Produced from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921, Morgan Silver Dollars were the second standard dollars minted after the production of the Liberty Seated Dollar. Boasting nearly one ounce of pure silver, these coins were struck at the Mints of Philadelphia, San Francisco, Carson City, New Orleans, and Denver. Many coin enthusiasts own just one or a handful of examples from the Morgan Silver Dollar series, while others collect these historic pieces by date, mint or condition.
A left-facing Lady Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap adorned with wheat and cotton blossoms is depicted on the obverse of all Morgan Silver Dollars. She is also sporting a ribbon inscribed with the word LIBERTY. Thirteen stars that represent the original 13 colonies encircle her head, with the phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM above and the date below.
The reverse side displays an American eagle with outstretched wings and the engraving in God we trust between both wings. This stunning eagle is holding an olive branch and arrows of war in his talons, which sit just above a laurel wreath. A mintmark can be found just below the wreath’s bow and above the ONE DOLLAR inscription. The marking UNITED STATES OF AMERICA completes the design. Interestingly, the eagle is shown with eight tail feathers on earlier issues but only seven on later releases.
Even though many issues were destroyed after the Pittman Act authorized the melting of millions of Morgan Silver Dollars, collectors around the globe search far and wide for these coins in order to obtain a complete set.
In 1873, Congress eliminated the Silver Dollar from U.S. coinage, bringing the Liberty Seated Dollar series to an end. However, five years later in February 1978, the Bland-Allison Act was passed by Congress. This Act written by Richard P. Bland and amended by Senator William B. Allison required the Treasury to buy between two and four million troy ounces of silver each month for the production of dollar coins.
Four months later, United States Mint Director, Henry P. Linderman told his chief engraver, William Barber and his new assistant, George T. Morgan to come up with some designs for the half dollar coin. Linderman ordered them both to prepare unique artworks for the obverse and reverse of the dollar and told Barber and Morgan that he would pick whichever designs he liked the most. After moving from London, UK to America to start a six-month trial, Morgan hadn’t long been working at the Philadelphia Mint at the time.
Barber and Morgan knew they had to use a profile of Liberty, rather than a full-figure Liberty on the obverse, and an eagle on the reverse. Morgan decided to base his Liberty image on an American lady called Anna Willess Williams, a school teacher from Philadelphia. In fear of losing her job, Williams refused to pose for Morgan at first but eventually agreed after much persuasion. Morgan’s eagle design was quite different to any other seen before as well. He also added his initial, the letter M on both artworks, something which had never been done before. Linderman favored Morgan’s images so much that he chose them for the Silver Dollar, instead of the half dollar coin.
Named after their designer, Morgan Silver Dollars were first struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1878. Not long after, the Mint was made aware that the eagle on the reverse should have only seven tail feathers, rather than the eight currently being stamped onto the coin. Linderman agreed and made sure the design was changed immediately. This means that some 1878 Morgan Silver Dollars show seven tail feathers, and others show eight.
Between 1878 and 1904, Linderman ordered four separate mints including Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco and Carson City to strike Morgan Silver Dollars. To help reach the limit set by the Bland-Allison Act, the Philadelphia Mint had to work overtime and stop producing all other coins. The New Orleans Mint didn’t start striking Morgan Silver Dollars until 1879. Although production was much lower at Carson City, minting the coins became even more of a challenge when the Carson City Mint closed in 1893.
By 1904, the U.S. Mint had exhausted its silver reserves and was forced to shut down production of Morgan Silver Dollars. In 1918, Congress passed the Pittman Act to replenish silver supply by melting millions of Morgan Silver Dollars that were being stored in vaults. Almost half (over 270,000,000 coins) the entire mintage from 1878 to 1904 were sent to the melting pot. As the Pittman Act also authorized the purchase of more silver to replace the melted coins, the Morgan Silver Dollar returned one last time in 1921 before the Peace Dollar appeared later on in the same year.
A staggering 657 million Morgan Silver Dollars were minted between 1878 and 1921 in Philadelphia (no mintmark), San Francisco (S), Carson City (CC), New Orleans (O), and Denver (D) but, as previously mentioned, hundreds of millions were melted. There are, however, plenty of well-preserved specimens still around today because a vast number of these coins remained in Treasury and bank vaults over the years.
As Carson City minted Morgan Silver Dollars in limited numbers, all coins with the CC mintmark are desirable, with 1879 and 1889 being the rarest. Other key dates include 1884-S, 1892-S, 1893-S and 1895-O. Records show that 12,000 mint state dollars were produced in 1895 but none have ever surfaced. As a result, the 1895 proof coin in any grade is extremely valuable but they are not easily found because only 880 were struck in Philadelphia. Uncirculated and proof 1878 Morgan Silver Dollars that show the original 8 tail feathers are also important finds.
Beyond a doubt, the Morgan Silver Dollar is the most popular coin ever made in America, and its list of fans is never-ending. The task of acquiring the rarest issues or a complete set might be a challenge but collectors all over the world will stop at nothing to get their hands on the most sought-after United States Mint coins.
Containing ninety percent silver, earlier and scarce Morgan Silver Dollars tend to carry a high price tag, as do those that at in excellent near-mint condition. While all Morgan Silver Dollars will make great additions to your collection, we urge you to invest in the highest grade specimens, even though they do cost a little more. Having not been in production for nearly 100 years, these coins boast a value that rises every year, making them ideal investment vehicles as well.
When it comes to purchasing Morgan Silver Dollars, Capital Gold Group can not only help you acquire key dates but also make the whole buying process hassle-free. Simply tell us which rare coin dates you require, and we’ll do the rest. For more information about Morgan Silver Dollars or help with placing an order, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of experts.