By Leroy Van Allen, Special for CoinWeek …..
In November, Charles Morgan, Editor of CoinWeek, sent me an e-mail with three overall photographs of the two Morgan dollar hubs dated 1964 recently found by numismatists at the Philadelphia Mint. He wanted to know if I had any information on these hubs. This was the first time I had seen the photographs.
It resulted in a short examination and research on the history of these hubs. My search led to the excellent book by Roger Burdette entitled A Guide Book of Peace Dollars by The Official Red Book (Whitman Publishing, 2008). A chapter covered the 1964-D Peace dollar evolution in detail with many quotes and references of the U.S. Mint letters and memoranda.
There was no mention of the specific preparation of these two 1964 Morgan dollar hubs in this chapter. However, there were several correspondence and letters cited that included the possible reuse of the old pre-World War I silver dollar design. Mint Director Eve Adams sent a memorandum dated February 18, 1963 to Secretary of the Treasurer Robert Wallace about the problems of manufacturing additional silver dollar supplies in the near future as present supplies were being sent into circulation.
During the following months, Western state senators, led by Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield (D-Montana) wanted more silver dollars struck to maintain the supply and provide for continued Western use of silver dollars.
The Adams memorandum on July 31, 1963 states that a decision had been made for the Mint to produce silver dollars when the present supply was exhausted. She added that it would be advantageous to reuse one of the old designs to discourage collector interest, preserve the traditions of artistic beauty of the older dollars and effect savings as the Mint retains the old designs, thus eliminating preparation of new designs, models, etc. Wallace repeated Adams recommendations in a memorandum for Secretary Dillon and added to re-issue the pre-World War I Liberty Head design.
This was the first mention of using the Morgan silver dollar design.
The U.S. Mint letter of September 27, 1963 suggested to the Superintendent of the Denver Mint, Fern Miller, to plan for dollar production. The Denver Mint coining division noted in a letter of October 15, 1963 that they had 32 leftover reverse dies for the years 1934, 1935 and 1936. These dies were received by the Philadelphia Mint on September 17, 1964 but the dies were in poor condition and were to be destroyed. The last mention of using the pre-WWI Liberty Head design was in a letter from Director Adams to Treasurer Wallace on April 9, 1964.
So between April and September 1964 when the leftover Peace dollar dies were received, a decision had been made to use the Peace dollar design instead of the Morgan dollar design, possibly because of the reverse Peace dollar dies’ availability. The manufacture dates stamped on the Morgan dollar hubs are 12-6-63 for the obverse and 12-13-63 for the reverse. So they were prepared shortly after the U.S. Mint letter to the Denver Mint on September 27, 1963 to plan for dollar production.
Examination of Two 1964 Morgan Dollar Hub Photographs
The first impression of the photographs of the two hubs is a very good rendition of the obverse and reverse design. There were no existing hubs or working dies of the pre-WWI Morgan dollar since all previous hubs and dies were destroyed by the Mint in 1910. The most accurate rendition available therefore were the struck Morgan dollars. Photograph enlargements of the obverse and reverse of the coin of six to eight times could then be traced onto a plaster basin (plastilene) to prepare a positive model, complete with letters and new date of 1964.
It is not known whether the Chief Engraver or an assistant engraver prepared the models and subsequent steps to the final hubs.
(left) 1902-O VAM 31A Olive Branch Bent End, (right) 1964 Morgan Dollar Hub, Bent Branch
Once the positive model was checked over and approved, a negative plaster mold was prepared. Then the 1963 standard hub preparation steps followed to saturate the plaster mold with hot beeswax in an oven, cover it with copper dust, electroplate copper onto the mold, separate the copper shell from the mold, and back with plaster to form a Galvano. Then a Janvier reducing lathe transferred the Galvano design down in size to the hub face. The hub was touched up to remove tool marks, turned down in a lathe and then heated and quenched to form a hardened hub.
Only one hub of obverse and reverse was made since they could make enough working dies for the anticipated coin production of 45 million silver dollars.
(left) 1902-O VAM 54 Doubled Profile, Lips Size, Design, (right) 1964 Morgan Dollar Hub, Lips
The next questions are the quality of the design reproduction, accuracy of the Morgan dollar design, and any noticeable design differences or flaws.
The first step was to enhance the two available obverse and reverse photographs with a computer photograph program. It turned out that the photographs of the two hubs were taken at a slight angle with the hub faces middle in focus but the top and bottom parts slightly out of focus. So detailed examination was confined mainly in the clearer photograph center slice. The obverse hub was of the III3 type design used from 1879 thru 1904, with unevenly divided ear rear. The hair strand fineness appeared to match the normal Morgan dollar, but it could not be determined if the wheat leaves had the required fine lines or the cotton bolls with dots. The peripheral lettering appeared to match closely the letter designs of a Morgan dollar coin, but the letters at the top could not reliably be checked based on the photographs.
(left) 1902-O VAM 31A MER Letters, (right) 1964 Morgan Hub Different Shape MER
An obvious slight design difference was noted in the Liberty head lips, with the hub upper lip protruding more and a straight line design edge from the lower lip to the chin instead of a correct curved edge.
For the reverse, the most noticeable feature of design type were the seven tail feathers and a wide round gap at the eagle’s left wing and neck of the C4 type design reverse. This type was used on some 1900-P; 1901-P, -O, -S; 1902-P, -O, -S; 1904-S and all 1903-P and 1904-P, -O issues.
Wing Neck Gap: (left) 1900-O VAM 11 C3, (center) 1902-O VAM 31A C4, (right) 1964 Hub
The somewhat fuzzy image of the olive at the top of the left end of the olive branch appeared to have two parts. Both the C3 and C4 normal reverse have only a single olive of slightly different size and design. It is possible a so-called “two olive reverse” of a dual hub C4 over C3 reverse coin was copied. The dual hubs were used on some 1900-P, -S; 1901-P, -O, -S; 1902-P, -O, -S; 1903-O, -S; and 1904-S issues.
Another noticeable design difference was the right end of the olive branch that had a long, curved bottom edge instead of the correct slight bend and longer than normal appearing arrow shafts near the arrow heads.
Some of the reverse lettering had slight differences, such as thicker serifs and thinner vertical shafts.
As expected, the U.S. Mint Engraving Department at the Philadelphia Mint prepared an excellent accurate copy of the pre-WW I Morgan dollar design without noticeable roughness, extraneous lines or surface flaws. It was likely a copy of an existing Morgan dollar coin since all prior hubs and dies were destroyed in 1910.
The obverse was of the correct III3 type used from 1879 to 1904 with only slight differences noticed at the Liberty head lips.
The reverse was of the correct C4 type used from 1900 to 1904. There were slight design differences from the normal design at the right end of the olive branch, the arrow head shafts and the peripheral lettering of thicker serifs and thinner vertical bars. It possibly had two olives at the top of the left side of the olive branch evident on some dual hub dies of the same time period of 1900 to 1904.
NGC-Certified Morgan Dollars Currently Available on eBay
Would really love to see a 1964 Morgan. That would be neat.
Oh, what might have been! I wonder if a private mint would be allowed / authorized to make replicas so, even if they were reproductions we could see the coins “in the flesh”.
One quibble about the audio narration: “debacle” is pronounced “day-BAHKL” (or “day-BAHK-luh” to be closer to the original French word) rather that “DEBiccle”
Thanks for the comments. Not to add to the quibbling, but debacle is correctly spoken in the video. Your pronunciation would also be understood.