Unprecedented high demand for precious coins and bars stirred an enormous interest among counterfeiters. This article describes how to spot fake Morgan Silver Dollars, which seems to be one of the most popular precious coins not only among investors, but unfortunately also among counterfeiters.
LEARN ABOUT HISTORY OF MORGAN SILVER DOLLARS
Before you invest into Morgan Silver Dollars, you need to learn a little bit about the history of these coins. This type of coin was minted from 1878 until 1904 and then again briefly in 1921. Each year there was different amount of coins minted for circulation ranging from tens of thousands to tens of millions of coins. But, if any at all, there was only few hundreds or thousand at best of coins minted as "proofs". Moreover most of these silver dollars were in fact removed from circulation and smelted exactly because of the silver content. Recent advertisements that huge quantities of uncirculated Morgan silver dollars were found hidden in some vaults are very likely a scam. In any case before you buy ANY of these coins, you should know (or request) exact dates and possibly pictures of both faces of the coin so you can check whether the design of the coin matches to any real Morgan dollars minted in the past. Be especially careful when being offered minted proof coins, since those are extremely rare, and very likely only in well established private collections. Please see the resources for links to more details about types and numbers of Morgan silver dollar coins minted each year.
LEARN ABOUT THE EXACT DESIGN SPECIFICATIONS SUCH AS WEIGHT AND DIMENSIONS
All Morgan silver dollars were minted with the same initial parameters:
Gross weight: 26.73 grams Composition: .900 silver/.100 copper Net silver content: 0.77344 oz. Size: 38.1 mm diameter
Circulated and worn-out coins may be a tiny bit lighter, but if you encounter an offer of a "mint quality" coins which weight is not within one 100th of a gram from the design weight of 26.73g then it is a fake. Modern counterfeiters predominately from China use state of the art technologies for striking "new" Morgan dollars so it can be very difficult to spot the design differences by the eye. But as greedy as the cheaters are they do not use silver of the same grade as was used for the original silver dollars. So if the metal composition does not match then also the weight does not match, provided the geometrical dimensions of the counterfeited coins are same as the original silver dollars.
MEASURE THE WEIGHT OF THE COIN WITH HIGH PRECISION DIGITAL SCALE
Original Morgan silver dollar contains 90% of silver and 10% of copper. If the counterfeited coin has only 1 percent less silver than the original coin, that means 89% silver and 11% copper, then its weight will be already lower by 0.04g. It seems that current counterfeiter are using way lower grade of silver (by tens of percent), thus the weight difference is of course even larger somewhere near 0.5-1.0g. Therefore it is needed to use high precision digital scale and physical access to the coins you are about to buy. Just weight the coin you intend to buy - weight each coin individually - and if the weight does not match exactly within 1-2 hundredths of a gram than you should be really suspicious about these particular Morgan dollars. If the weight difference is way higher, then you can be sure it is an outright fake silver dollar. If the weight seems right or is off by really a tiny bit like those above mentioned 0.02g than maybe the coin is just a bit worn-out. But you still should proceed to visual comparison of a suspected silver dollar with reliable reference. See the next step.
COMPARE SUSPECTED FAKE MORGAN SILVER DOLLARS WITH RELIABLE REFERENCE
There is no point of visual check of coins which are way of the originals in terms of their weight. They are outright fakes simply made of lower grade silver with higher content of copper or other lighter metal. But even coins with proper weight may be fakes. They may be struck from silver of the correct .900 grade so the weight and value of the metal is identical to original Morgan dollars, but if they are counterfeited and minted in recent past in China their numismatic value (premium over the silver spot price) is pretty much zero. If you have even the slightest doubts about the authenticity of the silver dollars you are about to buy check both of their faces with original or pictures of original Morgan silver dollars. Very reliable reference with pictures of all original different Morgan dollar designs and examples of their counterfeits can be found at Silver-Coins.org (see the resources for link).