The 1879 Silver Dollar was a result of the Bland-Allison Act which was passed in 1878 and required the U.S. Mint to buy several million dollars’ worth of silver each month to strike Silver Dollars. Most dollars being produced at the time were called Morgan Silver Dollars because they had been designed by the Philadelphia Mint’s assistant engraver, George T. Morgan.
The New Orleans Mint began striking new Morgan Silver Dollars in 1879 and became the fourth facility to produce coins from the series, joining the other three mints at Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carson City. We should also mention that the 1879 Morgan Silver Dollar was produced with two different reverses.
1879 was also the year of the Schoolgirl Silver Dollar, another coin created by George T. Morgan. In addition to the silver issue, this coin was produced in copper and lead varieties as well. Although not an official U.S. Mint coin, the Schoolgirl Silver Dollar has become one of the most sought-after American coinage designs.
The 1879 Morgan Silver Dollars were produced during the second year of the classic Morgan Dollar series, which started in 1878. Originally designed by British-born engraver, George T. Morgan, the coin features Lady Liberty on the obverse, with an eagle on its reverse. Morgan was 30 years old at the time and actually designed the Morgan Silver Dollar while working as the assistant engraver at the Philadelphia Mint. He enjoyed a 48-year long career at the Mint and eventually became the chief engraver in 1917 after Charles Barber passed away.
During the first year of production, these coins were struck at the mints in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carson City. In 1879, the New Orleans Mint began striking its first Morgan Silver Dollars.
On the obverse of the 1879 Morgan Silver Dollar is a left-facing Lady Liberty, an imaged based on a Philadelphian school teacher named Anna Willes Williams. She is wearing a Phrygian cap and a ribbon inscribed with the word LIBERTY. Surrounding Liberty is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM and thirteen stars. The reverse depicts an eagle with outstretched wings and a wreath of laurel, along with the engravings in God we trust, ONE DOLLAR and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
1879 was also an important year for these coins as they were released with two different reverse images. The first reverse (also known as the “Reverse of 1878” or the “Second Reverse”) shows a flat-breasted eagle and a parallel top arrow feather below his talon. This particular reverse design is considerably rarer than the second. On the second reverse (called the “Reverse of 1879” or the “Third Reverse”) are a round-breasted eagle and a top arrow with a slanted feather. The easiest way to identify whether you have a coin with a “Reverse of 1878” or “Reverse of 1879” is to look at the arrow feathers in the eagle’s claw.
In 1879, George T. Morgan also designed the Schoolgirl Silver Dollar, featuring a fresh-faced Lady Liberty. According to experts, the coin was named the “Schoolgirl” Dollar in the early 1890s by the famous New York stamp and coin dealer, David Proskey because of Liberty’s youthful appearance. Even though the Schoolgirl Silver Dollar has always been considered a masterpiece, it was never struck for circulation.
On the obverse of the coin is a left-facing Lady Liberty wearing an elegant pearl or beaded necklace. Her hair is tied back with a ribbon that features the inscription LIBERTY. She is encircled by thirteen stars, as well as the engravings E PLURIBUS UNUM and 1879. The reverse is just as striking and displays a left-facing eagle looking rather defiant. It appears he is about to take flight from his perch, which sits in front of an olive sprig and three arrows. The perch is engraved with IN GOD WE TRUST. Other reverse markings include UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ONE DOLLAR.
Including the 4 specimens kept in museums, there are only 15 Schoolgirl Silver Dollars known today, most of which have been cleaned. This coin design was also produced in copper and lead in addition to silver, and all composition formats command a growing premium. Schoolgirl Silver Dollars are so rare; in fact, they have been known to fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.
Regarded as one of the most stunning coins in American coinage, the Morgan Silver Dollar deserves a place in every collection or portfolio. As for the 1879 Morgan Silver Dollar, you can aim to collect two different reverse designs or perhaps opt for an increasingly rare Carson City issue. There are actually two major 1879 Carson City Morgan Dollar varieties including the “large CC over small CC mintmark” issues and the “normal” or “perfect” strikes. The first mentioned variety shows a doubled mintmark where CC was struck over a smaller CC mintmark.
Then there’s the Schoolgirl Silver Dollar. As you’ve probably already guessed after reading the information we’ve shared above, the opportunity to purchase this coin doesn’t come around very often. Nonetheless, collectors and investors still keep the Schoolgirl Silver Dollar high on their list of favorites and are prepared to pay a handsome sum to own such a scarce piece.
If you’re interested in 1879 Silver Dollars, you can always rely on Capital Gold Group to help you grow your collection or investment with ease. With well over a decade of industry experience, we make purchasing any coin of your choosing secure and hassle-free.