Counterfeit Detection: 1895-O Morgan Dollar

Posted on 5/22/2022

A single digit was altered in an attempt to increase this coin's value.

The 1895-O is one of the most challenging date-and-mintmark combinations in the Morgan dollar series. It is a condition rarity—examples are very hard to find near the top of the grading scale, and even low mint-state coins are easily worth thousands of dollars. In fact, all but the most heavily circulated 1895-O Morgans are worth hundreds of dollars.

Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) recently received a purported example of an 1895-O Morgan dollar. Overall, it seems to match what is expected from a Morgan. That’s because it is genuine, except for one small detail: the date. Even when looked at from a distance, the area around the 5 has an odd appearance.

A genuine 1895-O Morgan Dollar (top) and its spurious counterpart (bottom).
Click images to enlarge.

When considering a coin for purchase, it’s important to think like a counterfeiter. Is there a financial incentive to create a phony 5 in the date? The answer is yes.

The New Orleans Mint struck Morgan dollars every year of the 1890s. A genuine example of an 1895-O in the same condition as the altered one pictured here would likely sell for $500 or more. In contrast, Morgan dollars from several other years of the decade are so common that examples in similar condition can be found for under $50.

Now that a motive has been established, it’s time to examine the means. The shape of the 5 in the date is a relatively decent approximation of what is expected. But a considerable amount of discoloration surrounds it that simply doesn’t match the patina of the rest of the coin.

In addition, toolmarks are evident around the digit. This indicates the counterfeiter manipulated the metal on this part of the coin to create the phony date.

Discoloration and ample toolmarks in the field around the final digit of the date reveal this coin is not what it appears to be.
Click image to enlarge.

If you are thinking about buying a valuable coin, try to imagine how a counterfeiter could take advantage of you. Could a more-common coin from the same series be altered, perhaps by changing the date or adding (or even removing) a mintmark? Remember, if you want to be sure a coin is genuine, NGC back its determinations of authenticity with the NGC Guarantee.

Reproduced with permission from the March 2022 edition of The Numismatist, an official publication of the American Numismatic Association.

Did you know? NGC has created a comprehensive Counterfeit Detection resource to help collectors and dealers identify counterfeit and altered coins. Visit

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