Jeff Garrett: A Guide to Collecting Morgan Silver Dollars

The popular and abundant silver dollar makes a great addition to any collection

 

By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of Morgan Silver Dollars and the beginning of Peace Silver Dollars. The year 1921 was momentous for the numismatic world, and 2021 is becoming an important year for the hobby as the United States Mint launches its “tribute” series of Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars to mark the occasion. The first offerings in May were an instant sellout and created a near-feeding frenzy.

Many Mint customers were left out, and the elusive coins are selling for multiples of issue price in pre-release (for an October delivery). Ironically, the new “tribute” Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars are selling for more than their vintage cousins. Now would be a great time to consider assembling a set of these iconic issues.

My love of Morgan Silver Dollars is apparent if you’ve ever had the chance to meet my daughter Morgan Garrett. Not many people would name their children after their favorite coin, but for me and my wife, it was an easy choice. Numismatics has played a huge role in our lives, and we wanted to honor the blessing the hobby has been for us both.

Morgan Silver Dollars have been one of my favorite coins since I began collecting in the late 1960s. After turning professional, buying and selling Morgan Silver Dollars became one of the most important aspects of my growing business. I fondly remember that my first car was paid for by the proceeds of trading silver dollars. I have not maintained an exact accounting, but I can safely say that I have bought and sold hundreds of thousands of coins over the years.

A Silver Dollar History

Morgan Silver Dollars are one of (if not the) most collected coins in all of numismatics. The coins came into being in the late 1870s during a time that is closely linked with Western lore. When some think of silver dollars, they envision Wells Fargo strongboxes brimming with coinage. Morgan Silver Dollars were also struck in the eastern part of the United States, but those issues struck in the West garner outsized attention. Regardless of the Mint, Morgan Silver Dollars have been heavily collected for decades and remain extremely popular.

George T. Morgan arrived in the United States from England in the 1870s, and one of his earliest assignments at the US Mint was designing a new silver dollar. Several extremely interesting pattern coins were created at this time and are highly sought-after by both Morgan Dollar and pattern collectors. The first regular issue coins struck in 1878 were produced in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City. New Orleans struck coins starting in 1879 and Denver produced coins for only one year, in 1921.

Tips for Collecting Morgan Dollars

Morgan Silver Dollars were struck in prodigious numbers from 1878 to 1921. Hundreds of millions of coins were minted during those years. These large mintages and the hoarding of coins, both privately and by the US government, make them easily available to today’s collectors. It is extremely affordable to begin a collection of Morgan Silver Dollars. There are more than two dozen date-and-mintmark combinations that can be purchased in mint condition for less than $250. The affordability, combined with the coins’ large size and beauty, have made them an excellent introduction to hundreds of thousands of collectors over the years.

Even though many issues of Morgan Silver Dollars are quite common and easy to find, the series is full of rare date-and-mintmark combinations. One of the most famous (and considered by many to be the “king” of the series) is the 1895, which is only known in Proof. The lowest-mintage circulation issue is the 1893-S, and this date is highly collectible and scarce in all grades. The Morgan Silver Dollar series also has an abundance of condition rarities. Some dates, such as the 1896-O, are easily found in circulated condition but are very rare in Mint State.

Morgan Silver Dollars are interesting in the range of dates and mintmarks available. Some mint condition Morgan Silver Dollars can be purchased for only $60 to $80. On the other extreme, there are a handful of amazing examples of rare dates that can push into six figures. It is amazing that a very rare date in Mint condition like the 1884-S could have survived in MS 65, yet one recently sold at public auction for about $150,000.

All great coins have incredible stories attached to them, and Morgan Silver Dollars are no exception. The Morgan series is also well known for hoards. The US Treasury release in the 1960s, the GSA Carson City Morgan Dollar sales, and the Redfield Hoard are all amazing tales worthy of further study for those new to the hobby.

Interestingly, there are quite a few coin dealers in the country who specialize in silver dollars. These dealers have obtained a wealth of knowledge over the decades about the series and can be great mentors to those new to the hobby. As mentioned many times before, buy coins with good eye appeal and try to find the best quality for the date you can afford.

One word of caution: The new attention paid to this series has caused prices to surge in recent months. Collectors may consider adding to their collection slowly in case prices go back down when interest subsides.

Jeff Garrett bio

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5 COMMENTS

  1. True the u.s. Morgan Silver Dollar is the most popular coin collected today. However the Chinese counterfeiters are now making the counterfeits in all different dates and mintmarks out of Brass or Copper-Nickel alloy which is non magnetic and silver plating them.i have examined over three hundred of these in the last 60 days. The Chinese are not only trying to destroy our economy but our collecting interests..

    • Also if it has a mint mark it will be on the back of your coin at the bottom of the wreath and above the D-O spelled in DOLLAR… if no mint mark is found there., then it is a Philadelphia minted coin..,,unless it’s a 1921 Peace dollar

  2. It was probably minted at the Philadelphia mint. Early coinage as far as I know were minted in Philadelphia and the mint mark was left off.
    I am not a professional collector but I have been collecting off and on for 40yrs

  3. Great article. But let’s put the prices in perspective. The new “tribute” Morgan Dollar. Although the mint states it is a continuation of the series. Then, 1921 is also a “Tribute”. Let’s talk about pricing. A 1921 morgan dollar in ms69/70 does not exist. But a ms 67 1921 does exist. Prices are $15,000 – $25,000 (see price book). So I can get a ms 69 or 70 2021 Morgan Dollar for about $1,000. graded ms70. $250+- in OGP. It appears to me (depending on the mintage numbers) that the new Morgan dollars are a “bargain”. Compare apples to apples. Condition to condition, etc. Pick them up while you can.. Thank you U.S. Mint for a cool coin!!!

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