The single most purchased US Coin is the Morgan Dollar and it has been in the top five of ebay coin searches, according to ebay pulse, for several years. With the rising value of silver it’s become even more popular to buy Morgan Dollars for investments and collections, and anyone who sales this famous silver dollar realizes this fact.
Coin sellers know that Morgan Dollars are an easy and quick sale and that high grade coins trade for a higher premium, and this can be a problem for buyers. Some sellers take advantage of this market and doctor, clean, over grade and distort their auctions images in an attempt to gain the highest bids.
They know that many buyers are unaware of their techniques and that a coin in a plastic slab with a grade (over- graded) and a fancy acronym will also bring a higher premiums. Many coin sellers have created their own home based slabbing business under the name of greed and profit, and not with the interest of the collector in mind.
Furthermore, even though the silver market and Morgan Dollar sales is a positive sign for Numismatics in general, coin collectors still need to be warned and educated on the cons of buying Morgan Dollars.
Slabbed Morgan Dollars
Numismatics has a grading standard, backed and refined, by the leading experts in the field. Coin grading encompasses a huge body of work that started when the ANA Grading Standard was published, and since, has continued with grading companies like PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service), NGC (Numismatic Guarantee Corporation), ICG (Independent Coin Grading) and ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service). Although the system isn’t perfect, or 100% consistent, it’s still a standard that most serious collectors, dealers and experts do not refute.
What they do refute is grading services that grade well below the accepted standard, and that any one with a plastic holder and a label can holder and grade silver dollars, and they do so by the thousands. Pictured below are but two examples I found at ebay and it’s not recommended buying graded coins unless your can clearly examine the coin and know how to grade, or one is purchasing PCGS, NGC, ICG or ANACS graded coins.
As can be seen by the above images, even if one were to buy the coin, not the holder, one can’t see the coins well enough to grade them, or ascertain if the coins have been cleaned or if they’re even authentic. Buyer’s please don’t bid on these auctions! If no one bids on these auctions, then they will eventually stop.
Cleaned Morgan Dollar
It has been said that a large percentage of all Morgan Dollars have been cleaned via some method during their lifetime. Although this might be true, many ebay auctions images do not reveal this fact nor does the seller. For instance, the image above is from ebay, and at first glance the coin appears original, has toning, near mark free surface and appears to be a gem specimen, but take a closer look at the cheek area (clicking the image will bring up a larger image).
On the cheek area there are very fine lines and this is called whizzing lines. A person has used some type of abrasive to clean this Morgan, and it has retoned since. The seller didn’t reveal this in there description and might not even know it has been cleaned, but it’s one reason a bidder should look closely at coin images (when one can), educate themselves on identifying cleaned coins, and ask questions.
There’s many methods used to clean coins but most are easy to identify with some experience. A few important tips: If a coin has small fine lines, looks like the surface of a silver spoon, or has any patches that appear blurry, than the coin has been cleaned, so bid accordingly.
Artificial Toning Vs Natural Toning
Many methods are used to artificially tone Morgan Dollars and the application of heat or chemicals are the main ingredients used. Identifying artificially toned vs natural toned silver dollars is very difficult in many cases, but is obvious when comparing the two images below: The toning in the left image is artificial and the toning on the left was determined authentic by PCGS.
I use one rule of thumb: If it’s graded by PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG then it’s safe, but if I have doubts about a raw coin’s toning, I click to another auction. One can and will eventually get burned buying raw and toned coins of ebay.
Counterfeit Morgan Dollars
Counterfeit Morgan Dollars are on the market in the thousands, but US Coin reproductions must have the word COPY stamped on them or they are illegal to own in the US. However, that’s only half of the problem, many collectors are duped into buying these fakes because the coin doesn’t have COPY on it and the seller doesn’t reveal the true nature of the coin.