For What It’s Worth – October/November/December 2019

The Morgan Dollar

I hope you’ve all enjoyed a lovely summer. I haven’t had any queries recently, perhaps because of the beautiful weather, so I chose to write about an iconic coin that many of us have seen from time to time. It is the United States Morgan silver dollar and is, arguably, one of the most famous and collected coins of all time. 

It is known as the Morgan dollar because it was designed by George T. Morgan, an Englishman recruited by the US mint in the 1870s to work under Charles Barber as a die engraver. His design for a new silver dollar won out over his boss, among others. The obverse features a bust of Miss Liberty wearing a freedmans cap with LIBERTY written on the band surrounded by thirteen stars while the central design of the reverse features an eagle with wings spread holding arrows and laurel leaves in its talons, closely resembling a pattern he produced for the half dollar. 

The new dollar went into production in 1878 and was made every year until 1904 and then again in 1921. It was produced in as many as five mints including Philadelphia, without a mint mark, which is located below the eagle; in San Francisco, with an “S” mint mark; in New Orleans, with an “O”; in Carson City, the scarcest, with a “CC” and lastly in Denver with a “D” only in 1921. Over 600 million coins were made including over 60 million in 1921 alone, which proved to be the last year of production as a new design, known as the “Peace dollar.”

The number of different dates and mint marks makes for a very interesting series to collect with many rare variations. They are made of 90% silver at 412.5 grains or 26.73 grams with a diameter of 1.5 inches or 38.1 millimetres and an ASW (actual silver weight) of .72 ounces.

They typically sell for more than the bullion value for average specimens to hundreds of thousands for the rarest coins in top condition. The example pictured here, an 1881 S, is a great type coin, one that is not rare, with a mintage of 12.7 million, and in blazing mint state could be purchased for about $350 Canadian.

I am looking forward to a beautiful fall season and hope to hear from you in the coming months and wish you Happy hunting!

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