Morgan Dollars (1878-1921)
Among the world’s most popular collectible coins, the Morgan dollar has a fascinating and complex history, as both monetary instrument and collectible item. Whole books can be (and have been) written containing stories and lore of Morgans. Striving to assemble a complete Morgan dollar set of is something of a rite of passage for intermediate to advanced U.S. coin collectors. Many dates and mintmarks within the series can be had in beautiful condition for modest sums. Others are extremely rare and can be very valuable. The Morgan series is large and complex enough that there are many different ways to collect the series.
The Morgan is named for its’ designer, U.S. Mint engraver George T. Morgan. Morgans were first coined in 1878, and then every year through 1904. None were made dated 1905-1920. They were struck again in 1921, when an enormous quantity (over 87 million) of them were made in one final year.
The production of Morgan dollars is largely the result of three pieces of legislation: The Bland-Allison Act of 1878, The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, and the Pittman Act of 1918. The causes and effects of these three pieces of legislation are too complex to address here. It is worth noting that, like most types of dollar coin made since, the Morgan wasn’t very popular in its’ own time. Morgans were made in huge quantities, but a great number of those made never left the U.S. Treasury.
In the early 1960s, a large quantity of these unissued coins were discovered in Treasury vaults, including some issues previously thought rare. Most of these coins were uncirculated, many of them incredibly well preserved. While the available supply of Morgans increased dramatically because of this hoard, so did collector interest in the series. Beginning in the 1970s, the U.S. Treasury conducted a sale of Morgans minted at Carson City through the General Services Administration. These “GSA” Morgans remain popular.
Morgan dollars were minted at Philadelphia, Carson City, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Denver. Mintmarks, when present, occur on the reverse, below the wreath’s knot. Philadelphia and San Francisco produced coins in every year. New Orleans didn’t begin production until 1879, but then made them for every year through 1904. Carson City produced coins for each year from 1878-1885, and again for the years 1889-1893. Denver produced Morgans in 1921 only.
Availability and value of Morgans can vary considerably from one date to the next. Quite a few years that are common in used condition can be rare in uncirculated condition – this is a result of the presence or absence of certain years & mintmarks in the Treasury hoard. The coins from 1895 are, as a class, very scarce. The 1895 Philadelphia has the lowest mintage of the Morgan series, with only 880 proof coins made. The 1893-S is rare and always in great demand. About 100,000 of these were struck, but probably only about 10% of those survive in any condition. The 1889-CC is another in-demand and consistently valuable year. In general, coins minted at Carson City are avidly sought.
We are pleased to offer a wide selection of Morgan dollars to meet many different collecting approaches.