In 2018, Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) authenticated and certified the only known Specimen Morgan dollar – 1878-S Morgan dollar. The VAM 58 variety is graded PCGS SP65.
“I knew it was special the moment I laid eyes on it,” said the coin’s owner, an East Coast collector who wants to remain anonymous.
The collector purchased the coin at an auction in 2006 and recalled that during the lot viewing “it looked like a zebra among horses. Just too well made, it was struck like a Philadelphia Mint Proof, and had obviously been handled with kid gloves.”
Former PCGS President Don Willis stated at the time: “When this coin was submitted to us at the June Long Beach Expo we instantly knew it was something special. After careful analysis we are pleased to designate it as a Specimen!”
It is the earliest known specially-struck branch mint Morgan dollar.
The unbroken pedigree of this coin dates back to the 1880s when it was the property of Bishop & Co. Bank in Honolulu, Hawaii, and then acquired by Samuel Mills Damon of Honolulu, a partner in Bishop’s Bank.
It remained in the Damon estate for more than 120 years until it was offered at auction by Doyle New York in 2006. It was described by the auction house as “1878-S, Morgan Dollar. Brilliant coin, possibly a presentation piece….”
There are clues about how the coin got to Hawaii in the 1880s. One of the dignitaries attending the April 1878 first striking ceremony for Morgan dollars at the San Francisco Mint was a former California governor, Frederick Low, who was given the second coin struck. He moved to Hawaii in 1882 and became a banker there.
“The forensics for this coin are overwhelming,” said Willis. “It has a medallic strike from fresh, new dies of the correct variety, it’s fully struck with square rims and with prooflike surfaces, there are no reeding marks, and no clash marks as found on other coins of this variety struck later.”
The San Francisco Mint, often called “The Granite Lady”, has a history of creating special strikes, such as a specimen 1854-S $20 gold coin and an 1855-S Proof $3 gold coin, both of which marked the beginnings of minting those denominations in San Francisco.
For more information about PCGS products and services, including how to submit your coins for authentication and grading, visit www.PCGS.com or call PCGS Customer Service at (800) 447-8848.