Counterfeit Detection: 1897-O Morgan Dollar

Posted by Max Spiegel, Numismatic Researcher on 11/16/2010

We were recently surprised by the submission of an 1897-O Morgan dollar that was wholly counterfeit and not the typically seen added mintmark alteration.

The 1897-O Morgan dollar is fairly common in low grades, with a mintage of just over four million coins, but it becomes scarce in About Uncirculated and higher grades. A low Mint State example can be worth well over a thousand dollars. Philadelphia 1897 dollars are significantly more available in high grades and are, therefore, targets for alteration by counterfeiters. NGC graders will occasionally encounter an 1897 Morgan dollar with an added mintmark made to resemble its more valuable New Orleans counterpart.

We were recently surprised by the submission of an 1897-O Morgan dollar that was wholly counterfeit and not the typically seen added mintmark alteration. Interestingly, a counterfeiter took the effort to engrave dies, which would indicate that there are other fake 1897-O dollars struck from these dies with the same marks and depressions as this coin.

While at first glance this 1897-O dollar may appear genuine, a closer inspection reveals several curious lumps and raised lines in the periphery. There are a few notable lumps by the 1 in the date, to the left of the L in PLURIBUS, and below the NU in UNUM. Other letters show similar raised areas that are not seen on genuine examples. Several faint raised lines at the first L in DOLLAR are also visible under a loupe. Although unusual raised areas on a coin do not always condemn it, their appearance on this issue sends off a red flag.

There are numerous depressions and reeding marks on the surfaces of this counterfeit, and some especially prominent marks are seen below STATES OF.

Are you a Morgan Dollar Collector? Check out the NGC Coin Price Guide's Morgan Dollar coin prices.



More in this issue...