HomeA Discrepancy in Carson City Mint Silver Dollar Production – 1880

A Discrepancy in Carson City Mint Silver Dollar Production – 1880

A Discrepancy in Carson City Mint Silver Dollar Production – 1880

By Roger W. Burdette, special to CoinWeek …..
The Carson City Mint has long been credited with delivering 591,000 standard Morgan silver dollars during the calendar year 1880. This quantity appears in official publications and numismatic literature. Further, it is well known that 96,000 Carson City dollars dated 1880 were condemned due to substandard fineness and were recoined at a later date. While this does not affect total production, it means that the maximum of 1880-CC dollars is 495,000.

This investigation indicates that a further 18,000 coins were either not actually minted, or were omitted from United States Mint Bureau Headquarters documentation. If these coins were not produced, then the maximum would shrink to 477,000.

From January through April 1880, the Carson City Mint did not produce or deliver silver coins. This was attributed to a shortage of bullion, for which California Nevada Bank and others wanted a premium over the London rate paid by the U.S. Mint Bureau. Eventually, enough silver was acquired to begin dollar manufacture in May, and 87,000 coins were delivered from the same pair of dies.

 RG104 E-229 Box 17 of 17. Statement dated June 12, 1880 to Burchard from Crawford.
RG104 E-229 Box 17 of 17. Statement dated June 12, 1880 to Burchard from Crawford.

These standard silver dollars were delivered on:

  • May 17: 28,000
  • May 24: 32,000
  • May 29: 22,000
  • May 31: 5,000

There is no die report for June 1880, but a tabular report of Carson City Mint coinage by quarters covers all of 1880.

Figure 1 Extract from “Statement Showing Denominations, Value, and Standard Weight of Silver Coinage Executed at the U.S. Mint, Carson City, Nevada from January 1st 1875 to June 30, 1881,”
Figure 1 Extract from “Statement Showing Denominations, Value, and Standard Weight of Silver Coinage Executed at the U.S. Mint, Carson City, Nevada from January 1st 1875 to June 30, 1881,”

This shows silver dollar production in 1880 by quarters as:

  • Jan-Mar: $0
  • Apr-Jun: $198,000
  • Jul-Sept: $234,000
  • Oct-Dec: $159,000

If no coins were struck in April, and 87,000 were struck in May, then according to the report by calendar quarters, June’s delivered mintage was 111,000 dollar pieces. However, the headquarters volume “Coinage for each mint by delivery date”, volume 2, shows deliveries on:

  • June 9: 22,000
  • June 14: 18,000
  • June 23: 22,000
  • June 25: 31,000

Accordingly, silver dollar deliveries totaled 93,000 in that month. This is 18,000 less than the quarterly report. Further, the same quarterly reporting shows 591,000 Morgan dollars were struck at the Carson City Mint in 1880, and the HQ delivery journal shows a total of 573,000. A check of available correspondence does not reveal either the source of the discrepancy or any discussion about origin or correction.

For the balance of 1880, the delivery quantities match. Delivery dates are:

CC-Mint production table.

The quantity of 591,000 has long been used in official publications and numismatic literature. At present, and without additional corroboration, we must presume that a delivery of 18,000 pieces was omitted from the Mint Headquarters journal.

Roger W. Burdette
Roger W. Burdette
Responsible for much original numismatic research in recent years, Roger Burdette was named the ANA Numismatist of the Year in 2023. Besides CoinWeek, he has written for Coin World and The Numismatist, among others. He is the author of Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921 (2005); Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 (2006); Renaissance of American Coinage 1909-1915 (2007); A Guide Book of Peace Dollars (Whitman, 2009); and Fads, Fakes & Foibles (2021). He also co-wrote the NLG award-winning Truth Seeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman (2015) with Len Augsburger and Joel Orosz. Burdette served as a member of the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) from 2008 to 2012.

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