Silver Dollar Blog - Understanding fake Morgan Dollars - Protect Yourself!
It is a sad fact that with silver prices on the rise that there seems to be an alarming rate of fake Morgan Dollars hitting the market. Most of the fakes are coming from China and as collectors and investors we need to be careful when buying our Morgans.
I've had a few discussions with people regarding the topic of forgeries, and it's becoming a serious issues. One thing to understand is that the fakes are getting good, and they're getting better so we really need to pay attention. Early on, these fakes were somewhat easy. They were often stamped out of steel so no silver luster, very dark coins and obviously magnetic. You can still find these out there, but they're improving. I wanted to bring up some of the techniques/points to look out for.
One thing the forgers have a problem with is weight. Getting a coin to have the same diameter and thickness and not following the 90% silver/10% copper makes it difficult to reach the 27(+/-) grams needed. So what people are doing are making special alloys with junk silver in there. These are hard to catch, but a scale will get the grams for you. Even using silver with their mix will probably make it hit the 22-24gram range. I would invest in a little pocket scale. Here is pocket gram scale on Amazon for $10
Another technique is to weight the cardboard holder. The simple cardboard holder for your coin, may be padded to give the extra grams needed.
I would probably get a magnet from a hardware store as well. Since we're talking alloys, there is a good chance there could be ferrous metal in there which will be magnetic, but remember, you can't rely solely on that.
Another tactic this hard to identify is 'halved' slabs. Basically, someone will cut two common coins in half. For example a more common 1893 Morgan and any common San Francisco minted Morgan. They would put these together in a forged slab. So the obverse would show 1893 while the reverse would show the S mintmark making this a valuable 1893-S coin.. which is not.
I found this great video by nashnosh where they go into detail about silver luster and the cart wheeling effect to help identify fakes. This video also goes into the weight of the coin as well.
Ok, so how does all this information help people that buy coins online? I mean it's great to determine if your coin is real or fake after you shelled out the dough and are left holding the bag, but is there something we can do? Well, short answer, is no. Obviously you can't do these tests virtually, so all we're left with is trust. Trust is important and is based off or relationships.. Basically if you deal with a dealer on a consistent basis you can ask if they're performing tests to ensure the quality of their coins. They don't want their reputation tarnished as a dealer of fake coins, so they'll work hard on their end. But let's say you're just getting into coin collecting/investing and are starting now. You don't have any long term relationships. You need to do your research and spend some time before clicking 'Buy Now'. If a coin is scarce and is exceedingly cheap... um, it should be raising a red flag. You need to spend the time to look at the feedback of the seller. See if they had issues in the past. Join a couple of coin forums. Ask questions, seek advise. From there you'll get pointed to a few dealers that will treat you right.
It definitely is an unfortunate topic, and a topic that I'll bring up in the future when I find additional tips and information. I think it's VERY important that the community is aware of the situation and to be prepared as best as they can.