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Million-Dollar Coins, Part 2: U.S. Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars

Silver Dollars

By Greg Reynolds for CoinWeek …..

In Part 1, 1792 Patterns that are worth more than $1 million each were covered. The present topic is million dollar silver dollars, including both classic U.S. silver dollars (1794-1935) and trade dollars (1873-85). Although trade dollars are heavier than U.S. silver dollars, and were intended for international trade rather than for domestic use, they are $1 silver coins. Most U.S. silver coins that have crossed the million dollar threshold are coins that have a face value of one dollar.

There will not be an attempt here to estimate precise values of the most valuable silver dollars. The point is to identify those silver dollars and trade dollars that each have wholesale to middle-retail values above one million dollars in the current market environment.

Classic U.S. silver dollars were minted from 1794 to 1935, though not in every year along the way. Trade dollars are heavier than silver dollars. They were primarily intended for international trade, rather than for domestic use. U.S. trade dollars were minted from 1873 to 1885.

1794 Dollars

There are probably five 1794 silver dollars that are worth more than one million dollars each. Indeed, the auction record for any coin was set when the Carter-Lustig-Cardinal-Morelan 1794 dollar was sold by Stack’s-Bowers for more than $10 million on January 24, 2013, in New York. In a detailed analysis, the physical characteristics of this coin are discussed at length and it is explained why it is so special. (Links to pertinent references are in blue.)

1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar. B-1, BB-1, the only known dies. Rarity-4. BB Die State I. Silver Plug. Specimen-66 (PCGS). CAC.

1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar. B-1, BB-1, the only known dies. Rarity-4. BB Die State I. Silver Plug. Specimen-66 (PCGS). CAC.

On September 30, 2015, the Hayes-Pogue 1794 brought $4,993,750 at auction. This coin is PCGS-graded as “MS-66+” and the Carter-Cardinal-Morelan 1794 is PCGS-certified as “SP-66.” The Carter-Cardinal-Morelan coin was manufactured in a different manner, with particular treatment of the dies and prepared blank (planchet).

Both the Hayes-Pogue and Rogers-Stellar coins are obviously business strikes. The Rogers-Stellar 1794 dollar is also PCGS-graded as “MS-66+.” The Carter-Morelan, Hayes-Pogue and Rogers-Stellar 1794 dollars are all CAC-approved at the 66 grade level. Experts at CAC ignore the plus aspect of plus grades assigned by PCGS or NGC.

Jay Parrino bought the Rogers-Stellar 1794 at the Stack’s session of the Numisma ’95 event in New York, during late November 1995. That auction session featured type coins from the Lelan Rogers Collection. The Rogers-Stellar 1794 was PCGS-graded as MS-66 not long after this sale, and was later NGC-graded as MS-66 as well. A collector in the South, the owner of the Stellar Collection, acquired it before 2000.

During 2013, the Rogers-Stellar 1794 was upgraded by PCGS from “MS-66” to “MS-66+.” Although some coins from the Stellar Collection were being offered by Chris Napolitano at the recent ANA Convention in Anaheim, the Rogers-Stellar 1794 was apparently not among them.

The Norweb and Brand-Boyd-Cardinal 1794 dollars are believed to be among the five finest known. Although the PCGS-graded MS-64 Norweb 1794 is graded higher at PCGS than the “MS-63+” Brand-Cardinal coin, it could be fairly argued that the Brand-Cardinal 1794 merits a higher grade than the Norweb piece, which was PCGS-graded as MS-63 before being graded as MS-64.

Bruce Morelan recently confirmed that, in 2012, Bruce communicated an offer of $3 million to the owner of the Norweb 1794, who refused to sell it. Morelan responded in detail to my recent inquires and he publicly announced the just mentioned $3 million offer at an earlier time.

The Brand-Cardinal 1794 received a CAC sticker after being PCGS-graded as “MS-63+” in August 2010. It had been NGC-graded as MS-64 for at least six years and was PCGS-graded as MS-63 circa 1992.

In August 2010, the Brand-Cardinal 1794 was auctioned for $1,207,500, a result that was considered below-market at the time. It is likely that that it has a retail value above $1 million now.

It is not clear as to whether the French Family 1794 is worth more than $1 million in the current market environment. It was not certified when auctioned by Stack’s (NY) in January 1989 as part of the L. R. French Family Collection of silver dollars.

Sources indicate that the French 1794 was NGC-graded as MS-60 in the past. I never saw it in an NGC holder. At some point between March 2010 and July 2010, it was graded as “MS-62+” by PCGS. When I last saw it, the French 1794 had gradually formed natural toning and was especially attractive overall.

