Posted by Ben Wengel, NGC Grader and Attributor
NGC’s discovery is the first reported counterfeit example of this date.
Recently, an 1894-O Morgan Dollar was examined in an invoice at NGC that was proven to be an unreported contemporary counterfeit. Despite being a well circulated piece, there were several distinct problems with the coin that immediately led to the determination that the piece was in fact not genuine.
The coin displayed a granular texture despite appearing well circulated, and the devices lacked sharpness. Like the 1893-O VAM 6 discovered by NGC in 2014, the 1894-O had an incorrect reverse hub type that wasn’t used at the New Orleans Mint until 1901. In fact, this newly discovered 1894-O actually shares the same reverse die as 1893-O VAM 6, as evidenced by the die flaw just in front of the “D” of “United”, a die that was also used to strike the counterfeit 1896-O VAM 25 and 1900-O VAM 62 pieces.
An obverse marker is present as well. There is a die flaw next to the fifth star to the left of the date, but besides this and the aforementioned texture and sharpness issues, the die is rather unremarkable.
Metallurgical analysis was conducted on the piece, and the results were consistent with similar contemporary counterfeit Morgan dollars, as the silver content was high at .918 fineness, which is too pure for US Mint standards.
As of March 2016, this newly discovered counterfeit die marriage has been listed in the VAM reference as VAM 13.
It is certainly possible that other New Orleans counterfeit dollars from the 1890s and 1900s are undiscovered, as two new dates (1893 and 1894) have been discovered within the past two years. The list of currently known contemporary counterfeit pieces listed in the VAM reference includes 1893-O, 1894-O, 1896-O, 1900-O, 1901-O, and 1902-O. The majority of New Orleans dollars from the 1890s are semi-key dates, even in circulated grades. An unsuspecting or uneducated collector could potentially lose hundreds of dollars by purchasing one of these counterfeits or an unreported piece as genuine, and as such, authentication is recommended.
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