Counterfeit Detection: 1894-O Morgan Dollar

Posted on 12/10/2019

In places, the strike actually appears too strong on this fake, which may have been struck using laser-created dies.

The common saying “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is” can definitely be applied to numismatics. Certainly, there are exceptional survivors of rare vintage issues that somehow escaped mishandling since their striking, but the buyer must always beware. NGC graders recently spotted this counterfeit 1894-O Morgan with a much-better-than-average strike, especially for an O-Mint Morgan dollar.

Counterfeit 1894-O Morgan Dollar
Click images to enlarge.

At first glance, this coin appears to be an extremely expensive high-grade 1894-O Morgan Dollar—a coin that the NGC Price Guide values at $50,000 in MS 65. However, just a slightly closer look reveals some odd issues. The surfaces do not look like a genuine Morgan Dollar, and the 9 in the date stands out from the other digits. Lastly, the obverse strike of the coin is much better than expected on a New Orleans minted Morgan Dollar.

Genuine 1894-O Morgan Dollar
Click images to enlarge.

From the two sets of photos, you can clearly see that there is a significant difference in appearance between the counterfeit and genuine examples. The obverse strike is actually weaker on the genuine piece, but that is to be expected from the New Orleans Mint. It is likely that the counterfeiters either enhanced their dies with more details, or simply used a well-struck coin from a different mint as the model for their fake dies.

Close-up of date on counterfeit 1894-O Morgan Dollar
Click image to enlarge.

When you take a closer look at the date, the issues are more apparent. First, the 9 is crooked and misshapen. Additionally, while there are striations around the other digits in the date (which are unusual to begin with), the striations suspiciously disappear around the bottom of the 9. It seems that the digit was likely altered or maybe added later. It’s possible that the original date of the host coin was 1884, so the change had to be made in order to make the much-rarer 1894.

Close-ups of the counterfeit (left) and genuine (right) 1894-O Morgan Dollars
Click images to enlarge.

Again, it must be stressed how unusual the strength of the details of the ear and hair are on the counterfeit. You simply will hardly ever find any Morgan Dollar struck that well, and especially one from New Orleans. The genuine coin shows the slightly yellow color of the original planchet that did not properly strike out over the entire ear and part of Liberty’s hair as well.

Close-up of counterfeit 1894-O Morgan Dollar
Click image to enlarge.

Lastly, when the coin is turned at an angle, it becomes much easier to see the way in which the dies were created. This fake seems to be an upgraded version of the 1893-CC Morgan that was featured in NGC’s Counterfeit Detection article in July of this year. This coin seems to be made in the same way—likely a die created by lasers rather than the skilled craftsman who made the original Morgan Dollars. The lasers have a limited amount of resolution, and while these lines can be mostly polished off from the fields, the devices are recessed into the die, making their removal much more difficult. This is why you see the lines on the base of the bust, but not in the fields surrounding it.

While this fake would not be good enough to fool most dealers, it very well might slip past a collector. One thing to note is that this coin was about a gram heavy at 27.72 grams, which should raise a red flag. It is also not made of 90% silver as it should be, but rather is struck in an alloy of 58% copper, 33% zinc, 7% nickel and 1% silver.

If you are uncertain in your authentication abilities, it is always best to leave it to the experts. Instead of buying a key-date coin raw, purchase it in an NGC holder, because coins graded by NGC are guaranteed to be genuine.

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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