By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for PCGS ……
Carson City Morgan Dollars bearing the famous “CC” mintmark are at the top of many coin collectors’ want lists. Struck at the Carson City Mint in Nevada from 1878 through 1893, these so-called CC Morgan Dollars are symbolic of the Old West and the massive silver lodes that were discovered there during the latter decades of the 19th century. Carson City Morgan Dollars are generally quite scarce, with several dates yielding either six-figure or low seven-figure mintages and survival rates that are just a fraction of those mintages.
It’s not far-fetched to categorize even the most common of CC Morgan Dollars as at least semi-keys. One of these issues, the 1889-CC (with a mintage of 350,000), is a bonafide series key date. Many Morgan Dollar enthusiasts will focus their Carson City Mint pursuits on the regular-issue coinage from the CC Mint. All told, there are 13 distinct Carson City issues counted among the regular-issue business strikes, not considering branch-mint Proofs and the myriad varieties known among CC Morgans.
However, one of the most important CC Morgan Dollar varieties wasn’t even struck until seven years after the last regular-issue Carson City Morgan rolled off the presses.
The subject coin here is the 1900-O/CC Morgan Dollar, a fantastic over-mintmark coin that clearly shows the “O” mintmark of the New Orleans Mint superimposed atop the “CC” mintmark. How did something like that happen? Perhaps it’s a little less stupefying when one realizes that in the early 1900s, the Philadelphia Mint was distributing prepared dies to all branch mints, which included the Carson City and New Orleans Mints.
As the Carson City Mint stopped producing coins in 1893 and was officially decommissioned as a U.S. Mint facility by 1899, the Philadelphia Mint no longer had a need for CC-emblazoned reverse dies by the time the 1900-O/CC Morgans were minted. More than one reverse die was sent to the New Orleans Mint containing the “O over CC” mintmark, and there are at least six known die marriages with that variation, as listed by Morgan Dollar experts Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis in their seminal volume Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars.
The numismatic question, therefore, remains: How did the 1900-O/CC Morgan Dollar even come into existence?
Two plausible theories exist concerning the origin of this fantastic variety. One attributes the O/CC as the memorialization of an “oops” moment on the part of a Mint employee in Philadelphia who, in that era of individually hand-punching mintmarks onto working dies, accidentally grabbed the wrong mintmark punch when preparing the dies to be sent to New Orleans.
The other theory suggests that the Philadelphia Mint was repurposing unused Morgan Dollar reverse dies already prepared for the Carson City Mint months or years earlier and repunched an “O” mint mark over the extant “CC” for use at the New Orleans Mint. For many numismatic experts, this particular proposal makes more sense, because many dies originally prepared for the Carson City Mint ended up going unused after that facility’s closure and were reappropriated for use.
Due to the large mintages of coins at the New Orleans Mint in 1900 and the fact that at least a handful of reverse dies bear the anomaly, this fascinating over-mintmark yields a decent number of survivors. Perhaps as much as 10% of the original 1900-O Morgan Dollar mintage of 12,590,000 pieces wound up with the over-mintmark variety, meaning roughly 1.2 million coins may have borne the O Over CC mintmark. However, attrition through circulation, melting, and other forms of damage over the decades decimates that figure. Therefore, PCGS CoinFacts estimates there are now approximately 50,000 examples across the grading spectrum.
Remarkably, about 50% of the survivors are in uncirculated grades, including 3,000 in MS65 or better. However, there are no known examples in Prooflike (PL) or Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL).
Even though many of these coins were paid out by banks in the years immediately following their release, the large fraction of uncirculated survivors may be best explained by the bulk discovery of these coins in bags; quantities of 1900-O Morgan Dollars were released from United States Treasury vaults well into the mid-20th century.
What’s more, collectors became privy to the variety by the 1920s, ensuring that generations of collectors have been cognizant of the coin and have saved many of them from entering circulation. Counterfeits are known, and thus it’s best to stick with buying certified specimens.
Many 1900-O/CC Morgan Dollars boast a sharp strike and excellent luster, so eye appeal usually isn’t a problem with these coins. Neither is the matter of affordability, with PCGS CoinFacts listing VF20 specimens at $120 and AU50 examples around $210; an expense to be sure, but these prices rival the fair market value of similarly circulated “regular” Carson City Morgan Dollars, yet also offer the added bonus of being a noteworthy variety.
Those who want to obtain uncirculated specimens may look to PCGS MS63 specimens, which fetch $750. Gems grading MS65 and MS66 trade for $1,750 and $4,600, respectively. MS67s tempt PCGS Set Registry collectors with just two known specimens, one grading PCGS MS67, and the other MS67+ – the latter representing the record price of $52,875 realized at a 2015 Legend Rare Coin Auctions sale.
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