Once thought of as a rare date in the series, the 1899-O was one of several Morgan dollar issues whose collector base was disrupted by the GSA Hoard and its piecemeal sales during the 1960s and ’70s. However, being from the New Orleans Mint means that the coin is relatively harder to find in high Mint State than, say, a Philadelphia 1899 dollar.
PCGS has graded 27 examples of the date at 67+, with only one higher at 68. And luckily, there have been a plethora of auctions for 67+-graded 1899-O Morgans in just 2019 alone. Most recently, we have similar results from September and July where specimens went for $7,800 and $7,500, respectively. And in June, we see an 1899-O selling for $9,694.
So it makes sense that, at the time of publication, the starting bid for this MS-67+ CAC 1899-O Morgan dollar is $7,500.
But earlier, in the first half of the year, examples of the date sold for $13,513 (May) and $15,000 (January), so bidding could get heavy before this auction is over in a few days.
Of course, you may want to check GreatCollections for any sales of the 1899-O that we might have missed – or to check out how the other great coins that you need for your collection have performed. To do that, search through the GreatCollections Auction Archives, with records for over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years.
Background of the 1899-O Morgan Dollar
The Morgan dollar gets its name from United States Mint engraver George T. Morgan, who designed the dollar coin in competition with then-Chief Engraver William Barber. Contrary to received numismatic wisdom, the two men had a cordial professional relationship.
Morgan was born in England and began working for the Mint soon after his arrival in the United States in 1876. Morgan was brought on as an assistant engraver in October 1876 and then worked under William Barber. In addition to the Liberty Head dollar, Morgan has several coin design credits to his name, including the Columbian half dollar of 1892 and 1893, and an array of pattern coins designed during the late 19th century, most notable of these being the never-released $100 Gold Union coin.
The obverse of the 1899-O Morgan dollar exhibits the left-facing Liberty Head motif seen on all issues of this classic dollar series. The central Liberty bust wears a Phrygian cap encircled with a ribbon adorned with the inscription LIBERTY. Miss Liberty also wears a crown of wheat and cotton, which were two of the nation’s most lucrative natural agricultural assets in the 19th century.
The phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM is inscribed along the upper half of the obverse rim, and the date 1899 is centered at the bottom of the obverse adjacent to the rim. Seven stars appear between the left side of the date and the inscription E PLURIBUS UNUM, while six stars fill the gap between the date and motto on the lower right side of the coin. In total, the 13 stars represent the 13 colonies that combined to form the original Union of the United States. At the base of Liberty’s neck is the “M” monogram representing Morgan’s initial.
Morgan designed the Liberty head bust after the likeness of Anna Willess Williams, a Philadelphia schoolteacher who modeled for the coin. Williams received significant public recognition after her face appeared on the Morgan dollar but she rejected it, refusing offers for acting roles and apparently marriage following her engagement to an unknown suitor.
The reverse is dominated by a heraldic eagle, its wings spread across the upper half of the coin. Between the upper tips of the eagle’s wings appears the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. The eagle clutches an olive branch in its right claw representing peace and in its left claw are three arrows symbolizing the nation’s ability to defend itself. The central eagle design is partly encircled by a laurel wreath. The “O” mint mark is right beneath the ribbon that ties the two halves of the wreath together.
Along the rim of the upper two-thirds of the reverse is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, with the tip of the eagle’s left wings, which virtually touch the coin’s rim, penetrating the space between UNITED and STATES; the right wing visually divides the words OF and AMERICA. The words ONE DOLLAR, seen at the bottom center of the reverse, are flanked by a single, six-sided star on either side of the denomination inscription.
The edge is reeded.
Not quite 13 million (12,290,000) Morgan dollars were struck at the New Orleans Mint in 1899, but few survived in the wild for collectors to even begin to know the true extent of the mintage. It wasn’t until the GSA sales of the 1960s and ’70s, after numerous bags of the date were discovered in Treasury vaults, that collectors understood the actual rarity (or lack thereof) of the issue in common grade. Or indeed, that collectors understood the Morgan dollar series in general.
Morgans struck at the New Orleans Mint tended to come weaker than their Philly counterparts.