By Ron Drzewucki – Modern Coin Wholesale …..
You know, one of the great things about this hobby is that there’s something in it for everybody. Let’s say that you were really into cars, a real gear head. Unless you’re independently wealthy or a hedge fund trader, it’s doubtful that you’d ever get a chance to experience the majority of the really cool cars that ever rolled off an assembly line. Same goes for Da Vinci’s artwork or the fine watches of Rolex or Patek Philippe. But with coins–except for those issues that are truly, truly rare (the 1804 dollar comes to mind)–there are usually ways to collect for people who love coins but enjoy the hobby within the constraints of a reasonable family budget.
Sometimes, these folks come to me with truly wonderful coins, which just goes to show you that knowledge of numismatics is a powerful counterweight to limited financial resources.
Of all of the classic coin series to collect, the Morgan dollar is a perennial favorite. It’s a series that’s not only worthy of mainstream attention but practically demands it. The cool cartwheel, sometimes referred to as the “dollar of our daddies” – and once upon a time known simply as the “Bland” dollar – is anything but. Instead, the Morgan dollar is a field of nearly endless complexity for sophisticated numismatists yet instantly familiar and welcoming to those just getting into the hobby.
There are three reasons for this: a great set of Morgans can be assembled on the cheap (and in Mint State); the coin is large and beautiful; and the coins are struck in .900 fine silver (a fact that really appeals to collectors).
For those interested in the series who don’t plan to go in at high dollars for everything, you’re in luck! The prices of Morgan dollars in MS-63 and MS-65 grades have never been this attractive.
When the certification craze for coins began in earnest in the 1970s and early ’80s, an MS-65 Morgan from a common date, such as an 1886, could have set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Today, a 65 might set you back $100 – $150, depending on eye appeal and other factors.
Think about that. Today you can get upwards of 10 certified MS-65 Morgans for the price of one just 20 years ago.
Some might say, “Well, if you can get 10 MS-65s now for the cost of one just 20 years ago, then the coin isn’t worth collecting since it hasn’t gone up in value.”
Or, maybe not.
For you see, the collector market for Morgan dollars hasn’t waned in the past 20 years. In fact, more people are collecting Morgans now than ever before. And, projecting forward, there will be no shortage of new collectors looking back at this classic 19th century coin and wanting to jump in.
The only thing that has changed is the “value” we place on a third party grading service’s opinion – and that “value” has changed solely based on the marketplace being adequately stocked with material that was always there to begin with.
Now the question for a casual or budget-minded collector isn’t should I buy into the Morgan series, it’s at what level.
To answer that question, I propose two grades: MS-63 and MS-65.
At MS-63, you’re getting an uncirculated coin. This is a coin that has all of the design details and no rub. It can be attractive (many 63s are). It can be blast white. It can be colorfully toned. At 63, you’re looking at a coin with hits, dings, and scrapes consistent with being shipping in large 1,000-coin sacks.
For some dates, MS-63 is challenging. The degree to which you want to go “all-in” to the series means that, even at 63, you’re looking at coins that can run from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars. Most won’t, and you’ll be glad to know that you can put together a 20-coin set of mixed dates and mints for $60 or less. But if you want to challenge yourself and be reasonable about how you spend your collecting dollar, MS-63 is a great grade.
MS-65 takes the challenge of MS-63 and raises the temperature. Some dates come nice almost all the time. Take the 1879-S or 1881-S as two prime examples. These two issues can be found with ease even in grades above MS-65. But even these common dates in premium grades (like MS66+ and above) will set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars, because the demand at these levels is unquenchable.
For dates that typically do not come nice (like some later S-Mints and nearly the full run of New Orleans issues), MS-65 approaches a connoisseur grade. With patience and a savings plan, nearly any collector can achieve 20 coins in 65… but it will take a couple of years to do. I recommend this grade to those that are patient and studious–especially those with an eye for PQ coins.
Remember, no matter what you collect or in what grade, collecting is about the journey. It’s about learning, it’s about having fun. Patient collectors are rewarded for having discipline and exercising good common sense.
I see this kind of collector at every coin show, and even on limited budgets you won’t believe the quality of the coins they show me.