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DMPL VS PL

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Definition: DMPL stands for Deep Mirror Proof-Like, and is a term usually reserved for describing certain Morgan Dollars that were struck for circulation but have unusually clean mirror fields and often frosty devices, similar to a genuine Proof coin. The DMPL Morgan is contrasted with the Prooflike (PL) Morgan which also has mirror fields, but to a lesser extent. The way to determine whether or not your Morgan Dollar is PL or a DMPL is to measure the amount of reflectivity on the mirror surface. Most grading services use both the PL and DMPL designations on their slab inserts. Sometimes you'll see the term Semi-prooflike (SPL) used to describe Morgan Dollars that don't quite qualify as full "Prooflike."

 

[font:Comic Sans MS]Q. What are the Differences Between DMPL, Prooflike, and Semi-Prooflike Morgans?[/font]

 

Morgan Dollars are some of the most beautiful U.S. coins ever made, not only because of their design, but because of the quality of the strike on many of the coins, especially the earlier dates in the series. Such Morgan Dollars are called DMPL (Deep Mirror Proof-Like,) Prooflike (PL,) and Semi-Prooflike, (SPL.) But how do you tell the difference between DMPL, PL, and SPL Morgan Dollars?

A. There are a couple of ways to tell the difference between DMPL, PL, and SPL Morgan Dollars. The most common way, and probably the most reliable, is to hold the coin on its edge next to a page of printed matter (such as a newspaper) where you have marked off the inches. You should have good light directed towards the coin (but not directly into the coin such that is reflecting.) Then, look into the coin's mirrored surface and see how far down the scale you can clearly read the text.

DMPL Reflectivity Scale

Here is the scale that denotes the proper designation for the coin, based on reflectivity:

* Semi-Prooflike (SPL) - 1 to 2 inches, devices must be frosted

* Prooflike (PL) - 2 to 4 inches of reflectivity

* Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) - More than 4 inches

* Ultra Prooflike (UPL) - At least 8 inches

 

The designation of Ultra Prooflike is not in widespread use, and qualifying coins are fairly rare.

 

The standard to qualify for UPL varies; some authorities say 12 inches of reflectivity should be the standard. It is important to remember that in order to qualify for the designations noted above, the entire surface must be mirrored, with no grayish areas or lost reflectivity due to variations in the mirror quality. Normal bag marks and scuffs are permissible. If only one side of the coin is Prooflike, the coin doesn't qualify unless the grading service offers separate designations for each side of the coin, and even then, usually the obverse must be the Prooflike side in order to count.

 

 

Another DMPL Testing Method

 

Another test that can be used to check the reflectivity of a Morgan Dollar is the "finger test." Lay the coin flat on the felt (you don't let your coins touch hard surfaces like tables, do you?) Make sure there is a good source of light directed towards (but not into) the coin, and then hold your index finger above the coin, raising and lowering the finger to determine how far the finger can be moved away without losing sharp definition. Sharp definition is the key here (and why the finger test isn't as reliable as reading text in the mirrored surface.) If the finger isn't sharply defined in the coin's field, it's too far away to count. The same scale of inches of reflectivity apply.

 

Slabbed DMPL Morgan Dollars

 

The tests above are not as accurate for coins that have been slabbed, because the plastic case will slightly diffract and dilute the reflection. It is recommended that you only buy DMPL Morgan Dollars from top tier grading services such as PCGS and NGC, as altered coins and fake frosted devices are a real problem in DMPL Morgans. Another reason to buy only reputably slabbed coins is that sometimes it takes an expert to tell the difference between a clean DMPL Morgan Dollar and a Proof Morgan Dollar.

 

Other DMPL Coins

 

Although the designation DMPL first emerged to describe Morgan Dollars (and later certain Peace Dollars,) the term is being expanded now to describe other coins that have the bright, shiny, mirrored surfaces and frosted devices of Proof coins, but which were struck for circulation. In most cases, the dies that struck the DMPL coins were prepared and polished in a similar manner to the Morgan Dollar dies, which included a step called "basining" the dies. Basining was a process that was done to each individual die just before inserting it into the coin press, and involved machining the die face to a slight concavity while applying a very fine die polish. Sometimes these basined dies were buffed afterwards, resulting in an even deeper mirror. Unfortunately, the mirror effect only lasted for the first few thousand strikes, degrading slowly to the point where the struck coins were no longer even mirror-like enough to be SPL.

 

[font:Comic Sans MS]Q. How do You Tell the Difference Between DMPL and Genuine Proof Morgan Dollars?[/font]

 

Deep Mirror Proof-Like (DMPL) Morgan Dollars are so named because they resemble Proof Morgan Dollars fairly closely. So how do you tell the difference between a DMPL and a genuine Proof Morgan Dollar?

A. The best answer is to buy only coins that have been graded and encapsulated by a major third-party grading service such as NGC or PCGS. This way, the experts have made the judgement between whether the coin is a genuine Proof Morgan Dollar, or merely DMPL. However, I know that's not why you came to this page, so let's get down to nuts and bolts here.

