6th National Silver Dollar Convention
St. Louis, Missouri
November 11 -17, 1985
By Ron Howard
Last month, I bid $4,000 on an 1881-S Dollar, and LOST! At the ANA in Baltimore, I offered $2,400 for a non-prooflike 1882-S and was turned down. I guess I’m just not strong enough. But I did manage to pay over $1,200 for an ’04-O described in the ANA Auction catalog as “MS63/65.” I mean, I had to buy SOMETHING.
If S-mint price-busting continues, we may have to become concerned with the possibility of nefarious “numischievists” adding esses to Proof Morgans. A meticulous placement of that magic letter could transform that unsalable $5,000 1880 cameo proof into a $15,000 PL winner!
Fortunately, the crook would have to change a lot more than just the mintmark to fool even a modestly knowledgeable buyer. An 1880 proof is easily distinguishable from any business strike Morgan. However, there is one issue in the Morgan series which can be confusing as to its proof or business strike status. That’s the 1878 eight feather. This issue can come with extremely deep PL surfaces as a business strike. Compounding the situation, Proofs do not have the broad, squared rims found in later years. This writer has seen several 8F business strikes catalogued as proofs. The confusion is often unnecessary, since most genuine proof 1878 8F Morgans have a short, conical projection from Ms. Liberty’s eyeball.
The 8F is one use whose date can be guessed just by looking at the reverse. The 7/8F, 1879-CC with “capped” mintmark, 1900-O/CC and 1921-PDS are other cinches. How good are you at guessing the dates of the rest of the series just by examining the reverse? The “dating game” is used by many experts to sharpen their skills and to have a little fun. If you happen to view a dollar reverse-first, try to resist the impulse to immediately turn it over and instead take a few moments to guess the date by studying the reverse’s characteristics – Not die breaks or intricate recutting, but major things like edge bevel, strength of strike, color and luster (this game recommended for BU dollars only). You’ll find that your percentage of right guesses will improve with experience. To build confidence, you can play the “mintmark game,” in which the mint is guessed by examining the obverse. Your odds are much better, and the education is just as valuable. The knowledge you can obtain by playing this type of mental game is extremely helpful in detecting altered coins.