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Counterfeit Coin Detection – 1889-CC Morgan Dollar With Added Mintmark

By Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) …..
This coin was part of a Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) grading contest, where only about a third of the participants identified it as a fake.

The 1889-CC Morgan Dollar is a major key in that series, because it had a mintage of a mere 350,000, a great portion of which ended up in the melting pot. About Uncirculated examples sell for thousands of dollars and even the lowest Mint State examples typically sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

1889-CC Morgan Dollar graded NGC MS 63+. Image: NGC.
1889-CC Morgan Dollar graded NGC MS 63+. Image: NGC.

NGC held a grading contest at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in August 2022. Contestants were given 10 minutes to grade 15 coins. This purported 1889-CC Morgan Dollar was one of the coins; to see all the coins from the contest, click here.

Morgan Dollar in the August 2022 NGC grading contest
Morgan Dollar in the August 2022 NGC grading contest. Image: NGC.

This Morgan Dollar was correctly identified as “Not Genuine or Altered” by only about a third of the contestants (48 out of 140). Overall, the coin has the look and feel of a genuine Morgan Dollar. That’s because it is one, with one important exception: The ‘CC’ mintmark on the reverse was added.

Close-up of the ‘CC’ mintmark. Image: NGC.
Close-up of the ‘CC’ mintmark. Image: NGC.

The most important clue for identifying this as an altered coin is the odd discoloration around the mintmark. This is likely due to the glue that was used to attach it to what was almost certainly an 1889 coin struck without a mintmark in Philadelphia. More than 21 million of those coins were struck, and they can be found in Mint State for about $100.

Whenever there’s a substantial numismatic premium resulting from the mint facility a coin was struck at, collectors are well-advised to carefully examine the mintmark area of the coin. Their high value and vulnerability to an added mintmark is the reason that many coins made NGC’s list of Top 50 Most Commonly Counterfeited US Coins, including the 1889-CC and 1893-S Morgan Dollars; the 1916-D Mercury Dime; the 1909-S Indian Cent; and the 1909-S VDB and 1914-D Lincoln Cents. To see the complete list, click here.

Beyond the mintmark discoloration, the coin has a weak obverse strike and luster, more hints that it was originally an 1889 Philadelphia issue. If you are unsure of your own authentication capabilities, especially with a coin costing thousands of dollars, remember that NGC backs its determinations of authenticity and grade with the NGC Guarantee.

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Interested in reading more articles on Counterfeit Detection? Click here.


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