 

Characteristics of DMPL and Proof Morgans

 

DMPL Morgans were struck for circulation, so they will have the characteristics of a business strike coin. For DMPL Morgan Dollars, this means that there should be some bag marks and dings and scuffs, despite the beautiful mirrored surfaces.

Proof coins, on the other hand, were made from specially prepared planchets, and struck with dies that were carefully finished and polished. Proof dies were not used very long, so the sharpness of the strike should be superior, plus Proofs are struck with greater striking force with multiple strikes of the die faces. In addition, Proof Morgan Dollars shouldn't have seen any circulation, and were certainly never transported in canvas bags of a thousand coins at a time, all rubbing and jangling together like the business strikes were.

 

 

Telling the DMPL Apart From the Proof

 

Probably the easiest and most obvious way to tell the DMPL Morgan Dollar apart from the Proof is to look for signs of circulation. Since Proofs didn't circulate, and shouldn't have come into heavy contact with other coins, Proof coins will lack the little dings, scuffs, and marks that circulation (DMPL) coins have. If the DMPL is especially clean, an unscrupulous person, or even just a novice, might try to sell it as a Proof, which is why my first answer to this question was to buy a slabbed coin.

 

A Comparison View of DMPL Versus Proof

 

For someone who has a practiced eye, the Proof surfaces are clearly different; they almost jump right out at you. For someone less experienced, perhaps the most surefire way to tell the very clean DMPL apart from the Proof is by using a comparison coin. Compare the subject specimen to a known Proof Morgan, preferably from the same mint and year, (although if you can only have one or the other, take a Proof from the same Mint.) Examine the surface quality under a 10x loupe or microscope. Does the subject specimen match the Proof in texture and depth of sheen? Look for evidence of metal flow lines on the subject; Proof coins rarely have these, since flow lines stem from die wear and Proof dies aren't used for very long.

 

If you don't have a Proof Morgan Dollar to compare to, keep in mind that another key point of differentiation between Proof Morgan Dollars and DMPL Morgans is the sharpness of the devices. Because the Proof dies weren't used very long, the devices, especially the letters, numbers, and stars should be very sharp at the edges, and rise straight up from the field when viewed under good under magnification. (Note the squared denticles) Business strike Morgans will have a softer, more rounded, and less clearly defined "presence" from the field, even the coins which were struck from a fresh pair of dies. This is because the Proof gets at least two strikes onto specially prepared planchets, whereas the business strike coin got one strike on a random planchet.

 

The Bottom Line on Proof and DMPL Morgan Dollars

 

As I said at the beginning of this article, nearly all collectors should rely on the expertise (and guarantees) that a major grading service can offer when it comes to Proof Morgan Dollars. Besides the difficulty in telling a clean DMPL apart from a perhaps slightly abused Proof, you have the problem of scoundrels who polish the surfaces of coins to make artificial mirrors, and paint or acid treat the devices to make them frosty. With the prices that most DMPL Morgan Dollars bring, not to mention the prices of genuine Proofs, it is worth the extra few bucks to have the coin professionally authenticated, graded, and encapsulated before buying. Or just buy one in a slab to begin with.

 

aboutcoins.com

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Great post, Victor! Thanks!

 

There is one other tidbit that should be added. While it mentions that the dies began to deteriorate after a few thousand strikes so that even the SPL designation was improbable, it fails to mention that only the first 500 strikes, or so, from a basined die would likely produce a DMPL Morgan. It is also believed that dies which were basined for a slightly longer length of time were the most apt to produce the DMPL Morgan, and PL Morgans were produced from dies that were basined for a shorter length of time.

 

Chris

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Unfortunately, the inches test fails with different interpretations of what "clearly readable" is. There is also both blur and loss of contrast. Is a slighly blurred bright

image not as good as a sharper, dimmer image?

 

A more useful objective test would consider them as reflective lens elements (as

in parabolic mirrors) with gain factors, sharpness and dispersion as in reflector optics or antennas.

 

The most impressive DMPL coins can reflect a light source into a beam almost

like a flashlight on the wall or ceiling. This "know it when you see it" brightness is sort of automatically analyzed by graders at the TPGs. Measurable standards could be developed easily using a simple light meter, but DMPL-ness needs to

be expressed as a scale (1-100) not "nothing, PL, DMPL"

 

 

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These photos contain Dmpl,PL. and Spl coins.

Picture002-2.jpg

Picture006-2.jpg

Picture003-14.jpg

Picture002-8.jpg

In the first picture, which one is the bottom right? Also, could I see examples of DMPL coins?
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These photos contain Dmpl,PL. and Spl coins.

Picture002-2.jpg

Picture006-2.jpg

Picture003-14.jpg

Picture002-8.jpg

In the first picture, which one is the bottom right? Also, could I see examples of DMPL coins?

 

 

which one is the bottom right?

Picture015-9-1.jpg

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