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Bullion Shark: Key Date Silver Dollars

Bullion Shark: Key Date Silver Dollars

By Bullion Shark LLC ……

Morgan Dollar Values

The two most popular and widely collected classic silver dollars are Morgan dollars (1878-1921) and Peace dollars (1921-1935).

And like the vast majority of other coins, their values are determined by the scarcity of the date based on the coin’s mintage, the coin’s estimated surviving population, the condition of the coin, and how much demand exists for it.

May coins in the Morgan dollar series are affordable to most collectors. At present, there are about 30 coins in the series that trade for about $60 each in uncirculated condition, $75 in MS64, $130 in MS65, and $225 in MS66– based on the current PCGS Price Guide.

At the other end of the spectrum are the rarest Morgan dollars, where values reach into the several hundreds of thousands of dollars to even over one million dollars in top grades. While the most valuable coins in the Morgan dollar series have varied over time as hoards were discovered or very rare top-graded examples were certified, three coins have dominated this list: the 1893-S, the 1895, the 1889-CC, and the 1894.

Let’s break these three coins down.


A circulated example of the rare 1893-S Morgan dollar.
A circulated example of the rare 1893-S Morgan dollar.

The true king of the Morgan dollar series is the 1893-S, which has the lowest original mintage of the series at 100,000 and, more importantly, fewer than 12,000 coins are believed to have survived the government’s multiple major melts. The 1893-S is usually well struck, and the few Mint State coins that exist have good luster.

Almost 7,000 coins in all grades have been graded by PCGS, but fewer than 40 mint state examples have been certified by the company. PCGS estimates that 9,948 total pieces have survived of the original mintage, with 123 being uncirculated coins (editor’s note: These are very specific numbers for an estimate).

Most coins in the market merit the circulated grade of Very Fine and are worth about $5,000. The cost of the 1893-S reaches $43,500 in AU55, $260,000 in MS63, $735,000 in MS65 (from a 2018 auction), and in MS67 with only one known example it is currently estimated at $1.2 million.

In fact, the 1893-S is the first Morgan silver dollar that sold for over $1 million. This was the coin owned at various times by Jack Lee and Cornelius Vermeule. This price was realized in a private sale that took place in 2008.


The rare 1895 Morgan dollar Proof.
The rare 1895 Morgan dollar Proof.

The 1895 Morgan dollar only exists in proof, though at one time it was assumed that circulation strikes also existed. This led to a decades-long wild goose chase for them. But a report from the United States Mint stating that 12,000 circulation pieces were issued is now believed to have been reported in error.

Only 880 1895 Morgan dollar Proofs were made, however, and most of these are believed to still exist. Though not the lowest-mintage Morgan dollar in Proof, the 1895 has long been seen as a series key because it is the only coin minted exclusively in Proof and it is needed for a complete set (editor’s note #2: contemporaneous to the release of the Morgan dollar, coin collectors did not discriminate between circulation strike examples or Proofs- or branch mint issues for that matter. With this view, the 1895 would have been a necessary coin to complete a Morgan dollar set. However, modern collectors separate Proof strikings from business strikes and typically collect business strikes by date and mintmark. Proof collecting, in a modern context, is a more specialized field). 

PCGS has graded 448 of these, with only 20 coins grading higher than PF65 and the finest being one PF68. In PF60 the value is $48,500, while the single PF68 is worth $185,000.


The coveted 1889-CC Morgan dollar Proof.
The coveted 1889-CC Morgan dollar Proof.

The rarest and most valuable of the highly popular Morgan dollars struck at the Carson City Mint is the 1889-CC.

Of the 350,000 coins originally produced, only about 25,000 coins in all grades are believed to have survived with about 4,250 in Mint State.

Amazingly, only one 1889-CC has been found in a GSA holder, and that unique example is estimated to be worth over $1 million based to the premium that collectors attach to the coin’s historic pedigree.

Nearly every other 1889-CC Morgan dollar is not so valuable. Although they do get pricey.  An XF can be had for $2,500, while an MS63 jumps the price to $45,000, an MS65 runs $375,000 (with only three graded by PCGS) and the finest coin that exists, the sole MS68 that sold for over $500,000 in 2009, garnered a whopping $881,250 in 2013.

Because Mint State coins are so rare and expensive, most collectors acquire circulated examples of this very scarce date.


The rarest circulation strike (based on mintage) Morgan dollar produced at the Philadelphia Mint is the 1894 issue, with an original mintage of just 110,000. PCGS estimates that about 9,000 examples exist today, with 6,500 of them being Mint State coins.

From the time it was struck until the early decades of the 20th century, this date was considered a major rarity. Most of the coins found today were discovered in the late 1950s and early ’60s when 1,000-coin bags of 1894 Morgan dollars were found.

In XF the coin runs $975 but jumps to $4,750 in MS63, $95,000 in MS66, and $150,000 in MS66+, the finest grade available with just one in that grade.

Today there are several other Morgan dollars that are considered rarer than the 1894 in top grades, like the 1901, 1884-S, or 1883-S, with the finest known example – an MS67+ PL to be sold at auction in August — when it will likely bring around a half-million dollars or more.

Peace Dollar Values

Now, let’s turn to the Peace dollar series.


The 1928 Peace dollar.
An uncirculated example of the 1928 Peace dollar.

The lowest mintage Peace dollar with 360,649 struck is the 1928. The 1928 issue tends to be softly struck and has average luster. The coin has long been considered to be a series key in terms of mintage, so many were saved in Mint State. This saving created the unusual circumstance that it is believed that fewer circulated as money those that survive in uncirculated condition today.

While the coin is scarce in circulated grades because of the low mintage and worth $400 in MS60, gems are scarce and command strong prices. MS65s are worth $3,000 with only about 400 graded by PCGS, and MS66s run at least $30,000 with just 22 graded by PCGS. In 2015 one of a PCGS-certified MS66 1928 Peace dollar sold for $39,950 at auction.


A Mint State 1934-S Peace dollar.
A Mint State 1934-S Peace dollar.

The original mintage of the 1934-S Peace dollar was over one million coins, but only 35,000 are estimated to still exist, including 4,500 uncirculated examples, according to estimates published on PCGS CoinFacts. PCGS has graded just over 7,000 in all grades.

In XF the coin is affordable, costing about $125. This number increases to $500 for AU55, $2,000 in MS60, more for a nicer example, $10,000 in MS65, and $33,500 for the 33 MS66 coins that exist. The finest are four examples graded MS66+ worth a cool $100,000 each.

The high value of gems for this coin is related to the fact that the coin was not believed to be rare in the 1930s and ’40s and so no major hoards containing the issue were ever found.


The first-year issue 1921 Peace dollar.
The first-year issue 1921 Peace dollar.

The other key to the Peace silver dollar series- because it is the first coin and the only high-relief issue- is the popular 1921.

A total of 100,000 of the 1,006,473 1921 coins struck are believed to still exist, with 40,000 of those expected to survive in Mint State. PCGS has graded almost 21,000 pieces, with the finest being seven MS67 coins that are worth $140,000 each.

Circulated 1921 examples can be purchased for $200 or less.

In MS63 the 1921 coin is worth $450, while in MS65 it runs $1,800.

The most important aspect of the 1921 Peace dollar is that it did not strike up well, with experts estimating that only 10 out of every 1,000 coins is well struck. Dies kept breaking when the coins were made, which led to the lowering of the relief for the rest of the series. Look for Peace silver dollars that are well struck in whatever grade you can afford.

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