There is a privately owned, possibly uncirculated 1794 dollar that has not been publicly seen in a very long time. It could possibly be worth more than one million. I am here excluding 1794 dollars in museums. As far as I know, there are no other collector-owned 1794 dollars that are worth at least $1 million or nearly that much.

During the June 2005 Long Beach auction by Heritage, the Murdoch-Earle-Bass 1794 realized $747,500, a strong price at the time. In April 2009, in the auction of the Joseph Thomas Collection, this same coin, in the same NGC holder with a “MS-61” grade assignment, brought $503,125.

1795 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar. Bowers Borckardt-18, Bolender-7. Rarity-3. Three Leaves. Mint State-66 (PCGS).

1795 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar. Three Leaves. Mint State-66 (PCGS).

The Bullowa-Pogue 1795 Flowing Hair silver dollar sold for considerably more than $1 million in 2005, a very surprising result at the time and a record for a 1795 dollar that may stand for years. Of course, it is theoretically plausible that the Bullowa-Pogue 1795 could retail for more than $1 million in the future. This same coin brought $822,500, though, in the Pogue II sale, which was characterized by strong prices overall. In the current environment, $725,000 would be a strong price for this coin.

Business Strike Draped Bust Dollars

Draped Bust business strikes were minted from 1795 to 1803. Backdated Proofs were made in later eras.

The Garrett-Hayes-Pogue 1795 realized $1,057,500 on May 24, 2016 in the Pogue IV sale. This was a very strong price, and it is unclear as to whether this should currently be classified as a million dollar coin.

As I then reported, the Newman-Green, gem 1795, Draped Bust silver dollar realized $910,625 on November 15, 2013 in New York. This was then a strong price and would be very strong now. It was NGC-certified as “MS-66+*” and CAC-approved.

In the Pogue IV event in May 2016, there were two PCGS-graded MS-66 1795 Draped Bust dollars, neither of which realized as much as $800,000. The Eliasberg-Pogue, Foxfire-Pogue and Newman-Green 1795 Draped Bust dollars all merit grades in the middle of the MS-66 range. Clearly, the Eliasberg-Pogue and Foxfire-Pogue 1795 dollars are not million dollar coins in 2016, and thus the Newman-Green coin is probably not either.

Although there are quite a few gem-quality 1795 Draped Bust silver dollars, there seems to be just one gem 1796. It was auctioned in April 2013 for $1,175,000, indisputably a very strong price. Bruce Morelan was the buyer and, reportedly, Brent Pogue was the underbidder. Is this a million dollar coin now?

Proof Bust Dollars

Proof silver dollars of 1801, 1802, 1803 and 1804 were all minted during later eras. None of them could have been minted before 1834. It is certain that ‘Class I’ 1804 dollars were made for Proof sets in 1834 and/or 1835. It is also certain that some 1804 dollars were made in 1858 or later.

Just two Proof 1801 dollars are known, the Cleneay-Mougey-Boyd coin and the Carter-French coin, which I have seen. Neither Proof 1801 has sold publicly in a very long time. The Carter-French 1801 was auctioned by Stack’s in January 1989 in New York, for $82,500. As far as I know, it is not certified. The Cleneay-Mougey-Boyd 1801 was NGC-certified as ‘Proof-66 Cameo’ in 2013. It is likely that both these coins are each worth more than $1 million in the present.

Proof 1802 and 1803 dollars are not as rare as Proof 1801 dollars. Auction records for a few Proof 1802 or 1803 dollars have been above $800,000. In April 2008, a PCGS-certified ‘Proof-65 Cameo’ 1802 sold at auction for $920,000. That was the Carter-French-Queller 1802. For rare U.S. coins overall, market levels in April 2008 were much higher than current levels.

A different PCGS-certified ‘Proof-65 Cameo’ 1802 dollar, the Boyd coin, brought $851,875 in August 2012, in a Heritage pre-ANA auction. That piece had a CAC sticker.

In January 2013, a Proof 1803 realized this exact same price, $851,875. It was PCGS-certified as ‘Proof-66 Cameo.’ For some reason, surviving Proof 1803 dollars are generally of higher quality than Proof 1802 dollars, a consideration for collectors who desire just one Proof Draped Bust dollar. Rumors, from reliable sources, suggest that Proof 1803 dollars have sold privately for more than $1 million each during the past ten years. Could a Proof 1803 sell for more $1 million in the near future? It is plausible.

1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar. Class I Original. Bowers Borckardt-304. Proof-68 (PCGS).

