Counterfeit Detection: Altered 1893-S Morgan Dollar

Posted on 12/10/2009

What’s the first place to look when authenticating key date US coins? This month’s counterfeit detection feature answers that question by examining an altered 1893-S Morgan Dollar.

When verifying the authenticity of a rare date coin, there’s a very good place to start your examination: the date. Most valuable US coins are rare issues of a coin type that was produced for many years. Unfortunately, when it comes to key date coins, it’s not unusual to encounter a common date example that has been fraudulently altered to make it appear to be a rare coin. That’s exactly what happened to this altered date 1893-S dollar.

An altered date 1893-S Morgan Dollar.
Click images to enlarge.

By looking at the last digit of the date it’s clear that something is off. The last digit is roughly shaped. The upper right portion of the 3 is straight where it should be curved. The middle tine is large and intrusive. The bulbous endings of the three are heavy and outsized – compare them with the graceful and diminutive terminus at the foot of the 9. It’s all just wrong and tells us that this digit has been altered. It's not a real 1893-S.

Detail of the date of an authentic 1893-S Morgan Dollar (left) and the
altered example (right).

But all of this asks an important question: should all of this be obvious just by looking? After all, crude or misshapen date styles don’t mean that a coin is necessarily bad. There are numerous nineteenth century coins that have blundered or misshapen digits, and even a variety of 1823 half dollar referred to as an ‘Ugly 3.’ The bottom line is that experienced attributors often know the shape and position of dates on authentic coins from memory. Having a genuine specimen for comparison is very helpful. Since today’s collectors have archives of images available at their disposal, especially those from auction houses, pictures of genuine examples usually aren’t hard to locate.

To learn more, read other articles in our Counterfeit Detection Series.

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

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