Beware of Fake Certified Morgan Silver Dollars Making Their Rounds
We’ve addressed the topic of fake Morgan silver dollars in a previous article, which is one of the most popular articles that we’ve ever written, as evidenced by the tens of thousands of views over the years. We’re humbled by the success of the article and hope that it has helped dozens of individuals from being taken advantage of. While this article helps to outline what to look for when evaluating raw or loose Morgan silver dollars, it doesn’t address the issue of fake certified Morgan silver dollars, which are becoming more and more prevalent.
Counterfeit Certified & Graded Morgan Dollars
In fact, over the past couple of months, we’ve seen a few instances of fake or low-quality coins encapsulated in hard acrylic holders that look nearly identical to those used by the leading third-party grading services (TPGS). This is a constant battle for the TPGS, as counterfeiters are becoming more and more sophisticated. The most recent versions of holders from these grading services have anti-tampering and anti-counterfeiting measures that help to verify that the coin is legitimate, but this doesn’t necessarily help with the millions of coins certified in the past housed in older generation holders that are easier to replicate.
In two recent examples, we had prospective customers reach out to us with what would have been very valuable coins. One was an 1893-s Morgan silver dollar in an MS61 grade and the other was an 1884-cc Morgan silver dollar in an MS65 grade. In both instances, the prospective customers emailed over pictures of the coins. Considering that we’ve been in the industry for quite some time and have had the opportunity to purchase these coins on multiple occasions, it was readily apparent to us that the grades on the holders were incorrect based on the condition of the coins.
In the case of the 1893-s Morgan silver dollar, the prospective customer became irate, berated us for a half an hour and threatened to report us to the authorities when we mentioned that the coin was somewhat suspect.
About a month later, this same coin was sent to a member in one of our coin dealer networks, who unfortunately had the same bad news to share with the customer. In this case, we believe that this individual was taken advantage of by a scammer, as it’s hard to feign that type of anger.
In the case of the other gentleman that was attempting to sell the 1884-cc Morgan silver dollar, he was less upset, which leads us to believe that he may have knowingly been trying to sell us a counterfeit coin.
Verify NGC & PCGS Certified Morgan Silver Dollars
You may be thinking to yourself by now that if you can’t even trust third-party graded Morgan silver dollars, what hope is there for the market? Well, besides the recent advances in anti-counterfeiting holders, the third-party grading services have images available of a substantial number of coins that they have certified over the years. Some of the earliest coins weren’t photographed by the TPGS, but in most cases, you’ll be able to look up images of the coin (front and back) from their website.
This can be done by doing a simple online search for the third-party grading service that certified the coin and entering in the serial number or certification number to verify the coin’s authenticity. For example, let’s say that you had a coin certified by ABC grading company. You would type in your search engine “ABC grading company coin look up” or “ABC grading company certification number or serial number.” This should bring up a page that allows you to enter the serial number on the holder and compare images to the coin in your possession to confirm that you have an authentic coin.
Keep in mind that some of the older certified coins weren’t photographed, so don’t be concerned if you don’t see an image posted when you search for the coins using the certification number. However, third-party grading services still maintained a list of the coins that they graded in the early days, including the corresponding certification numbers. This, at the very least, will allow you to verify that the coin was certified by the TPGS.
One other quick point with respect to serial numbers – TPGS always use different serial numbers for each coin that they grade. This is important to remember, as some of the counterfeit holders have duplicate serial numbers. In one particular case, we had a prospective customer bring in five PCGS MS70 1 oz gold buffaloes with matching serial numbers. If the quality, or lack thereof, wasn’t sufficient to be able to confirm the authenticity, the matching serial numbers was a dead giveaway.
Most of the auction sites do a good job at weeding out counterfeit coins, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. While seasoned and reputable coin dealers know how to identify these coins and prevent them from circulating in the marketplace, there are many online scams that are becoming more and more sophisticated. It’s typically in your best interest to avoid purchasing a high value certified Morgan silver dollar from online classified ads or online marketplaces, as this is where scams tend to be most prevalent. We also suggest staying away from fly-by-night companies and researching any company that you’re considering doing business with.
Protect Yourself Against Fake Morgan Silver Dollars
How can the average person protect themselves agai nst counterfeits? The online lookup option is a great place to start but doesn’t necessarily provide pictures of all previously certified coins. One thing you can do is become more familiar with what coins should look like in various grades. PCGS has an excellent online resource known in the industry as PCGS Photograde. This site has examples of nearly every U.S. coin ever produced. Let’s use Morgan silver dollars as an example. Here’s a link to the Morgan silver dollar grading scale on PCGS’ website.
Pay close attention to the high points of the coin in your possession and attempt to match it up to the pictures on PCGS’ website. Pay particular attention to Lady Liberty’s cheek, her hairlines (they should be well defined), and the area above the ear on the front and the eagle’s head and breast feathers on the reverse.
While not perfect, this will help you to quickly weed out any obvious fakes or over graded coins.
While we all like to do things ourselves, the reality is that there is too much money at stake when buying high-end certified Morgan silver dollars, which is why you should always work with a reputable and knowledgeable coin dealer. There may be a broker or commission fee involved when acquiring a numismatic rarity, but it’s a small price to pay to have piece of mind knowing that your investment is legitimate. Some of the biggest and well-known collectors in the hobby today engage coin dealers to acquire coins on their behalf, so this isn’t just something that novices should consider.
If someone is trying to sell you a high dollar certified Morgan silver dollar that you believe is counterfeit and have struck out trying to determine if the coin is authentic or not, reach out to a well-respected coin dealer such as Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers for assistance. Better yet, don’t try and do it yourself, and engage the services of an expert. You’ll be glad that you did and will sleep well at night knowing that you made a wise (and legitimate) investment that will hopefully continue to increase in value in the years to come.