United States 1883-S Morgan Dollar

With a mintage of 6,250,000 coins, the 1883-S Morgan dollar should be a relatively common coin. However, unlike other contemporary dates, this type is today considered scarce. In fact, when considering examples in Mint State grades, this coin becomes quite rare. This is because the 1883-S was not included in any significant way during the mass Treasury Department releases that flooded the market in the 1960s. As a result, while many other rarities became more available, this type remained scarce.

This most likely occurred because either the coins circulated widely at the time or the Treasury actually melted a majority of the 1883 San Francisco issuance as a result of the Pittman Act of 1918.

In fact, many of the examples available on the market in between AU and low-MS condition were released as part of the LaVere Redfield hoard of the 1950s. Called at one point the “Silver Dollar King”, Redfield was a successful US investor and multi-millionaire, who amassed a massive collection of Morgan dollars. When sold in 1976 to the film producer Steven Markoff for $7.3 million ($38.25 million adjusted for inflation), the Redfield hoard consisted of 680 bags containing 407,000 silver dollar Morgan dollars – of which approximately 85% were preserved in Uncirculated condition. Interestingly, as with many other types released from the Redfield hoard, the 1883-S often displayed bag marks and other surface abrasions. Despite additional examples trickling into the market during the 1990s, this type remains scarce to this day.

The 1883-S Morgan Dollar in Today’s Market

As a result of the large number of hoard coins released onto the collecting market in MS 62 and 63, these grades are the most easily collected. In fact, these two grades alone account for 3,216 pieces or about a fifth of the total combined graded population. In these grades, interested collectors should expect to pay between $1,600 to $3,000 per coin. For example, Heritage Auctions sold a very nice MS 62 example, with limited wear and touch of reddish orange toning ringing the legend, for $1,680 in August of 2022. While during the same month, Stack’s Bowers sold a fully struck and highly lustrous MS 63 for $2,880.

At the high end of the spectrum, for the few and rare Deep Mirror Proof-like pieces, prices break into six figures. The auction record, set back in 1997 by Bowers & Merena for an MS 66, actually hit $137,500!

However, there are more affordable examples available to collectors and nearly 10,000 coins (roughly 64% of the registered population) are considered to be in AU condition or lower. Even so, there are just barely enough coins to satisfy demand, and prices range from $300 to $500 for an AU 55 to between $40 and $50 for a VF 35.

Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the 1883-S 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 1883 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 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 Morgan’s initial.

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 had turned down an offer for marriage following her engagement to an unknown suitor. Before dying in 1926 at the age of 68, 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”.

Reverse:

The reverse of the 1883-S 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 “S” mintmark, denoting that the coin was struck at the San Francisco Mint, is located above the “DO” of DOLLAR.

Edge:

The edge of the 1883-S Morgan dollar is reeded.

Designer

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.

Coin Specifications

Country:  USA
Year Of Issue:  1883
Denomination:  1 Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark:  S (San Francisco)
Mintage: 6,250,000
Alloy:  90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight:  26.73 g
Diameter:  38.10 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer  George T. Morgan
REV Designer  George T. Morgan
Quality: Business Strike

 

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2 COMMENTS

    • If you want to get an idea of what you have, pick up a copy of A Guide to United States Coins, a.k.a. the “Red Book”, which lists values for almost every US coin.

      Alternately you could find a certified dealer or local coin show to get an evaluation. Remember that buying prices will be less – possibly a lot less – than retail prices.

      P.S. “sell” rather than “sale”. Hope that helps :)

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