Counterfeit Detection: 1884-O Morgan Dollar

Posted on 3/1/2020

An off-center error features a phony composition and weak strike.

By Numismatic Guaranty Corporation®

In 1884 the New Orleans Mint produced more than 9.7 million silver dollars. Of course, when striking so many coins, a few mistakes are bound to occur. Sometimes, blanks do not enter the coining chamber completely before the dies impact the surface, thus creating a valuable error known as an off-center strike. However, thanks to the coins’ large size, most mistakes were filtered out at the mint by both mechanical and manual means.

Recently, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) received what appeared to be a 15-percent off-center 1884-O Morgan dollar for grading. If real, a specimen like this would be worth thousands of dollars. However, a cursory inspection of the coin’s elements revealed that it is not a genuine error.

A genuine 1884-O Morgan dollar
Click images to enlarge.

This counterfeit Morgan dollar error features rounded high points, dark areas and an eye that differes from a genuine specimen.
Click images to enlarge.

For starters, the piece has very weak details, especially on the high points of the motif. As is evident from the photos presented here, a genuine Morgan dollar displays much stronger design elements. One area that differs greatly is Liberty’s eye and eyelid, which are the incorrect shape and size. Furthermore, the high points are soft and rounded. They appear to be partially struck because of insufficient die pressure, which left dark, flat areas, such as around the nose.

Note the eye shape of a genuine Morgan dollar (left) versus the counterfeit (right).
Click images to enlarge.

At 26.4g, the spurious coin is very close to the proper weight of 26.73g. However, the fake appears thicker than it should. Additionally, its composition is 67-percent copper, 25-percent zinc, 6-percent nickel, 1-percent silver, and 1-percent iron and other metals. This is a far cry from the standard 90-percent silver/10-percent copper of a genuine example.

Clearly, this counterfeit is not meant to fool serious numismatists, but it might trick a new collector who doesn’t realize that even errors can be faked. This is a good example of why it is important to always remain vigilant when making purchases. If you are unsure of your authentication abilities, it is best to buy coins already encapsulated and graded by NGC.

Reproduced with permission from the November 2019 edition of The Numismatist, 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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