By Jaime Hernandez for PCGS ……
Morgan Dollar, 1881-S $1, PCGS MS69. Image courtesy PCGS
Morgan dollars are undoubtedly among the most popular coins with collectors. However, the Morgan dollar series can also be one of the most challenging to collect. There are nearly 100 different regular-issue business strikes, and that doesn’t even count all the varieties, Proofs, and so on. Among these are several key dates, making it difficult for many collectors to complete a set. Some of the toughest dates are the 1885-CC, 1889-CC, and 1893-S Morgan dollars, and each one of these coins can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars – even in circulated condition.
Therefore, obtaining every single coin in the set is, for many collectors, financially impossible. Now, imagine trying to obtain the finest coin for every date and mint mark… It’s the numismatic challenge of challenges, but there are many collectors who have taken up this daunting feat.
If we look at the PCGS Set Registry, there are several thousand different Morgan dollar sets, with many containing among the finest examples in existence. Some of the top PCGS Registry Sets even include PCGS MS69 Morgan aollars. It’s mesmerizing to see these coins in MS69. Consider the 1880-S Morgan dollar; at PCGS, we have graded just five examples in MS69.
The first question that may come to mind is: How is an MS69 Morgan Dollar even possible? Did a Mint employee pull the coin straight out of the press, set it aside, and then preserve it for many years afterward? The answer is rather straightforward.
Many Morgan dollar issues saw huge percentages of their mintage never reach circulation, leaving a relatively larger pool of uncirculated issues for collectors to choose from today; this, in turn, creates a higher possibility of finding top-notch specimens.
Yet, even still, with hundreds of thousands of Morgan dollars extent in uncirculated condition, only a tiny handful approach the MS69 grade.
While condition survival for these and many other vintage coins is rare in the upper grades, preservation of these beautiful rarities also depends on the dedicated collectors who managed to save such specimens for us to enjoy generations later. It’s much the same that collectors stewarding coins today are preserving relics of the past in very high-grade condition for future generations to enjoy.
But the 1880-S Morgan dollar isn’t the only Morgan dollar we’ve graded MS69 at PCGS. There are also two 1881-S Morgan dollars that are graded PCGS MS69. And not to mention, there is a sole 1880-S Morgan dollar graded PCGS MS69PL.
If we look at images of a PCGS MS69 1881-S Morgan, you will see why this coin earned its MS69 grade. There aren’t any visible distractions. The surfaces are very clean and smooth, without any visible nicks or scratches. The luster is just impeccable. If we go to the reverse, the coin also appears very clean, free from hits or marks, and the luster is just spectacular. Both the obverse and the reverse are well struck offering incredible detail. Overall, it’s just a knockout of a coin!
Another point worth mentioning is that for the United States Mint to have struck coins with such quality more than 135 years ago speaks to the craftsmanship at the Mint all those years ago. Yet, many circulation strikes even today fail to come close to the quality of these PCGS MS69 Morgan dollars. Take, for example, the 2009-D Native American dollar, of which PCGS has graded fewer than 250 of in MS67 – none grade higher.
The same can be said for many other modern business-strike issues, so many of which yield few, if any, specimens approaching the strike, finish, and surfaces of these most elite Morgan dollars. So, the next time you see a Morgan dollar graded MS69, don’t just look at the coin itself, but also try visualizing the care behind which Mint employees handled these coins and the generations of collectors who have preserved these coins in almost perfect quality for us to enjoy today.
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