Silver Dollar Blog Posts - April 2012

Interview with Ken Rutherford of The Fisch

Apr 26, 2012

A few months ago I came across a great video showing an excellent tool to help identify forgeries. As silver prices go up, we've started noticing a rise of fake Morgan Dollars. This is very unsettling, and the fakes appear to get better and better all the time.

The tool is The Fisch, which provides you various tests on determining fakes. It will weight the coin, allow you to check the diameter and thickness of the coin. Simple in concept but difficult to create. The Fisch pulls it off and is a great tool if you're dealing with various forms of loose coinage.  If you're a dealer, this is the perfect tool for you!

Here is the video by TheFischWorks:

I recently had a chance to interview  Ken Rutherford of The Fisch to talk about his products

- What inspired you to design the Fisch?

When I started buying gold in the late 1970’s, I came to realize that I had no idea that what I was buying was actually gold. Apart from what the seller told me, of course! I started researching fake gold coins. I discovered that fakes were a subject dealers and mints didn’t want to talk about. At least, not with a customer.

The more I researched the subject, the more worried I became. Investors like me, not knowing the history of fake gold coins, were blind to the dangers. Who was it that said, "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it"?  Inventors fill needs. Judging by the number of fake coin detectors patented when gold coins were in everyday circulation, there was a strong need. Nothing had changed. A modern, accurate, easy to use version of the old fake detectors was needed.

I looked at the simplicity of the principle behind the early designs.  Based on that principle, my brother and a friend designed a detector utilizing modern material, die making tools and injection molders. We called it the Fisch. How we came up with the name is another story.  The design of the Fisch is protected by US patent law.

- When did it official become a product?

In 1980.

- Where are you located?

In 1981, I moved to the US from South Africa and started selling the Fisch. In 1996, I moved back to South Africa. The business is still based in the US.

- Do you make these for other coins?

We make the Fisch for the most popular gold coins, medallions & small bars as well as the US Silver Dollar and the Platinum Noble. We will soon have the Fisch for 3 1oz silver coins - the American Eagle, Maple Leaf and Austrian Vienna Philharmonic.

- Would you say that forgeries are on the increase?

From the reports from customers of fakes discovered by the Fisch and what I read, I would say, yes.

- Where are the big forgeries coming from for Morgan Dollars?

Once again from what I read, China seems to be the main source.

- What is the Fisch made from?

It is a specially selected dense, non hygroscopic (does not absorb moisture) plastic that is extremely hard and durable. So much so that the Fisch has a lifetime warranty against wear and breakage.

- What points does the Fisch gauge test for authenticity?

For gold and platinum, the maximum thickness and diameter, minimum weight and shape of the coin.

For silver, the maximum and minimum thickness and diameter, the maximum and minimum weight and the shape of the coin.  

- How much is the silver Fisch?

$75 if bought on its own, $60 if bought with any other Fisch. Plus shipping. In the US, that is $15 for Priority Mail.  The Fisch is supplied in a holder with detailed instructions and a travel pouch.  Also included is the Fisch Precious Metal Buyers Guide.

We will offer the 3 new Silver Fisch at a reduced price to those customers who have bought before, as we do on all follow up orders placed through the Fisch Family pages.

We offer support through the Fisch Family pages. These pages, which can be only accessed by Fisch users, have tips on using the Fisch as well as useful information on the coins checked by the Fisch. We also answer user's emails with a personal reply. It's old fashioned customer support! Our website is    

- Do you offer a money-back guarantee?

Yes.  We stand behind the Fisch. Each Fisch is hand checked for accuracy.  The Fisch works. That's the reason it is still used over 30 years since it was first introduced. We are proud that it is protecting investors against fakes in over 60 countries around the world.  Plus it is used by major dealers. And we have even supplied the United States Mint and the Royal Canadian Mint.  

- I have slabbed coins, will a tool like this help?


- Do you plan on making a Fisch for other coins like half dollars, etc?


- You offer a Silver Fisch (US Silver Dollar (1840-1935)), will you be offering one for silver rounds?

We have picked the 3 most popular silver coins worldwide - American Eagle, Maple Leaf and Austrian Philharmonic.  

The Silver Fisch are the most challenging to make. The Fisch must balance as both the minimum and maximum weight is checked at the same time.

We have now been working on the 3 new Silver Fisch since June 2011. With each mold you need to make incremental adjustments. You run some samples, check them, make some adjustments to the mold, run some more samples until you finally get to a working mold. It took 5 runs to get to a working model of the American Eagle.

As this coin is the same weight as the Maple Leaf and Philharmonic, we based the molds for these 2 coins on the American Eagle mold.  We are now waiting on the 3rd run of these samples.

With molds, you can only make them bigger, not smaller. So you need to very careful with the adjustments. And pivot position, which checks the weight, is critical.    

We hope to have the 3 new Silver Fisch ready to ship early in the second half of 2012.  To be put on the advance notification list, email 

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How did they make the design on the Morgan Dollar?

Apr 25, 2012


Cutting Room San Francisco Mint

The process is pretty interesting how the mint ends up with a die. Like most ideas the designer starts off with an idea on pencil and paper sketching out a design. Once this design is agreed upon a small wax model is created.  I shouldn't say small because the model is actually about three to eight times the size of the actual Morgan dollar.

After the model comes the mold dipped in hot beeswax as a way to keep the powdered copper on. Then layers of copper and nickle with a lead back is added to the mold. Once all this is done they call it the Galvano plate. Galvano means a metal printing plate created by way of electrolysis which is exactly how they get the layers of copper and nickel on. I wonder how much a Galvano plate weighs? That would be pretty awesome to see! 