1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar. Class I Original. Proof-68 (PCGS)
The Sultan of Muscat-Watters-Brand-Childs-Pogue 

All 1804 dollars were struck as Proofs or were intended to be Proofs. Not all of them were very carefully made. There are many books and auction catalogues that discuss the three categories of 1804 dollars. So, such information will not be repeated here.

Are all 1804 silver dollars are worth more than $1 million each in the current market environment? No, the heavily circulated Cohen-Manning-DuPont 1804 in the ANA museum is worth less than $1 million.

Both the Davis-Wolfson and Rosenthal-Ellsworth-ANS coins are said to grade below 45. Published opinions about these two have varied considerably. The Davis-Wolfson 1804 is privately owned and the Rosenthal-Ellsworth 1804 is in the holdings of the ANS in New York. Neither are certified and I have never seen them. I decline to comment on the value of either of these, though it is certainly plausible that they are each worth more than $1 million.

In August 2014, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned the Garrett 1804 dollar for $1.88 million, as I reported. In 2005, the Garret 1804 was certified as ‘Proof-55’ at NGC. Those 1804 dollars that grade above 60 tend to be worth far more than the sub-58 grade 1804 dollars. In August 2013, Heritage auctioned the PCGS-certified “Proof-62,” Mickley-Hawn-Queller 1804 for $3,887,500, an event that was covered in detail.

In April 2009, the PCGS-certified “Proof-58” Carter-French 1804 brought $2.3 million. John Albanese was the successful bidder, though it never received a CAC sticker. The same coin had been PCGS-certified as “Proof-45” in 1989.

The auction record for an 1804 dollar is $4.14 million. On August 30, 1999, the Childs Collection was auctioned by Bowers & Merena in New York. The Childs-Pogue 1804 was then certified as “Proof-68” by PCGS and is now so certified. When it was offered in May 2016, the reserve of more than $11 million was way beyond the wholesale range and above much of the retail range for this coin.

1870-S Liberty Seated Dollars

The rarest silver dollar is not the 1804. There are fifteen 1804 dollars, and only nine 1870-S silver dollars are known. This is a misleading statistic, however, as all nine 1870-S dollars are privately owned, while seven of the fifteen known 1804 dollars are in museums.

Indisputably, 1870-S silver dollars have not received nearly as much publicity as 1804 dollars. Other than a couple of auction cataloguers, am I the only one who has devoted considerable time to studying them and writing multiple articles about 1870-S dollars?

I am tired of reading material by others that suggests that 10, 11 or 12 1870-S dollars are known. This just is not true. I have been researching these for years. There is not solid evidence of a 10th existing. It does not make sense to include vague rumors in rosters of rarities as if the rumors represent real coins.

Three of the nine definitely have retail values above $1 million in 2016, and could, in, theory, wholesale for above $1 million as well. These three are of much higher quality than the other six.

The first 1870-S to sell for more than $1 million is the James A. Stack piece, which is now in Bruce Morelan’s collection. In 2003, as part of the L. K. Rudolph Collection, it was auctioned by Stack’s (NY) for $1,092,500. I attended that event, and the event in March 1995 when this 1870-S sold for $462,000, a very strong price at the time.

The James A. Stack 1870-S is the highest graded by PCGS or NGC, “MS-62.” The Norweb 1870-S is PCGS-graded as “AU-58.”

The Norweb 1870-S has not been publicly auctioned since November 1988, when it brought $126,500. The Norweb 1870-S is generally believed to now be worth substantially more than $1 million. Indeed, there is no doubt about the fact that it is a million dollar coin.

The Eliasberg 1870-S traded for $1.3 million in January 2008, when market levels were much higher than they are now. By the middle of 2007, it was PCGS-graded as AU-53. Earlier, this coin was NGC-graded as AU-50.

Including these three, I have examined eight of the nine known 1870-S dollars. The one that I have not seen is reported to be well circulated and have numerous scratches. The James A. Stack, Norweb and Eliasberg 1870-S dollars are currently each worth substantially more than one million dollars.

Morgan Dollars

The auction record for a Morgan silver dollar is $881,250. In August 2013, Stack’s-Bowers auctioned the Eliasberg 1889-CC, which was PCGS-graded as ‘MS-68’ not long after it was auctioned by Bowers & Merena in April 1997. This is not currently a million dollar coin.

1893-S $1 PCGS-67

1893-S $1 PCGS-67

The scarcest business strike Morgan is the 1893-S. There was a time when there were two PCGS-graded MS-67 1893-S Morgans. As I made clear in multiple reports, the Norweb 1893-S was harmed during an attempt at conservation, and then the Vermeule 1893-S became the finest known. The Vermeule 1893-S is the only recently seen 1893-S that most relevant experts would currently grade above MS-65. Indeed, the 67 grade assignment for the Vermeule 1893-S is not at all controversial.

