The Morgan Silver Dollar is today one of the
most popular collector coins. First minted in 1878 following the
passage of the Bland-Allison
Act, the new dollar was named after its designer, US Mint Engraver
George T. Morgan.
Throughout much of the 19th century, silver
mining companies were
amongst the nation’s most powerful interests and provided the impetus
The Bland-Allison Act was modified by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. The Sherman Act mandated an increase in government silver purchases to $4.5 million in silver monthly, to be paid for with Treasury bonds redeemable in either gold or silver.
Unexpectedly, most bond holders redeemed their
notes in gold, depleting
the Treasury’s gold reserve and throwing the entire country into a
severe financial panic in 1893, leading to the repeal of the Sherman
Act, which greatly slowed the production of silver dollars throughout
the remainder of the 1890’s. Coinage of the silver dollar was suspended
after 1904 when the bullion supply allotted for the dollar pieces was
While This Coin Was Minted...
The above image, "Out of the Silver Flood", appeared on the
cover of Puck magazine on Sept 13, 1893. Uncle Sam is pulling a
woman, representative of business interests, out of a flood of silver
dollars unleashed by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Uncle Sam is
relying on a rope called "Public Opinion", to carry him over a rock
designated as "Repeal of the Sherman Law by the 53rd Congress." Because
the Sherman Act was blamed in part for the financial crises of 1893,
Congress heard from many angry constituents demanding its repeal. In
the background is a gold double eagle symbolizing the sun, meant to
express the promise of brighter days under the gold standard. The
Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed on November 2, 1893.
Under the guidelines of the Pittman Act of 1918,
over 270 million
silver dollars were melted down for export and/or re-coinage into
smaller denominations. Some of the silver derived from the Pittman Act
was used in the production of the 1921 dollars, the final year of the
The Treasury sale resulted in most of the
government owned Morgans
moving into the private sector, widening the circle of collectors in a
way no one could have predicted. The Morgan Silver Dollar collector
base expanded again in the early 1970's, when the General Services
Administration individually packaged many of the remaining Morgans in
federal possession and sold them to the public in a highly advertised
event. The fact that so many of the dates offered were from the fabled Carson
City Mint heightened the element of intrigue.
Today, collectors are willing to pay a premium for Morgan Silver
Dollars still housed in their original "GSA" holders.
Not surprisingly, these are all considered key
date Morgan Silver
Dollars, rare coins which collectors have battled over for generations.
Yet, there were other Morgans that came in close behind and have
withered the test of time similarly. If we were to do another
study in a couple of years, it might be their turn to go to the head of
the class. The other legitimate Morgan Dollar key dates are the 1878-CC, 1879-CC, 1880-CC, 1881-CC, 1882-CC, 1883-CC, 1884-CC, 1885-CC, 1890-CC, 1891-CC, 1893-CC, 1893-O, 1895, 1895-S,
and the 1903-O.
In case you haven't noticed, every dollar from the Carson City Mint
made the key date list. This is because the lore of the Old West,
something many collectors crave, has combined with scarce supply to
create sustained value increases for the Carson City dollars over a
very long time period.
Morgan Silver Dollars are perhaps the most
visible group in all of
American numismatics, and have been for a long time. Trying to cash in
on the Morgan craze, promoters of dubious character over hype the coin,
even common date material, as a top notch investment. Buyers taken in
by all the hoopla are disappointed if they were expecting stratospheric
returns on their money. Worse yet, a favored technique of the
fly-by-night crowd is to push an overgraded coin onto a trusting buyer.
When the buyer tries to sell, they are disgusted to learn their "MS-65"
coin is really an MS-63 by numismatic standards. The safest policy to
guard yourself against this rip-off is to purchase only examples that
have been graded by PCGS, NGC, ICG, or ANACS, or at least are being
sold by a reputable dealer.
Return to our U.S. Coin Types Menu