The next machine used is called a Contamin portrait lathe or transfer lathe this machine is used to reduce the size. While a point is being traced on the model plate a small drill is duplicating the cuts exactly. The machine didn't complete everything on the die which is where the engraver would come in with all their special tools and finish off the die by hand. It wasn't until 1907 when the mint purchased a machine called the Janvier that could replicate the galvano plate in its entirety.

From an idea on a piece of paper we have the Morgan Dollar!

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Weighing and inspecting the Silver Dollar

Apr 16, 2012

San Francisco Adjust Room

The legal weight is 412.5 grains for a silver dollar. Let me tell you minting a silver dollar is an exact science. But how do the ensure the exact weight after melting, rolling, and punching out the blanks? First they were weighed on Seyss automatic weighing machine. The Seyss machine found its way to Philadelphia in 1860 where it automatically sorted and weighed the planchets. After the planchet was weighed they were divided up into four groups heavy, heavy adjusted, light adjusted and light.

What percentage passed the weight inspection?

At first wooden furnaces were used along with draw benches with an average of 60% falling within the legal weight. Come 1901 when they switched to a gas process as well as rolling mills being introduced all of a sudden 90% of the planchets were passing the legal weight.  Now you are still left with planchets that are either to heavy or to light. This is where the ladies come in at the adjusting room. If the planchet was to light it was sent back for remelting, but if it was too heavy there was a chance it could be filed down to the legal weight. The scales were so sensitive that all drafts had to be excluded from the room because the slightest breeze could influence the scale. Each coin was weighed individually after awhile the operators got so good could they could practically feel if it was the exact weight. Sometimes they would get some that were a bit to heavy to be filed down those were sent back for re-melting.

 After the Morgan is weighed we're getting real close to the actual die preparation stage! 

Photo credit - Library of Congress

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What is a denticle?

Apr 11, 2012

What is a denticle?

Have you heard the word denticle used in coin conversation and wondered what are they talking about. A denticle is the tooth-like design that is around the perimeter of the coin.


Mispositioned Dates

Dates were hand punched into the Morgan dollar so of course you can find some examples of mispositioned dates through out the years. The date might be left or right or a little up or down.In the early years a dash was sometimes used to mark the die as a guide to get the date in the right place. The die engraver would have used this as a helpful tool when positioning the date. The end steps of polishing and such would have removed most of these marks, but there are still examples out there that you can find. The dash index mark can be found in the 1885 year coins and earlier after that they might have lined the date up by following the 3rd denticle.

Yes Mispositioned Mint Marks as well! The mint mark is also punched by hand. You will find the mint mark centered above the D and the O on the word Dollar,and below the wreath. Here is a n example:

As you start to look at all the different mint marks for different years you will note a normal position would be within the box. If you pictures a box around the the mint mark between the D and O in dollar and all the way back up to the wreath. If the mint mark seems to be right dab in the middle of the box or is it off to one side or perhaps set a little too high! Take a look at your coins and see! It is very common for them to be shifted or tilted just a little. 

The more you start to read about mint mark or date mispositioned dates the more likely you're to hear the term denticle used!

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Very Excited Metal Detector find a 1921 Morgan Dollar

Apr 05, 2012

1921 Morgan Dollar

A Father and Son find their first Morgan Dollar! They are pretty excited about their find as they should  be! 1921 was the last year the Morgan Dollar was minted. The Pittman Act authorized the melting of millions of dollars, but it also authorized the recoining of the silver dollar as well. So the Morgan Dollar resumed mintage for one year in 1921!

Now the Morgan Dollar ran from 1878-1918 leaving a huge gap until the 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar was minted. Just think about all that time that passed plus the fact that in 1910 all the dies had been destroyed. So Morgan had to come up with a whole new die for that one year in 1921!

Minted that year was:

Philadelphia: 44,690,000 with an est. 250  proofs

San Francisco: 21,695,000 with 0 proofs

Denver: 20,345,000 with 0 proofs


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No Carson City Morgan Dollars minted from 1894 - 1921?

Apr 02, 2012

Historic American Buildings Survey Entrance - Sutro tunnel Entrance, Comstock Mines vicinity, Dayton, Lyon county, NV

What year did Carson City mint Morgan Dollars?


 Why are there no Carson City Morgan Dollars minted from 1894 -1921?

President Cleveland enters the picture now... He was not a silver supporter. He was in fact the one that repealed the Sherman Act in 1893. At the same time silver from the Comstock had been falling short. Just not enough silver was coming out of the mine. ow with the repeal of the Sherman Act the Treasury wasn't required to produce large amounts of silver coinage. Therefor on June 1st, 1893 Robert E. Preston decided to suspend the coinage operation in Carson City, but they did keep open the refining department.

Then in 1895 they figured out the ingots were much lighter then they were suppose to be after coming back from the melting rooms. An investigation was launched only to find the $75,549.75 of gold had vanished without a trace. I shouldn't say without a trace because they did find the assistant melter, refiner, silver dissolver and a refinery worker guilty.  By 1899 Carson City was officially an assay office. All the equipment was shipped to Philadelphia.

Photo Source: Library of Congress

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Circulation Years

Misc Categories - The easiest way to complete your Morgan Silver Dollar collection. Morgan Dollars minted from 1878 to 1904 and again in 1921

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