Run mainly by United States Mint officials from the Republican Party, the Carson City Mint was shuttered by President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, in September 1885. It wasn’t until after the next presidential election when Benjamin Harrison, a Republican, was elected in 1889 that the branch mint once again received funding. However, due to this four-year furlough, both workers and machinery were unable to begin production immediately, and no coins would be delivered to the Treasury Department until October of that year. Ultimately, the Nevada mint produced and delivered three batches of Morgan dollars in 1889: 100,000 in October; 100,000 in November; and 150,000 in December.
Perhaps due to the Mint’s earlier closure, these Morgan dollars generally exhibit a mediocre strike. That being said, nearly a quarter of the surviving examples are considered either semi-prooflike or prooflike.
While the 1889-CC Morgan dollar cannot boast the smallest issuance (it has the 12th smallest pre-2021 mintage of the series and the third-smallest Carson City mintage), it is one of the major Morgan dollar key dates. This is due mainly to the fact that a vast majority of this issuance–potentially up to 325,000 coins or almost 93% of the mintage–was melted down. While “rarities” like the 1885-CC were made semi-common when the Treasury Department hoards were released in the 1960s, the US Treasury seemingly did not retain the 1889-CC in great numbers. In fact, the GSA hoard only contained one 1889-CC. Today, it is second only to the 1893-S in scarcity!
The 1889-CC Morgan Dollar in Today’s Market
Because many of the remaining 1889-CCs were paid out by the treasury into circulation during the 1930s, the majority of surviving examples are preserved in circulated condition. Today, 9,053 coins are graded as VF or worse. Despite this, demand far outstrips supply, and it is relatively difficult for a collector to acquire any example for less than $450. For example, in June of 2022, Stack’s Bowers sold an extremely worn example graded as FR-2 for $480!
Collectors willing to part with between $15,000 and $20,000 can expect to purchase a solid AU example. One such coin, which displays hints of russet toning over semi-reflective fields with minimal marks, was recently sold by Heritage Auctions for $15,600. Fewer than 1,200 examples have been graded and certified in any Mint State grade, of which 82% are between MS 60 and MS 63. These examples range from $20,000 – $30,000 for the lower MS grades to $40,000 – $50,000 for an MS 63. Heritage Auctions sold an MS 63 with bright frosted devices, just a hint of toning, and fully struck clean fields, for $52,800.
While extremely desirable in all grades, this type is virtually unobtainable in MS 65 or above. In total, there are only nine certified MS 65s, one certified MS 67, and one certified MS 68 at both NGC and PCGS. As such, prices for the 1889-CC balloon in Gem MS 65. The last time an MS 65 came to auction, in Stack’s Bowers’ August 2019 ANA U.S. Coins Auction, it fetched $180,000. This coin, which displays a number of die cracks on both its obverse and reverse, is spectacular. A coin with very few distracting marks, it is quite handsome and ranks as one of the nicest examples of this type. Nevertheless, it cannot hold a candle to the Mills-Clapp-Eliasberg specimen. Graded MS 68, that coin quite simply represents the pinnacle of Morgan collecting. Last seen at auction in 2013, this toned monster fetched $881,250 ($1,122,791 adjusted for inflation).
The obverse of the 1889-CC Morgan dollar exhibits the characteristic 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 1889 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 the 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 designer George T. Morgan.
Morgan designed the Liberty head bust after the likeness of 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 the attention that was heaped upon her. She refused offers for acting roles and apparently turned down an offer for marriage following her engagement to an unknown suitor. Before dying at the age of 68 in 1926, Williams, who sat for Morgan on the sworn condition of anonymity, rebuffed her single stint as a coin design model as little more than an “incident of my youth”.
The reverse of the 1889-CC Morgan dollar 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.
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 “CC” mintmark, denoting that the coin was struck at the Carson City Mint, is located above the DO of DOLLAR.
The edge of the 1889-CC Morgan dollar is reeded.
Engraver George T. Morgan was born in Birmingham, England in 1845. He emigrated to the United States and began work as an assistant to Mint Chief Engraver William Barber and continued to produce patterns and commemoratives under the administration of Barber’s son, Charles. Morgan himself became Chief Engraver in 1917. He died in 1925.
|Year Of Issue:||1889|
|Denomination:||One Dollar (USD)|
|Mint Mark:||CC (Carson City)|
|Alloy:||90% Silver, 10% Copper|
|OBV Designer||George T. Morgan|
|REV Designer||George T. Morgan|