By CoinWeek …..
On Sunday, August 29, the famous Jack Lee and Coronet Collection 1893-S Morgan silver dollar, graded MS-67 by PCGS and approved as strong for the grade by CAC, realized a record price of $2,086,875 after spirited bidding.
The 1893-S silver dollar has the lowest mintage of all Morgan dollars issued between 1878 and 1921, and it is considered the key to the series in all grades.
This particular example is the finest known by two full grade points and is arguably the most significant specimen in the entire Morgan dollar series.
America’s economic fortunes suffered a major setback with the collapse of two of the nation’s leading employers, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company. The economic fallout was far-reaching and for the Morgan silver dollar, a coin program already in need of a true justification to exist, production slowed to a trickle. Whereas six million coins were produced the year before, in 1893, that number was cut to just over 1.5 million at the four branches of the United States Mint. The San Francisco Mint struck the fewest, at just 100,000.
Survivors are barely sufficient in circulating grades to satisfy the market. In Mint State grades, the coin is rare.
This 1893-S was acquired by collector and numismatic scholar Cornelius Vermeule at the time of its production and remained with his family until it appeared at auction in 2001, where it realized a record-breaking sum of $414,000. Collector Jack Lee was the ultimate buyer. Lee, like Wayne Miller before him, was a connoisseur of top-quality Morgan dollars and assembled not one but two world-class collections.
Before the dawn of registry sets, it was well known in numismatic circles that if a Morgan dollar was in the Jack Lee collection, it was likely one of the finest known. After Lee, the coin made its way into one of the finest Morgan dollar sets in the PCGS Set Registry–the Coronet Collection–where it stood out as the collection’s centerpiece.
Now a fourth owner has taken custody of the coin and paid a record price of over $2 million for the privilege.
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.
Background 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 of 1878. 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 1893 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 “S” 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 is reeded.