Counterfeit Detection: Altered Date 1879-CC Morgan Dollar

Posted on 2/8/2021

This coin began its life as a genuine Mint issue, but a counterfeiter altered its date to make it appear more valuable.

The beloved Morgan Dollar series is popular with collectors of all levels, but those trying to assemble a complete set are keenly aware of the key dates. These scarce date-and-mintmark combinations can command a substantial numismatic premium. While not as daunting in price as some of the other keys, the 1879-CC still costs thousands of dollars even for low Mint State examples. (You can learn more about Morgan key dates in the NGC Coin Explorer.)

Genuine 1879-CC Morgan Dollar, graded NGC MS 65
Click images to enlarge.

Collectors should expect to pay over $20,000 for a coin like the genuine example of an 1879-CC Morgan Dollar shown above, according to the NGC Price Guide. Meanwhile, an 1878-CC Morgan Dollar in the same grade is worth less than $2,000.

1879-CC Morgan Dollar with altered date
Click images to enlarge.

Counterfeiters will look for any opportunities to make money, and one way to do that is by moving the metal on the surface of a coin in order to change a coin’s apparent date. In this case, the ‘8’ at the end of ‘1878’ was changed to a ‘9’. (It was certainly an 8, because 1878 is the inaugural year of this series. In addition, the only other way to change a single digit on a Carson City issue to get a date of 1879 would have been to target the third digit of an 1889-CC, but that makes no sense because that coin is even rarer.)

Genuine 1879-CC Morgan Dollar (left) and altered-date example (right)
Click images to enlarge.

It is clear that the 9 on the altered-date example appears stout — even more so when placed next to a genuine example. There are also toolmarks within and around the phony 9, an indication of the metal that was moved by the counterfeiter in order to change the date. While this alone is enough to reject this coin for certification, there are other red flags due to design differences in the beginning of the Morgan series.

Genuine 1879-CC Morgan Dollar mintmark (left) and altered-date example (right)
Click images to enlarge.

The smaller style of the mintmark on the altered example from 1878-CC was not used on genuine 1879-CC examples. A variety of the 1879-CC does exist where the larger mintmark has been punched over the smaller one, but that’s clearly not the case here. (You can explore Morgan varieties at NGC VarietyPlus.)

Genuine 1879-CC Morgan Dollar (left) and altered-date example (right)
Click images to enlarge.

Look a little higher on the reverses and the difference on the feathers of the arrows becomes evident. The 1878-CC that had its date altered still retained its parallel arrow feathers beneath the eagle claw, a design that all reverses from that date and mintmark have. Any 1879-CC Morgan Dollar ought to have the top arrow feather angled, as can be seen here on the genuine example on the left.

You can learn more about how to detect counterfeit coins at, an online resource NGC provides to the collecting community that includes a list of commonly counterfeited US coins. The list includes the 1893-S and 1889-CC Morgan Dollars, which are both popular coins for alteration — in those cases, by adding a fake mintmark.

The NGC Grading Team has the expertise to detect altered coins like these. As always, coins certified by NGC are backed by the NGC Guarantee of grade and authenticity.

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