Counterfeits and Fakes

One of the unfortunate parts of collecting anything of value is that thieves always move in to take advantage of legitimate participants.  Coins in general, and Morgan Dollars specifically are targets for these unscrupulous individuals.  Morgan Dollars are a particular target because of the sheer number of collectors and the general knowledge that many Mint produced coins were poorly struck.  The poor production at the Mints makes detection of counterfeits especially difficult from a distance over the Internet.

Why Study Fakes?

What We Know

Current Inventory

Knowing what not to buy is as important as knowing what to buy in the world of coins.  With the Internet help in identifying fakes is especially important because restitution and resolution of frauds can be difficult.


There is something to be learned from studying fakes in terms of production and how distribution of the fakes is accomplished.  If you can get your hands on a fake it often becomes obvious because of weight, appearance, or feel.  But when they are purchased on-line more care is needed.

Morgan dollars are often forged using steel or steel alloys.  These have a silver appearance, and we have even seen polished ones that are good fakes.  A big giveaway if you can get your hands on the coin is magnetism.  Steel is attracted to a magnet, silver is not.


So when you cannot touch and feel the coin what do you look for to avoid fakes?  Hopefully with this study we can shed a little light on the subject.

Right now the epicenter of fake coin production seems to be China, but others logically exist.  Whether the sheer size of the Country or the effort is State sponsored is irrelevant to the collector who unknowingly purchases one of these coins.

From our research the production facilities are primitive, but you can apparently produce large quantities with little effort.  These crooks are not trying to dazzle you with their production quality.  Their goal is to apparently flood the market with coins that are not easily identified over the Internet.

Fakes are certainly not limited to Morgan Dollars and coins of greater rarity are readily available.  As seen in the above photograph, apparently there are stores offering the fakes of your choice.

Apparently getting or making steel dies isn't much of a challenge for these crooks.


You have to start somewhere and since we focus on the 1881-O that is where we look.  For that reason our acquisitions will be few and far between.  We will also document each as we find them as we would any other coin and give as much detail as possible.

(Click on the Image for more detail)


This coin was our first purchase in 2016 and actually advertised on eBay as made in China.

On-Line Auctions

On-line auctions have become the defacto standard for many to purchase coins.  But they also offer the perfect vehicle to distribute counterfeit coins.  It was on an advertisement very similar to this one where we intentionally purchased Fake #1.

(Click on the image for a larger view)


The coins are usually sold as accessories for magic tricks or novelty items.  In this ad the seller even discloses that he/she is operating from Shanghai, so there is no deception there.  It is also disclosed that the coins are not real.


But the problem comes with the purchaser because the seller cannot guarantee that the purchaser will use them as intended, and these are counterfeit coins.


From time to time we challenge these sellers just to vent our frustration, but it does no good.  The defenses usually fall into these categories.

  1. We disclosed that they are fakes
  2. They are not for circulation, just fun
  3. It isn't illegal to make coins that are no longer in circulation
  4. No one told me I could not make them
  5. I just import them, I don't make them


When you see them complain to the on-line retailer.  It doesn't stop them but it does slow them down.


The Aging 1D


Clashed Denticle

Date Issues


New Orleans and the Mint in 1881

The Devolving 5

One and Done

Two and Through


Die Fingerprints


The Devolving 27