At first blush, these gem-looking Morgans might merit a high bid in an online estate auction hosted on HiBid.com. But all three are counterfeits.
When we think of estate auctions, we imagine a lifelong collector in his 70s or his survivors liquidating collections that have languished for decades in a bank box. To be sure, those exist, although their numbers are rapidly fading on Proxibid, HiBid, Live Auctioneers, and other venues.
Rather, you have 70-year-olds with ever longer lifespans (I’m 69) adding to their collections from eBay without sufficient numismatic knowledge to know genuine from fake. Then those collectors intentionally or unintentionally consign these counterfeits to auctioneers whose main business typically involves estates from clients in nearby locales.
That’s how these fakes came to a February HiBid.com and then to me who won them with low bids averaging between $66-88 per coin.
Yes, that’s the first sign. These should have gone for much higher bids, especially for these two:
The 1878 reverse of 79 looks like a super gem, perhaps MS-66, which retails for $7,500.
Here’s the reverse of that coin:
I had my doubts, but bid low anyway, $66, and then forgot about it. Until I received an email that I won this coin and the other fakes above.
The 1878 rev. of 79 was a big temptation, and temptation is key when we bid or buy coins too good to be true. I usually dismiss temptation because the feeling typically leads to buyer’s remorse.
At any rate, Q. David Bowers discusses the 1878 reverse of 79 in his Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars. He estimates that 1,500,000 of this variety were minted and notes that the variety became popular in the 1980s and is “eminently worth owning.”
When I received the coin, I knew that something was wrong, thinking perhaps the coins were tooled. These Morgans were not magnetic, composed of silver; but I didn’t weigh or measure them. Had I done that, I would probably have learned that each weighed less than 26.73 grams and lacked a 1.5-inch diameter as required by the Coinage Act of 1837.
Here’s a nifty YouTube video describing how to tell real from fake Morgans:
In my case, another numismatist weighed the coin and the truth stared me in the face and pocketbook.
In my defense, estate auctioneers are not the best numismatic photographers, and bidders do not have the time without a scale looking at a computer screen to compare each Morgan with an authentic one in PCGS or NGC databases.
If I did, I would have immediately noticed irregularities.
The lettering and devices in the fake coin are noticeably mushy, which happens with bad dies. Specifically, the 1879 arrow feathers (fletching) is a dead giveaway, as the uppermost vane of the fake is poorly cut.
Before writing this column, I telephoned the auctioneer who confided that I wasn’t the only one who complained about the fake Morgans. Turns out, as predicted, an elderly man bought them on eBay and consigned them. Here’s typical eBay feedback on one of dozens of fake sellers:
I have underlined the dead giveaway to counterfeit coins: Weight.
Of course, eBay has a counterfeit policy, which reads:
Counterfeit or altered coins and currency are not allowed, nor is equipment designed to make them.
HiBid.com has a seller policy: Auctioneers must attest that lots “have not been fraudulently obtained, and are not stolen or counterfeit.”
Stating a policy and getting a refund are two different things. (I’ve had no luck with eBay and better luck with individual estate auctioneers).
Before writing this column, I telephoned the auctioneer to advise her not to accept any more consignments from this seller. She confided that she had reimbursed bidders who won fake lots. I didn’t ask her for reimbursement because I had made the mistake and deserved the outcome. I also informed the numismatist who identified the fakes to use them as educational items.
This column is an educational item, too.
Teodora Flores says
Hi! I have old coins that I want to sell but I don’t know whom to sell it.