Tag Archives: Morgan dollar

The Numismatist’s Corner: The Morgan Silver Dollar

Morgan Dollar ObverseThe Morgan silver dollar; one of numismatics most sought after coins. However, this beautiful coin didn’t always have the immense amount of interest it does today, in fact, at one point it was completely ignored due to silver prices and the rarity of its use. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see how this iconic coin came into existence, and the reason why, despite how old these coins are, they still remain in such pristine condition.

The Morgan Dollar’s Political Beginnings

Politics is what brought the Morgan dollar into being, not public demand. The previous silver dollar had been legislated into oblivion and it was not missed at all by the public. What brought the silver dollar back into existence was the silver lobby pushing for its return. In 1878, Richard ‘Silver Dick’ Bland of Missouri along with other representatives funded by the silver industry, got the Bland-Allison act passed which authorized the minting of a new silver dollar. The act made the US Treasury purchase two to four million troy ounces of silver bullion (at market value no less) every month to be coined into dollars.

In November of 1877, about four months before the Bland-Allison act was passed, the treasury began to make designs for a new dollar coin. Mint Director Henry Linderman ordered Chief Engraver William Barber, father of the famous Charles Barber, and his assistant, George Morgan, to begin making patterns that would be used for the new coin. Morgan’s design won due to Linderman fixing the contest in Morgan’s favor since he was disappointed in the previous work of William Barber and his son Charles. Morgan recruited Philadelphia school teacher Anna Willess Williams to pose for the new design.

The “Buzzard Dollar”

Morgan’s new design featured a left facing portrait of Lady Liberty, with the reverse depicting a rather emaciated looking eagle which led to the coin being nicknamed the, “buzzard dollar” by its detractors. Like most coins of this era, this coin wasn’t without its issues. Soon after production began, someone advised the US Mint that the eagle should have seven tail feathers instead of the eight that were currently being shown on the coin. Morgan made the correction, however, this is the reason why some of the coins from the 1878 series have eight tail feathers instead of seven.

More than half a billion Morgan dollars were struck between 1878 to 1904, with production taking place at the Philadelphia mint along with New Orleans, San Francisco and Carson City. The coin returned briefly in 1921 under the terms of the Pittman act and another 86 million examples were produced at the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver mints.

The Cinderella Morgan Dollar

Overall, 657 million Morgan dollars had been produced in 96 different date-and-mint combinations. However, a very large portion of these had been melted down over the years by the government under the Pittman Act and the Silver Act of 1942. Despite all of this melting, Americans still had more than enough Morgan Dollars for their everyday use. Because the Morgan was mainly circulated in the western part of the US, huge stockpiles of the coin remained in the US Treasury’s vault, and in private banks nationwide, which is why so many of them are so well preserved, because they saw very little to no use during their circulation.

Even when numismatics began to grow in popularity as a hobby during the 1930s, interest in other collecting areas far outpaced that of the Morgan dollar, mainly due to the high cost of silver at the time, and that the lower face-value coins that were readily available through circulation. Interestingly though, in the late 1930s someone discovered a large store of these coins in the Treasury Department’s cash room, and was paying out the uncirculated Carson City coins which had a market value of $5 or more at the time.

Truly, the coin didn’t begin really gaining popularity until the 1960s and is now one of the most pursued and desired of all classic US coins. Although many collectors find the challenge of assembling a complete date and mark set in Mint State compelling, others satisfy themselves with collecting one per year. Me, I have some dollar coins I need to sift through.


What Are My Coins Worth?

We often get asked the question: “What are my coins worth?” Well, the answer depends on a couple different things. For instance, your coin’s weight, metal composition and base metal prices. We’ve created this guide for people who are unfamiliar with coins but want to find out about certain coin values. Keep in mind, this is just appraisal value. It’s very difficult to tell the actual value of a coin without seeing it in person. The true value of your coin may differ slightly, depending on its condition and the current market.

Indian Penny, 1894Indian Head Cents

The Indian Head one-cent coin was produced by the United States Mint from 1859-1909. Also known as the Indian Penny, this coin displays the head of Liberty wearing a feather head dress of a Native American and the year of production. This copper penny is worth 50 cents to $3.00.

Lincoln Wheat Pennies

Lincoln wheat pennies were produced at three different mints: Philadelphia (no mintmark), Denver (D) and San Francisco (S) from 1909 to 1958. Depending on its condition, this pretty penny is worth between 2 and 5 cents. However, if you come across a very rare 1909-S VDB Lincoln wheat penny, consider yourself lucky. It can be worth between $964 and $2479!

Buffalo Nickels

The Buffalo nickel is a copper five-cent piece produced by the United States Mint from 1913 to 1938. This unique coin contains a Native American on one side and an American bison on the other. Because the coin is subjected to wear, it can be worth 25 cents to $1.00.

Jefferson War Nick1943 Jefferson Silver war nickelels

From 1942 to 1945, nickel was a strategic war material for the United States. During these years, nickels were struck in a copper-silver-manganese alloy. Commonly referred to as “war nickels,” these coins are worth 50 cents to $1.00.

Barber Dimes

Barber dimes were minted between 1892 and 1916. Designed by United States Bureau of the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber, the term ‘dime’ comes from the French word disme, which literally means, “tenth part.” Made of 90 percent silver, these small coins can range from $1.60 to $5.00.

Roosevelt Dimes Silver

Minted after the 32nd President of the United States, Roosevelt silver dimes were issued between 1946 to 1964. Also made of 90 percent silver, these coins range from $1.50 to $2.00. Roosevelt dimes are still made for circulation by the U.S. Mint today, however, not in silver.

Standing Liberty Quarters

1925 Standing Liberty Quarter FrontProduced by the United States Mint from 1916 to 1930, the Standing Liberty quarter is made of 90 percent silver. This coin displays Liberty carrying an upraised shield in her left hand and an olive branch in her right hand. With the exception of 1923-S Standing Liberty quarters, this coin is worth between $4.00 and $10.00.

Washington Quarters Silver

Minted after the 1st President of the United States, Washington silver quarters were produced from 1932 to 1964. All quarters without mintmarks are made at the main Mint in Philadelphia. Rare mintmarks to look for include Denver (D) and San Francisco (S). Also made of 90 percent silver, this coin can range from $4.00 to $6.00.

Franklin Half Dollars

The Franklin half-dollar was issued by the United States Mint from 1948 to 1963. This fifty-cent piece features Founding Father and inventor, Benjamin Franklin, on the obverse side. The reverse side contains a small eagle to right of the liberty bell. Made of 90 percent silver, this coin is estimated between $7.00 and $15.00.

Kennedy Half DolUSA - Kennedy half dollar.lars Silver

The Kennedy half-dollar was first minted in 1964 as a memorial to the assassinated President John F. Kennedy. This fifty-cent coin is 90 percent silver and worth from $7.00 to $15.00. Between 1965 and 1969, the Kennedy half-dollar was made of 40 percent silver and can range from $3.00-$5.00.

Morgan Dollars

The Morgan dollar was issued by the United States Mint from 1878 to 1904, and then again in 1921. This coin is named after its designer, Assistant Engraver George T. Morgan. Unless you have graciously stumbled upon the 1889‑CC Morgan dollar, which is the most rare of the Carson City Mint Morgans, this coin is worth between $15.00 and $30.00.

Peace Dollars

The Peace Dollar was minted from 1921 to 1928, and again in 1934 and 1935 by the United States Mint. Numismatists began to lobby the Mint to issue a coin that memorialized the peace following World War I. This is the last U.S. dollar coin to be struck for circulation in silver and is worth between $15.00 and $25.00.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on