US Coins

Scratched Lafayette dollar

Purchased from an eBay seller who has since been removed from the website, this coin exhibits a large scratch across its obverse. The prospect of trying to “fix” the coin would be more trouble than leaving it as is.

Image courtesy of Andrew Milligan.

I bought a 1900 Lafayette-Washington commemorative silver dollar on eBay. When I received the coin, it had a large scratch on it, which was not shown in the seller’s picture. What does this do to its value and can it be repaired?

Andrew Milligan

San Mateo, Cal.

In subsequent contact with Mr. Milligan, it was discovered that eBay had removed this seller from the website and that a refund at this point would not equal the entire amount Milligan paid.

This piece certainly has some issues. The scratch on the obverse is a major concern. Some corrosion and spotting, too, is apparent.

The first factor to consider, however, is whether the piece is indeed a genuine 1900 Lafayette commemorative dollar. A lot of fakes from Asia are entering the hobby marketplace so this piece might be a counterfeit. This is one reason many collectors buy only professionally graded and encapsulated coins from trusted dealers, especially important for coins of some value and scarcity like the 1900 Lafayette dollar. That the seller of this piece was removed from eBay might indicate that he or she had engaged in unethical practices. It is conceivable these practices might have included selling counterfeit pieces.

If the piece is found genuine, it would have a known mintage of a little more than 36,000 pieces, and should still be considered collectible. The scratch and other problems, however, detract from its overall worth and potential resale value.

At best, a genuine example in this condition would receive a “Details, Scratched” classification versus a regular numerical grade if authenticated and encapsulated by a third-party grading service.

A coin restoration company like Numismatic Conservation Services won’t repair a coin with this amount of damage. Even if the coin were to be somehow repaired, the vast majority of hobbyists would consider it as having been “doctored,” and would find it even less appealing than if its scratched surface were left undisturbed.

While avoiding eBay entirely has little justification, it is important for collectors to use extreme caution and, when necessary, avail themselves of the consumer protections that eBay offers. Unfortunately, this may not help this collector much now. However, he should take some comfort in knowing that virtually every collector, even among the big-money guys, has made purchases that were later regretted. He might have to consider this experience not just as money lost, but also as wisdom gained.

Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins or other items for examination without prior permission from staff member Erik Martin. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to or call (800) 673-8311, Ext. 274.

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