Counterfeit Detection: 1903-S Morgan Dollar

The raised lumps and lines on this 1903-S Morgan Dollar are signs of counterfeit production.

The Morgan Dollar is one of the most popular coins with collectors, and it’s not hard to see why. Silver dollars have a certain nostalgic appeal and an uncirculated Morgan Dollar, with its swirling “cartwheel” luster, can be quite attractive. Millions of Morgan Dollars were struck and many dates are plentiful today, even in Mint State grades.

There are a number of challenging issues in the series, however, and these are sometimes counterfeited. The most famous Morgan Dollar rarities—the 1889-CC, the 1893-S and the 1895—are frequently seen faked or altered, but forgers have also targeted other issues in the last decade or so. Many of these counterfeits originate in China and eventually find their way to collectors in the United States.

Among these Chinese-made fakes is this 1903-S Morgan Dollar. The 1903-S had a relatively low mintage of 1,241,000 pieces and examples are scarce in all grades with values well above $1,000 in AU 50 and higher grades. It is therefore no surprise that counterfeits would target this date.

Counterfeit 1903-S Morgan Dollar
Click images to enlarge.

The most obvious problem with this piece is the raised lumps and lines seen in the fields. For example, prominent raised lines are found between the denticles and the stars at the left of the obverse, between several letters in “E PLURIBUS,” and especially on the reverse around the word “STATES” and the “IN GOD WE TRUST” motto.

Counterfeit 1903-S Morgan Dollar Close Up
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Raised areas such as these are never seen on genuine coins, and a closer look shows these diagnostic imperfections throughout the coin’s surfaces. Although this coin has several other issues, including the odd gap in the denticles at the “E” in “UNITED” and the incorrectly shaped “S” mintmark, the raised lumps and lines are so significant that they instantly condemn this piece as counterfeit.

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