It is true that the Carter 1893-S has not been publicly seen in a while. It was PCGS-graded as MS-65 a long time ago. I am not familiar with the Antelope Valley piece, which is also PCGS-graded as MS-65. While one of these two might be upgraded to MS-66, is it likely that either would be upgraded as far as MS-67?

I reported that the Vermeule 1893-S traded privately for more than $1 million in 2008, and I continue to estimate that this is the only Morgan silver dollar that is currently worth more than $1 million, possibly much more. Admittedly, I have never seen the PCGS-graded MS-68 1884-S.

The Numismedia.com guide values the PCGS-graded MS-68 1884-S at “$937,500.” I have seen the most valuable 1886-O, which the Numismedia guide values at “$764,750.”

Albanese maintains that the just mentioned PCGS-graded MS-68 “1884-S and the PCGS-graded MS-67 DMPL 1886-O would both be seven figure coins if they were available” in 2016. If so, this is a reality that I find to be puzzling. Does it make sense to pay one million dollars for a common coin even if it clearly is the finest known? Should a deep mirror prooflike designation be worth a vast fortune? The 1893-S, in contrast, is scarce in all grades.

Trade Dollars

Just five 1885 Trade Dollars are known. At least three of them are worth more than a million dollars in the present.

The Eliasberg 1885 certainly has a multi-million dollar retail value. On August 30, 1999, “the same day that the Childs 1804 dollar sold, I bought the Eliasberg 1885 Trade Dollar from Jay Parrino and made a deal to sell it to Bruce Morelan for more than $1.5 million,” John Albanese reports. He sold the Eliasberg 1885 again in 2005, along with the Eliasberg 1884, “for more than $3 million for the pair,” John reveals. “They would sell for more today.”

In November 2004, as the coin boom of the last decade was gathering momentum, the PCGS-graded ‘62’ Norweb-Richmond 1885 was auctioned by David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC) for $1,006,250. Well before coin markets climaxed during the summer of 2008, the Norweb-Richmond piece traded again, presumably for a significantly higher amount.

Ten 1884 Trade Dollars are known. Two of the three have wholesale values in the range of $1 million or more. A third could realistically retail for more than one million if offered this year.

The finest known 1884 is the Dunham-Starr coin. It was PCGS-certified as Proof-66 shortly after the Stack’s (NY) auction of the Floyd Starr Collection in October 1992. Later, it was upgraded to 67. In response to my recent inquiries, Albanese reveals that he “sold the 67-grade 1884 to a dealer in 2013 or 2014 for more than $1 million.”

The NGC-certified ‘Proof-66’ Eliasberg 1884 is the second finest known if it still appears as it did in 1997. It has traded privately over the years for undisclosed amounts.

An 1884 Trade Dollar has sold at auction for nearly $1 million. Perhaps the third finest, the Baldenhofer-French-Lee 1884 is PCGS-certified as ‘Proof-65’ and CAC-approved. In November 2005, it was auctioned for $603,750 and, at the January 2014 FUN Convention, it realized $998,750, a very strong price. This coin is probably not worth as much now, though could be a million dollar coin in the future.

In sum, million dollar silver dollars include business strikes and Proofs, extreme rarities and type coins, circulated coins and gems. There is no simple formula for identifying million dollar coins and patterns. Values are largely determined by the culture and history of collecting coins in the U.S., and by current economic conditions.

* * *

Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds
Greg Reynolds has carefully examined a majority of the greatest U.S. coins and most of the finest classic U.S. type coins. He personally attended sales of the Eliasberg, Pittman, Newman, and Gardner Collections, among other landmark events. Greg has also covered major auctions of world coins, including the sale of the Millennia Collection. In addition to more than four hundred analytical columns for CoinWeek and at least 50 articles for CoinLink, Reynolds has contributed hundreds of articles to Numismatic News newspaper and related publications. Greg is also a multi-year winner of the ‘Best All-Around Portfolio’ award from the NLG, as well as awards for individual articles, a series of articles on the Eric Newman Collection, and for best column published on a web site.

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  1. Enjoyable article!

    I personally had the Brand 1794 $1 downgraded to Pcgs 63+ as that was its proper grade. I heartily believe that if the Norweb 1794 were to be resubmitted that it would 64+. The two coins are a grade apart in quality. IMHO

    The Eliasberg 1884 T$1 was reunited with its sister 1885 and were sold as a pair when I let them go. They were offered privately as a pair a few years ago so I believe that they are still together.


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