Toned and rainbowed Morgan dollars are selling for hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars more than the year and mint date demand.
Check out this common MS-64 1884-O Morgan, retailing at $135:
It is being offered on eBay for $5,999.99.
People are willing to pay top dollar for such coins. True, they are beautiful and perhaps worth the investment, but they sell for high prices primarily because hobbyists do not know how to tell artificially toned from natural patina. This creates an opportunity for coin doctors, whose skills improve with each year.
You can pay hundreds of dollars for a chemically treated coin.
Worse, major holdering companies often are inconsistent in grading rainbow coins. Here are three coins (PCGS 47804333, 44902112, 41294408), two of which earned questionable color.
Personally, I feel all three have authentic color. I might have placed bids on all of them had not PCGS labeled them questionable.
So how do you check if you don’t know how to distinguish real from doctored patina? Or like me, sometimes are not sure?
First, you should know the colors of the numismatic rainbow. Then you should know how to tell obvious fake colors. Coins that fall in between can be challenging. When that happens, I resort to a quick check, seeing if the seller has similarly toned coins for sale — a sign that they have been doctoring coins.
Take this example:
I’m suspicious of this, especially in a 2005 Kennedy half. But creating target toning requires great doctoring skills (which I won’t divulge here). So I looked at other coins that this eBay seller is offering:
As you can see, he has several similarly toned target coins, even on a Peace dollar, as rainbows on these coins are rare. Some look authentic, others not so much.
This 1965 quarter might fool a hobbyist:
You see a lot of doctored coins on common dates, such as this cupra quarter. So I would recommend no bids.
Here’s another example:
This has all the signs of artificial toning: a common date along with purple and gold tones (usually from sulfur). But a novice might place a bid on it, so let’s see what else the seller is offering.
Again, no bids recommended here. Too many similarly toned coins.
Now let’s view another that may or may not have questionable toning.
Let’s see the seller’s other wares:
OK. I’m in and will make a bid on the 1904-O Morgan.
True, some sellers specialize in rainbow coins. They have a reputation for that growing genre. Here’s one of my eBay favorites, Chromatic Coins:
Another reputable seller is Legend Rare Coins, which you can find on HiBid.com.
But in both of the above cases, you will be paying top dollar. The whole purpose of bidding on raw toned coins is to snare a steal.
As you view more rainbow coins, you will be training your eye. It took me years, often by trial and error, until I developed skills and quick checks. But the very nature of searching for toned coins hones a close attention to detail, and is a great way to gain numismatic grading knowledge.
To see my toned collection, purchased raw and then holdered, visit my PCGS showcase.