Characteristics of Genuine 1893-S Morgan Dollars

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Posted by: John Roberts, on 10/1/2008, in category "Grading and Authentication"
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Abstract: A study of features found on genuine examples of this key date.

Characteristics of Genuine 1893 S Morgan Dollars
 
One of the most valuable and highly sought Morgan Dollars is the 1893-S. For this reason, it has long been a tempting target for forgers. Most spurious examples of the piece are not cast or die struck counterfeits, although such pieces definitely exist. Instead, they are typically alterations of genuine Morgan Dollars from another date or mint. Some of the alterations are quite skillfully executed, so authentication by a credible third party is strongly recommended.
With a reported mintage of 100,000 pieces, the coinage of the 1893-S Morgan Dollar was accomplished with the use of one obverse and two reverse dies. A working knowledge of the diagnostic features of these two marriages will effectively unmask almost every forged or counterfeited example encountered.
The lone obverse employed has its date set within normal tolerance. All Morgan Dollars minted from 1879 to 1904 have the point of the truncation of Liberty’s bust located over the space between two border denticles.
 
The date is set within the normal positional range.
Counting denticles from this reference point, the left edge of the base of the digit 1 is located over the right half of the third denticle. The right edge of the base of the 1 is over the left half of the fifth denticle (RH3 LH5). A match to the correct date position does not guarantee authenticity, but the wrong location is a clear indicator of a piece that is not legitimate.
The genuine obverse also has two small die gouges located within the lower left foot of the R in LIBERTY. Traces of the gouges nicknamed ‘rabbit ears’ are visible even on very low grade pieces. Most examples also display a strong die scratch in the top center of the T in LIBERTY, but this line is much thinner on later die state examples and may not be visible on pieces subjected to heavy circulation. The obverse may be further identified by several nearly horizontal die scratches in the lower hair under the lower edge of Liberty’s cap. Naturally, wear that removes hair detail in this area will also remove traces of this die marker.
     
‘Rabbit ears’ and a strong die scratch             Several horizontal die scratches
within the letters RT of LIBERTY                    are located in Liberty’s lower hair
Two reverse dies were used to coin the 93-S. One die has the S mintmark set upright and well centered between the bow and the DO of DOLLAR. The other reverse has the S tilted noticeably to the right. The mintmark is closer to the letters DO below it than the bow ribbons above it. There is also a pattern of moderately strong scratches within the bow loop on this die.
     
The normal mintmark                                     The tilted mintmark
Coins that do not match these characteristics should be avoided. Caution is clearly the best policy when trying to acquire an example. It is strongly recommended that purchases be made from reputable dealers and pieces should be certified by a respected third party grading service.

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