By CoinWeek ….
On Sunday, January 24, bidding ends at GreatCollections.com for this 1903-O Morgan silver dollar, graded MS-67+ by PCGS in a Secure Shield holder and approved as strong for the grade by CAC.
A total of 4.45 million silver dollars were struck by the New Orleans Mint and dated 1903, which is neither the lowest nor the highest mintage for O-mint coins from the series. But as with many popular coins, it is indeed much rarer in high Mint State. PCGS reports only 10 examples certified MS-67+, the top pop grade for the date at that grading service. There is only one auction record listed for a PCGS MS-67+, in which a different specimen sold for $31,725 USD in July 2020. Presenting quite the contrast, the only record listed for an NGC-certified 1903-O reports that a coin sold for $3,220 in April 2011.
At the time of publication, the highest bid on this 1903-O Morgan dollar is $16,555 after 45 bids.
To search through GreatCollection’s archive of over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years, please visit the GreatCollections Auction Archives.
History of the New Orleans Mint
Three new United States branch mints were authorized by the Coinage Act of 1834: the Charlotte Mint in North Carolina; the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia, and the New Orleans Mint in Louisiana. Gold rushes in North Carolina and Georgia had prompted the establishment of those mints, but President Andrew Jackson personally desired to establish a mint in New Orleans and the importation of large amounts of gold from South and Central America were used to justify its existence.
The mint was built in 1835 in a swampy space called Jackson Square, in honor of the president and hero of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
The first coins came off the presses three years later, in 1838. These included the Seated Liberty dime and half dime, and the Capped Bust half dollar. Gold coins were first struck the following year, with the 1839-O Classic Head quarter eagle. The first silver dollars struck at New Orleans were the Seated Liberty dollars of 1846.
Production at the New Orleans Mint stopped in January 1861 after the secession of Louisiana and the beginning of the Civil War (though half dollars were struck on January 26 under the authority of the State of Louisiana). Confederate half dollars were minted in the month of April but production ceased due to a lack of bullion. The CSA closed down shop in May and used the structure to house southern troops. The New Orleans Mint was recaptured by Union forces in 1862.
The mint remained closed after the insurrection until 1876 when it reopened as a federal assay office. It rejoined the ranks of U.S. branch mints in 1879 and primarily struck Morgan silver dollars under the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. But after the Morgan dollar series ended in 1904, the need for a mint in New Orleans was greatly lessened, and so it closed permanently in 1909.
It served again as an assay office until 1932, at which time it became a federal prison(!). It has served as a storage facility and different types of museums ever since.
History of the Morgan Dollar
The Morgan silver dollar was minted between 1878 and 1904, and then once more in 1921. It was the first standard silver dollar to be struck after the Seated Liberty dollar ceased production due to the Coinage Act of 1873 and the end of the free coining of silver.
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.
The new dollar was authorized by the Bland–Allison Act. The effort by mining interests to lobby for the restoration of “free silver” started almost immediately once the 1873 coinage act was passed. Five years later, instead of requiring the Mint to accept all silver presented to it and return it in the form of coinage, Bland–Allison required the Treasury to purchase between two and four million dollars’ worth of silver at market value to be coined into dollars each month.
In 1890, the Bland–Allison Act was repealed by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which required the Treasury to purchase 4,500,000 troy ounces (140,000 kg) of silver each month, but mandated further silver dollar production for only one more year. This law was repealed in 1893.
Always a popular coin with American collectors, the release of millions of Morgan dollars from Treasury Department vaults in the 1960s and ’70s radically reshaped what we knew about the condition and survival rates of these coins.
The obverse 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 1903 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 bust of Liberty based largely on 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, of course, is reeded.