A large, heavy, and beautiful coin, the Morgan Silver Dollar holds a special place in the hearts of collectors. Today, both casual collectors and serious numismatists include Morgan’s in their coin collections. The coin was minted for a total of 27 years.
How the Morgan Silver Dollar Came to Be
The Morgan Silver Dollar was the first U.S. dollar coin minted after the government ended free coining of silver with the Coinage Act of 1873. In 1878, the Bland-Allison Act was passed to prevent the Treasury from being put at jeopardy if a silver strike like the one that took place in 1858 ever happened again.
The year before the first Morgan was struck, Mint Director Henry P. Linderman requested that chief engraver William Barber and his assistant George T. Morgan create designs for the new silver dollar.
Morgan’s obverse was the head of Lady Liberty, gazing toward the left of the coin’s face. The designer’s goal was to create a Lady Liberty image that depicted an American woman rather than a Greek figure. On the reverse, a gaunt eagle with eight tailfeathers stands in the center, holding arrows and an olive branch. This reverse prompted many to call the Morgan the “buzzard dollar” due to the thinness of the eagle.
Morgan’s design was chosen, and the coin was slated to begin minting in 1878.
The Minting Years
The Morgan dollar was minted from 1878 to 1904, and then again in 1921 for one final year.
Minting the First Morgan Dollar
At 3:17pm on March 11, 1878, at the Philadelphia Mint, the first Morgan Dollar was struck. U.S. President at the time, Benjamin Hayes, received this first coin. The Secretary of the Treasury, John Sherman, received the second coin, and Linderman received the third.
How Long Did Minting Go On?
Minting of the Morgan dollar continued from that first striking in 1878 until 1904, a total of 26 years.
The first year after starting production of the Morgan dollar, Linderman requested a change. So, in 1878, the dies were changed so that the eagle on the reverse of the coin was given seven tail feathers. The reason given was that other U.S. coins depicted the eagle with an odd number of tail feathers.
Minting continued throughout these years, and over the whole course of the minting between 1878 and 1921, about 657 million Morgan Dollars were produced.
Why Did Minting Stop in 1904?
During World War I, the German government discredited U.K. currency by suggesting that it couldn’t be exchanged for silver. What followed was a massive run on Britain’s silver reserves. Via the Pittman Act, the U.S. offered financial relief by melting over 270 million of the Morgan dollars for their silver. Most of the resulting silver bullion was sold to the U.K. at a dollar per troy ounce of silver. Because the silver was needed to help the U.S. ally, no more Morgan dollars were minted at that time.
Why Were the Dollars Minted Again in 1921 for One Last Year?
The 1921 minting of the Morgan Silver Dollars was done as a part of the Pittman Act. The Act required that the coins that were melted down during WWI be replaced coin for coin.
Where Did All the Morgan’s Go?
At this point in time, experts estimate that less than one-fifth of all Morgan Silver Dollars still survive. The melting-down and sale of the dollars to support U.K. interests during World War I accounts for a large percentage of them.
More coins were lost when individuals melted them. There were a lot of reasons to melt silver dollars at that time. The coins were actually more valuable for their 90% pure silver content than they wore as $1 coins. If someone needed some extra money, they might file off or melt down a bit of a Morgan dollar and sell it.
Individuals might also need silver for practical purposes from time to time. Rather than going out and buying silver, they would use the silver from their silver dollars.
Over 2.8 million Morgan Silver Dollars were inadvertently left in a vault. These coins, minted in Carson City many years before, were made available to the general public in the mid-60’s. And, until 1964, individuals were allowed to exchange paper notes called silver certificates for the silver dollars.
Since that time, Morgan dollars have made their way into the collections of numismatists and casual collectors alike.
What Are Morgan Silver Dollars Worth?
Low quality Morgan Silver Dollars are typically worth around the spot price of silver, but higher quality coins are often worth much, much more. In fact, depending on their quality and rarity, certain Morgan dollars’ values can be in the thousands of dollars.
Which are the Scarcer Morgan Silver Dollars?
Some of the scarcer coins, and thus some of the more valuable ones, include:
- Morgan Silver Dollars with mintmark CC, for the Carson City Mint, which closed its doors in 1893.
- The 1895 “King of Morgan’s.” That year, only 12,880 coins were minted. Only 880 of these coins survived after so many were melted, and experts believe only about 500 still remain in existence today.
- Morgan Silver Dollars in Extremely Fine or better condition.
- Uncirculated Morgan’s.
- Morgan’s minted in 1893, especially the 1893 S mintmark.
- Morgan dollars from 1878 with an eagle that has only seven tailfeathers.
- 1894 Morgan dollars minted at the Philadelphia Mint
Why Add a Morgan Silver Dollar to Your Collection?
The Morgan Silver Dollar is a great addition to any collection. Its 90% pure silver content gives it intrinsic value as a precious metal. Its design is unique and quite beautiful. The coin is worth far more than its face value in any case, and in some cases, Morgan’s can be quite valuable. What’s more, collectors love it, so it’s easily sold whenever you’re ready.
If all these reasons don’t persuade you, consider this: You can get a Morgan Silver Dollar at an affordable price right now. That won’t always be the case. If you want a coin collection that’s filled with attractive and valuable coins, the Morgan Silver Dollar is a great addition any day!