This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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Many counterfeit coins have one side that is more deceptive than the other. That is the case for the 1895-O Morgan dollar that a dealer and collector asked me to authenticate recently. I found that several characteristics of this fake were interesting enough for me to share with you here.
This fake is die struck. Overall, it is better made than all but a few of the current fakes from China that I have encountered. No telling where or when this coin was made. I have heard that the more money you pay to the manufacturer, the better quality copy you’ll receive. This copy is so good it should have cost dearly.
Unfortunately for the counterfeiter, some crude “work” around the date (Fig. 5) must have alarmed the dealer and collector enough for them to seek a second opinion from me. The last digit is in a smooth, crater-like area that lacks metal flow. There are also some lumps in the field at the crater’s border. I believe the counterfeiter first added a “5” to a genuine 189X-O dollar. Then he made a transfer die using the altered coin as his model.
Now, for some bad news. The rest of the counterfeit was very deceptive. In fact, if I sealed the piece in a 2x2 holder with just the reverse showing, I’ll bet over 90 percent of the dealers at the show would have said it was a genuine coin from the New Orleans Mint grading MS-64.
I’m reminded of a similar reaction to the Omega High Relief $20 counterfeits that were produced in the 1970s. Many thought they were authentic also. Back then, the transfer process used to make the fakes “picked up” some of the die polish lines from the genuine coin used as a model. Thus, when one prominent researcher matched the polish lines on the fake with a genuine specimen in the National Coin Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, he declared the fakes absolutely genuine.
This modern counterfeit might be in the same category were it not for the blundered date.
Look how nice the die work is on the fake. Hub marks (the diagonal scratches) on the “E” and “D” of “United” that appear on the genuine coin were transferred to the counterfeit. Also note the detail in the wreath and the mint quality die polish in the bow. It would be interesting to find the genuine 189X-O dollar that must exist with this pattern of die
It’s unfair to ask you to pick the genuine coin from micrographs – I doubt that I could either on a fake this deceptive. The reverse was so “good” that I wanted to get the coin for my teaching set, but it was not for sale. Figures 2 and 3 show a genuine 1895-O dollar that I’ve used for comparison. Figures 1 and 4 show the reverse of the counterfeit coin in Figure 5. It’s amazing how good some fakes are becoming – at least on one side.