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In 1878, thirteen years after the end of America’s devastating Civil War, the united, but wounded nation, saw the introduction of a new silver dollar. Designed by George T. Morgan, the country’s new coin featured patriotic imagery and served as a powerful symbol of unity that helped heal a nation.
In 1878, thirteen years after the end of America’s devastating Civil War, the united, but wounded nation, saw the introduction of a new silver dollar. Designed by George T. Morgan, the country’s new coin featured patriotic imagery and served as a powerful symbol of unity that helped heal a nation. Morgan departed from the longstanding tradition of depicting Liberty as a Greek-style figure, which paid homage to Western culture, but did not suggest any national unity. Instead, he depicted her in a distinctly American style, helping to forge a new identity for the healing Nation. He also placed a crown of cotton and wheat on her head, one Southern crop, and one Northern one.
Given the powerful symbolism of the new dollar and its prominence in American commerce, it is little surprise that million were struck each year and that Americans of the day would be well acquainted with the coinage as currency. What is striking, though, is the staying power of the coin. Nearly a century after it was last struck, the coins continue to be passed down from one generation to the next. Many people have collections of just Silver Morgan Dollars, while they also serve as the foundation of countless broader collections of American coins.
Here are some of the ‘must-have’ issues of the series:
With 749,500 1878 8TF struck, this issue does not rank among the Morgan Dollar key dates. It was, however, the first issue in the historical series. Like the beginning, it had a quick: the eagle on the reverse had eight tail feathers. The mint was soon notified that eagles have an odd number of tailfeathers, so the design was changed to seven. Some dies were just rehubbed, which resulted in some pieces showing both seven and eight tailfeather features. This intriguing tidbit and the issue’s status as the first-ever put it on this ‘must-have’ list.
The Philadelphia Mint struck over 6.9 million Morgans in 1901, but many were never released into circulation. Those that were not released were melted mainly under the Pittman Act. Accordingly, the condition of relatively few coins was preserved, and these are among the most difficult coins to find in peak condition. In fact, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has graded just three submissions GEM BU. Values rise sharply in the Brilliant Uncirculated range, but collectors should still have at least one piece in Almost Uncirculated condition.
The Carson City Mint produced 756,000 Morgans in 1879. This infusion of Morgans put the issue in a more extensive supply than some of the other low mintage CC Morgans. Its status changed with the release of the General Services Administration Hoard in the 1970s. While smaller mintage issues were well represented in the releases, this one was not. Coins graded as low as MS64 have fetched five figures, and prices remain exceptionally high through the AU range. Between the relative scarcity and allure of the beloved Carson City Mint, this issue earns its place on the “must-have” list.
The iconic Carson City Mint closed for four years but reopened in 1889. From October to the end of the year, it struck 350,000 pieces. Not only was the mintage low, but experts suggest many pieces were melted. Still more were damaged or cleaned, making high-quality pieces in this issue hard to find. Collectors with deep pockets have shelled out around $10,000 for even the lowest Mint State issues in recent years. Collectors who are willing to compromise quality for ownership of a piece in this coveted issue can do so, but they may need to drop down to pieces in Very Fine condition or below to get a piece for under $1000.
With a mintage of 3.2 million pieces, the 1884-S issue doesn’t count among the “rare Morgan Dollars.” It still makes this list, though, because of the quality of the pieces available. These coins were released mainly into circulation, and examples in Mint State are few and far between. NGC has only ever given two pieces GEM BU grades. One of those sold in 2009 for nearly $150,000. Examples in lower grades are plentiful, but collectors willing to go higher on the grading scale will have exceptional pieces.
The 1893-S Morgan is the perfect coin… for those who can find it and afford it. Just 100,000 of these coins were struck, and the bulk of them were released directly into circulation, where they were needed for immediate use. Accordingly, even pieces in AU condition are scarce. Collectors who would like to own an example from this historic but would rather avoid the six-figure price tag of coins in Mint State can come in at the lower end of the scale, but even coins in Good and Very Good condition tend to command around $2000.
The Crown Jewel
A business strike 1895 Morgan Silver Dollar might be the world’s most valuable coin. That’s because, although the Philadelphia Mint’s records indicate that the facility struck 12,000 pieces for circulation, not one of them has ever been found. Instead, collectors looking for full sets of Morgans have turned to the 1895 Proof. Just 880 of these coins were struck. Even though some other years saw lower Proof Morgan mintages, demand for these coins is exceptionally high because of the lack of a business strike. The few collectors who own them consider them prizes in their collections.
||Sean McConeghy is a freelance writer and network marketer living in Roatan, Honduras. He originally hails from New York and specializes in writing about numismatics, real estate, and politics.|