Morgan Silver Dollars
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The Morgan Dollar was created in 1877 by George Morgan, an English-born assistant engraver, who eventually became the 7th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint. It is highly sought after by collectors and investors alike. The composition of the Morgan Silver Dollar contains 90% pure silver and 10% copper. In other words, it has 0.7734 troy ounces of silver bullion.
In addition to being a sensible investment outlet, the Morgan silver dollar is a small piece of American history. It has been around for over a hundred years. The Lady Liberty design on the obverse was her first depiction as an American woman, rather than having Greek features. All those factors combined are sure to attract coin collectors.
From the early silver dollars, such as the Liberty Seated Dollars, to the popular Peace Dollars, these coins are beloved for their beauty, size, and frequent availability.
Silver Dollar History
In 1873, the United States was overflowing with the supply of silver bullion. This surplus of silver caused its prices to drop substantially. As a result, the United States Congress approved the Fourth Coinage Act. It brought to a halt all Seated Liberty silver dollar production, along with other circulating silver coins. That law temporarily ended the bimetallic standard in the US.
It wouldn't be long, though, for silver mining lobbyists to start campaigning for the return of that precious metal to currency use. So, in 1878, the Bland-Allison Act was approved, commanding the US Treasury Department to purchase between $2 million and $4 million in silver bullion each month at market rates to be minted into silver dollar coins. The bill was actually vetoed by then-President Rutherford, but Congress managed to override it to enact the law.
In 1890 a new silver act was approved by Congress, named the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. It repealed the Bland-Allison Act and increased the amount of silver bullion the U.S. Treasury had to purchase each month by 4.5 million troy ounces.
In the years that followed, other bills would be approved and repealed in order to try to control the fluctuating silver prices and the inflation that arose, deepening the country in an economic crisis. In 1918, the Pittman Act ordered all leftover silver reserves to be melted down and recoined into silver dollars. The Morgan Silver Dollar would return one last time in 1921 before the Peace Silver Dollar replaced it.
The Morgan Dollar
In 1876, US Mint Director, Henry Linderman, wished to redesign all American silver coins. He reached out to the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint in London, C. W. Freemantle, asking him to recommend a new Assistant Engraver. Freemantle replied with George T. Morgan's name, a talented English engraver. Linderman and Morgan settled for an initial six-month trial basis, during which he would work under Chief Engraver William Barber.
At first, Morgan worked on the designs for the half-dollar coin. He decided to depict Lady Liberty as an American woman, rather than a Greek one. As suggested by his friend, artist Thomas Eakins, Morgan chose the teacher and philosopher Anna Willess Williams as his model.
Morgan would also set out to study the natural state of the bald eagle in preparation for a reverse design.
When the Bland-Allison Act was approved in 1878, Linderman arranged for Morgan's Half Dollar design to be used in the one-dollar coin instead.
Production and Composition
The first strike of the Morgan Dollar occurred in the Philadelphia Mint. Dies were distributed that same year to the western mints in Carson City and San Francisco. The New Orleans Mint began striking the Morgan Silver Dollar in 1879. The Denver Mint would only strike the coin for one year, in 1921. Except for the coins struck in Philadelphia, all others carried a mint mark ("CC" for Carson City, "S" for San Francisco, "O" for New Orleans, and "D" for Denver).
As mentioned before, the coin contained 90% silver and 10% copper. It had a diameter of 38.1 millimeters (1.50 in) and weighed 26.3 grams (0.8455 troy ounces).
The obverse of the Morgan Dollar features Lady Liberty in profile, as well as 13 stars to symbolize the original colonies, the words “E. Pluribus Unum”, and the year of issue. The modern look of Lady Liberty design, rather than the classical Greek features that most coins had, was considered unusual, but innovative at the time.
The reverse side shows an eagle in flight, carrying an olive branch and a bundle of arrows, to symbolize strength in both peacetime and war. The words “In God We Trust”, the country name, the coin's value, and the mint mark are also present on the reverse. Originally, Morgan depicted the bald eagle with eight tail feathers, but that was reduced to seven to make it into an odd number, similar to all prior United States coinage.
Most Valuable Morgan Silver Dollars
The value of a coin, in general, derives from its precious metal content, numismatic appeal, rarity, and condition. Overall, Morgan Silver Dollars are not considered very rare in numismatic terms. Nevertheless, the following is a list of the most valuable Morgan Silver Dollars if found in great condition:
|Morgan Silver Dollar||Valued arround|
|1893 S Morgan Silver Dollar||$550,000|
|1901 Morgan Silver Dollar||$425,500|
|1889 CC Morgan Silver Dollar||$280,000|
|1884 S Morgan Silver Dollar||$250,000|
|1893 O Morgan Silver Dollar||$180,000|
|1895 O Morgan Silver Dollar||$165,000|
|1896 O Morgan Silver Dollar||$140,000|
|1886 O Morgan Silver Dollar||$140,000|
|1892 S Morgan Silver Dollar||$130,000|
|1893 CC Morgan Silver Dollar||$70,000|
Morgan Dollars Today
Although regular specimens of the Morgan Silver Dollar are not particularly rare, they still carry an undeniable numismatic appeal. The iconic Lady Liberty design on the obverse, as modeled by Mrs. Anna Willess Williams, constituted an innovation in American coinage history.
To top it off, silver has been used as a currency metal since ancient times. It has stable value and, in general, holds its value in the long term. Many experts suggest owning physical silver as a safe haven against inflation and devaluation of fiat currencies. But simply having a bit of silver is not enough to be considered an investment-worthy or collectible piece. Much like the Morgan Dollar, to be called a “true” silver coin, it must have a purity of at least 90%.
Finally, an added bonus to the Morgan Silver Dollar is its legal tender status. In spite of not being in production anymore, this coin still holds its face value. To put it in another way, in case of a widespread national economic crisis, these coins can be used as currency and their value will never drop below one dollar.
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