in the middle, realized $10,101, in an online auction on that ended Aug. 10.

Russian artist Roman Booteen created the piece, which he titled “THE TRAP with GOLDEN BAIT.”

The Morgan dollar has been transformed in a way that makes the reverse, bearing its normal design, convex, while the obverse is concave and extensively transformed. A mouth of teeth is added and acts as a trap jaw, triggering to close when the gold coin, which is centered on the dollar coin, is pressed. The spring is too weak to do any harm to fingers, so the effect is artistic rather than harmful.

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The modern carved coin also features arrows inlaid in gold that extend on either side of the bait coin, and the trap’s working mechanisms are composed of silver and iron.

An inscription AURUM MULTO MAGIS ANIMAS PERDIDIT, QUAM FERRUM CORPORA CECIDIT translates to “Gold has killed more souls than iron,” according to Booteen.

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The Morgan dollar modified by Booteen dates from 1878 to 1900, according to coin type expert John Roberts, based on diagnostics on the reverse.

Booteen has created several dozen modern carved “hobo coins,” though his pieces of folk art are miles beyond the classic coins that inspired them. Booteen often uses large silver dollars, unlike the hobo nickels of the 1930s that relied on circulating Indian Head 5-cent coins of the time as the host coins.

Booteen sells his work through eBay and shares it through social media, including on Instagram.

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