How can I tell if a Morgan dollar is counterfeit? Morgan dollars, produced from 1878-1921, are highly coveted by coin collectors and investors. But with popularity comes counterfeits trying to cash in. So how do you tell if your Morgan dollar is fake?

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: check the coin’s weight, examine the details, test the ping sound, and assess the wear pattern. An authentic Morgan is 26.73 grams of 90% silver with crisp details, rings clear when flipped, and shows even wear.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn the complete process professional numismatists use to authenticate Morgan dollars, including:

Examine the Weight and Dimensions

Authentic Morgan Dollar Specs

An authentic Morgan silver dollar coin should weigh 26.73 grams and be 38.1 mm in diameter. These specifications were outlined in the Coinage Act of 1873 which authorized the production of the Morgan dollar.

Knowing the exact weight and size will help you quickly determine if a coin is likely counterfeit or not.

Use a Precise Scale

Get a jeweler’s scale or gram scale that measures down to the hundredth decimal point. This level of precision is needed to accurately weigh a Morgan dollar and compare it to the 26.73 gram standard. Scales meant for postal shipping or cooking won’t have the required accuracy.

Weigh your coin and if it deviates more than a few tenths of a gram, it raises red flags. An authentic silver dollar won’t weigh 27 grams on the nose. Variances in production allow for a small margin either below or above 26.73 grams.

However, a weight far outside this range indicates a fake coin likely made from base metals.

Check the Diameter

Use a caliper tool to precisely measure the diameter of a Morgan dollar. This specialized tool has narrow arms with flat pads on the ends. Open the arms to fit around the coin then close them together. An authentic Morgan measures 38.1mm in diameter.

The arms have mm scale markings allowing you to get an exact diameter measurement. If the coin falls outside a fraction of a mm from 38.1mm, then it’s surely a counterfeit dollar, likely struck from inferior materials by less capable minting presses.

Inspect the Details and Devices Closely

When assessing the authenticity of a Morgan dollar, it is essential to thoroughly inspect subtle elements of the coin’s design. Examining aspects like the relief sharpness, hair detail, and feather definition can reveal clues about whether the coin is genuine or a clever fake.

Look for weak-striking

Genuine Morgan dollars showcase full, crisp details from the metal dies used to strike the coins. Fakes often have mushy details and signs of a weak strike, lacking definition in the hair, feathers, and other design elements.

Check the coin under a loupe or macro lens. Blurry and ill-defined details like the hair strands on Lady Liberty’s head can indicate a counterfeit coin. The real coins boast intricate detailing from the mint’s dies.

Examine the Hair Detail

The hair on Lady Liberty should show clear, carved strand lines and texture. Counterfeits tend to have hair that looks flat, fuzzy, or globby by comparison. The hair also outlines the tiara on her head. Ensure the band is complete and visible.

Likewise, examine the hair detail over Liberty’s ear. On authentic coins, individual locks are evident. Fakes often show a solid mass with no separated strands visible.

Check the Eagle’s Breast Feathers

The breast feathers on the eagle reverse should demonstrate bold ridge lines delineating each feather. There will also be clear segmentation between the wing edges and the feather tips if the coin is real.

Counterfeits may show very faint lines for the feathers. The definition and depth of detail tend to be lacking compared to genuine Morgan dollars.

You can reference images of certified Morgan dollars online to cross-check features like the feather detail against a verified authentic example.

Listen to the Ping Sound

One way to help determine if a Morgan dollar is counterfeit is to listen to the “ping” sound it makes when dropped. Authentic Morgan dollars were made with 90% silver, giving them a distinctive ringing chime when bounced off a hard surface.

Counterfeits made from base metals like copper or zinc will make more of a “thud” than a sustained chime.

Here are some tips for listening to the ping:

  • Hold the Morgan dollar between your thumb and index finger by the edge.
  • Flip the coin so it’s positioned vertically, with the face pointing up.
  • Drop the coin from about 4-5 inches onto a hard surface like a granite counter or wood table.
  • A real silver Morgan will emit a high-pitched “ping” sound that rings for several seconds.
  • A fake coin made from cheaper metals will make more of a dull “thunk” or “thud.”

It’s important to drop the coin on a hard, smooth surface so you can hear the difference. Carpeted floors can muffle the sound.

While the “ping” test isn’t foolproof, it’s a good quick check. Counterfeiters are getting better at matching the look and feel of real Morgan dollars through electroplating. But they still struggle to duplicate the resonant ring of 90% silver.

So next time you come across a Morgan dollar, try the ping test and listen closely. An authentic silver dollar song could save you from getting tricked by a fake!

Review the Wear Pattern

No Even Wear is Suspicious

Genuine Morgan dollars tend to show even wear patterns across the high points of the coin design. This comes from years of circulation and consistent contact against other coins and surfaces. However, counterfeits rarely display this even wearing down since they have not been used in commerce for long periods.

Instead, fake Morgan’s will often have uneven wear, with some parts of the design worn completely smooth while other areas remain sharply detailed. This can be a clear sign that the coin is not authentic and the wearing has been artificially created to mimic circulation wear.

Experienced collectors know to watch out for this telltale sign. Always examine the surfaces carefully and look for inconsistencies in the wear pattern. If some design elements are weak while others seem too sharp and unworn, that should raise suspicions.

Eroded Details Indicate a Cast Fake

Many Morgan dollar counterfeits are produced using a casting process that fails to capture the intricate design details of a real struck coin. Examining these finer design elements offers another opportunity to spot fakes.

On authentic coins, the hair strands, feather details, cloth folds, and other fine lines will remain visible even on well-circulated pieces. However, on cast counterfeits, these finer details are usually softened or merged into a mushy undefined mass.

This loss of definition happens because the casting process fails to reproduce the level of detail that is achieved on genuine minted coins. The evidence will be apparent when viewing the coin under magnification or simply looking closely with a sharp eye.

As a rule of thumb, any strange erosion, softening, or merging of fine design details is a red flag. Use an eyeglass or magnifying glass to inspect the coin carefully and take advantage of this telltale sign of counterfeit Morgan’s.

Authentication Services for Uncertain Coins

Verifying the authenticity of valuable collectible coins like Morgan dollars can be tricky for non-experts. Thankfully, there are professional authentication services that can help provide certainty.

Reputable Grading Companies

The two most respected third-party grading services for U.S. coins are NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) and PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service). Both companies will carefully analyze a submitted coin under multiple high-powered microscopes and compare it side-by-side to known genuine examples from their extensive reference collections.

This helps them confidently determine if a coin is genuine or counterfeit.

What the Grading Report Indicates

Along with assessing a coin’s condition, NGC and PCGS authentication reports will state definitively if a coin is genuine or not. The companies grade hundreds of thousands of coins annually, so their opinion carries weight in the collector community.

While their services aren’t free, the cost is reasonable for the peace of mind it brings.

Other Indicators of Authenticity

There are also some things you can look for yourself to help detect fake Morgan dollars:

  • Compare the coin’s weight, diameter, and thickness to published specifications
  • Examine the coin under a magnifying glass checking for evidence of casting, tooling, or abrasion
  • Evaluate the quality of the coin designs, making sure all elements are clearly defined with no blurriness

However, none of these methods are fail-safe for average collectors. Getting a professional opinion is still the best route when the authenticity of an expensive Morgan dollar is in doubt.

How Can I Tell If A Morgan Dollar Is Counterfeit – Conclusion

By carefully examining weight, details, sound, and wear, you can reliably detect counterfeit Morgan dollars. When in doubt, consult a professional authentication service to protect your investment. With this guide, your Morgan Dollar collection will stay genuine.

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