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Identical marks on coins evidence of fakes

I have two About Uncirculated gold $20 double eagles, same date and mint mark, each with what appears to be identical contact marks on the obverse. What are the chances of this being legitimate, or do I more likely have fakes?

You are wise to be suspicious. I can’t make a judgment without seeing the coins, but it is highly suspect when two coins have contact marks that are identical. Years ago I knew someone who had two $20 bills, each with identical serial numbers. He didn’t understand the system, insisting that is why they were genuine.

Is there anything I should watch for if someone tries to deceive me with a silver dollar that is not a proof?

Watch for coins on which the surfaces have been polished to give an artificial mirror appearance. Point or acid is sometimes applied to devices to make them look frosty. The design elements are significantly sharper on proof Morgan dollars than on coins faked to look like proofs.

 1921 Morgan Dollar with 'Splitting Headache' die breaks, VAM-3AM3 (Image courtesy

1921 Morgan Dollar with 'Splitting Headache' die breaks, VAM-3AM3 (Image courtesy

The 1921 Morgan silver dollar appears to be the most commonly encountered date in the series. Are there any varieties of significance I should be aware of?

The ‘Splitting Headache’ VAM-3AM3 (Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis, VAM system authors) variety has a long die break across Liberty’s head and eye. This is likely the most desirable of the varieties for this date issued from any of the three mints striking this coin in 1921.

You recently answered questions about 1887 Donkey Tail and Alligator Eye as well as 1891-CC Spitting Eagle Morgan silver dollars. Are there other Morgan varieties with colorful nicknames?

Among some of the more colorful variety names are the 1878 8 Tail Feathers Comma Feather (VAM 9A), 1881-S Wounded Eagle (VAM 54), 1884-O Belly Button (VAM 4B), 1888 Hot Lips (VAM 4), 1891-CC Spitting Eagle (VAM 3 and 7), and 1921 Splitting Headache (VAM-3AM3) Morgan dollars. There are others, but they are not as scarce or as popular among collectors.

Are there Peace dollar varieties with colorful nicknames as well?

Some notable varieties include the 1922 Scar Cheek (VAM 5A), 1922 Mustache (VAM 12A), and the 1923 Broken Wing (VAM 1E) Peace dollars. I will add that Eisenhower dollars are often called Ikes, while the 1979 to 1981 and 1999 Susan B. Anthony dollars were initially dubbed the “Jimmy Carter penny.” Europeans have referred to all U.S. silver dollars as “cowboy dollars.”

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More Collecting Resources

• Is that coin in your hand the real deal or a clever fake? Discover the difference with U.S. Coins Close Up, a one-of-a-kind visual guide to every U.S. coin type.

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.