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Buying Guide to Morgan Silver Dollars

Morgan Silver Dollar History

Morgan Silver Dollars are the most collected coin in the world. They were designed by US Mint Engraver, George T. Morgan in 1878. Morgan later served as Chief Engraver of the Mint from 1917 to 1925.  These coins were minted because there was legislation passed (the Bland-Allison Act) that mandated that the US Treasury must purchase a minimum of 2 million ounces of Silver per month from western mining interests and must turn that silver into Silver Dollar coins.

(Morgan Silver Dollar obverse [left] and a Morgan Silver Dollar reverse [right])

Morgan Dollar Facts

These large, heavy silver coins were minted between 1878 and 1904 and again in 1921 only. They are made of 90% Silver and 10% copper. Each coin contains .77344 of an ounce of Pure Silver in it. They were very popular in the South and the Western United States but not quite so popular in the urban East.

Valuing Morgan Dollars

The difference in the value of Morgan Silver Dollars is usually determined by the RARITY of the date and mintmark together and/or the condition (state of preservation) of the coins. Some dates and mintmarks are valuable even in low grade (well-worn condition). Some common coins (coins with high numbers actually minted) are valuable due to their state of preservation being much higher than normal.  Coins are graded on a scale from 1 to 70, with 1 being barely Identifiable and 70 being perfect. A small number of Morgan Dollars are graded at 1 and a small number are graded at 69. No Morgan Silver Dollars are graded as 70, being perfect.

(A Morgan Dollar graded Poor-1 [left] and a Morgan Dollar graded MS-69 [right])

Even common date Morgan Silver Dollars are scarce in 67 grade or higher and unknown in 70. In 68 grade, even common coins are around $5,000, while 69 grade coins are at least $50,000. Remember, these coins received no special handling at the mint and were usually stored in large, heavy canvas bags holding 1,000 coins all banging together.  To survive in such a high grade after more than 100 years is truly remarkable.

Morgan Dollar Mints & Mintages

In order to make millions of coins each year, as required by law, the Philadelphia Mint had to also employ the services of the various other mints to help with production. Each of these branch mints would place a small letter on the reverse of the coin to indicate at which mint it was struck.

(This small “S” indicates that this coin was struck at the San Francisco Mint)

At various times Morgan Silver Dollars were minted at:

  • Philadelphia Mint                            (no Mintmark)
  • New Orleans Mint                          (“O” Mintmark)
  • Carson City Mint                             (“CC” Mintmark)
  • San Francisco Mint                          (“S” Mintmark)
  • Denver Mint (1921 only)               (“D” Mintmark)

These are the dates and mintmarks of Morgan Silver Dollars and their original mintages. Remember original mintages are affected by mass meltings of these coins which occurred in 1918 at the end of World War I, 1979-80 and 2008-11 when the price of Silver rose dramatically to or close to $50 per ounce. Those meltings affect the number of surviving specimens which is unknown.

Rarities

There is a quantity of small and great rarities in the Morgan Dollar Series. A number of these coins are prohibitively priced in even MS-63 grade. This is a list of coins that are much more expensive in MS63 grade and higher while the price for a relatively common MS63 is under $100. These coins are “date and mintmark” rarities.

There are also “condition rarities” such as an MS-68 common date Morgan for $5,000 and an MS-69 Morgan Dollar for $50,000 and more. These coins are valuable only in the respect that the average coin of that date and mintmark are common and low priced and these high grades of common coins are worth a very significant premium over those prices.

The basic rule in the coin hobby is that prices are dictated by supply and demand,

DateValue in MS63
1879-CC$7,500
1883-S$2,500
1884-S$35,000
1886-O$3,500
1889-CC$50,000
1892-CC$2,500
1892-S$70,000
1893$1,200
1893-CC$10,000
1893-O$9,000
1893-S$250,000
1894$5,000
1894-O$5,000
1894-S$1,250
1895Proof Only Issue – $4,000
1895-O$60,000
1895-S$7,000
1896-O$8,000
1896-S$4,000
1897-O$5,000
1901$18,500
1903-S$8,000
1904-S$5,000

Collecting Morgan Dollars

There are almost as many collecting strategies as there are collectors. The simplest and most common method is to collect one of each date and mintmark. But some dates, as you can see in the Rarities list, are very expensive even in low grade.  So collectors have developed strategies for how to collect their coins. They are collected in all grades from well-circulated VG to Gem BU sets. Some collector subsets include collecting only:

  • All Carson City Silver Dollars (1878 to 1893)
  • One coin from each of the five mints that struck these coins in the highest grades possible
  • First five “S” mint coins – 1878-S to 1882-S in the highest grades possible
  • Five common  “O” Mints – 1881-O 1885-O in the highest grades possible
  • By Year only – regardless of mintmark in the highest grades possible.
  • “Low Ball” sets – collecting as many dates and mintmarks as possible graded by PCGS and/or NGC graded “Poor-1”

You should try to collect sets that have coins in similar condition such as a Very Fine or MS63 set. But, most importantly, you should collect what YOU enjoy. Do not let anyone tell you what you can/cannot collect. These are your coins and the best way to enjoy them is to collect what you like.

Expand your collection today and shop our assortment of Morgan Silver Dollars.