Morgan Silver Dollars

Posted by on October 27, 2011

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
(1878-1904, 1921)
26.73 90% silver, 10% copper
Morgan Silve Dollar

The coin is a US Morgan Dollar, which was made of 90% silver, and 10% copper at the US Mint in New Orleans, in 1901. (photo by Mike Warot*)

Morgan Silver Dollars are named after designer George T. Morgan, United States Mint Assistant Engraver.  The Morgan dollar was produced from 1878-1904, and discontinued due to a surplus of the coin and resumed again in 1921 to be replaced by the “Peace” dollar series later in 1921.

This silver coin’s obverse has a portrait profile depicting Liberty, with “E.PLURIBUS.UNUM”, thirteen stars, and the year of mintage around Liberty. The Rim is composed of small studding on the obverse and reverse sides. The reverse has an eagle with wings spread clutching arrows and an olive branch (there are variation of 7 or 8 tail feathers). The eagle's tail-feather count was changed from eight to seven in 1879. This is noticeable in the 1879 silver dollar and treated as a being unique from the seven tail feather strikes.

“IN GOD WE TRUST” is between the outstretched wings, it has a wreath under and around the lower portion of the eagle with the mint mark under the center of the wreath and above the “D” and “O” “ONE DOLLAR” which is separated on either side by a single star from “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” both texts surround the eagle.  The mint marks are CC for Carson City, S for San Francisco, O for New Orleans, D (only during 1921 minting) for Denver.  If there is no mint mark it was minted in Philadelphia.  The edge is reeded.  This silver coin is 1.5” (38.1 mm) in diameter weighs 26.73 g, is 90% silver and 10% copper thus containing .7736 troy oz of silver. 

Grading the condition of a Morgan silver dollar it seems best to start with the date.  If the year is worn down to where it can’t be distinguished, the coin is considered to be in ‘Poor’ or PR1 condition.  If the date is legible and worn into the rim, or if any part of the design is worn into the rim the coin is ‘Fair’ FA2 or ‘About Good’ AG3 depending on the degree.  If the rim is distinct from the date, lettering, and design it is ‘Good’ or better.

A Morgan is considered ‘Good’ G4 or 6 if there is little or no detail in Liberty’s hair and the feathers on the eagle’s wings.  If the hairlines on Liberty’s face and some the feathers on the eagle’s wings are visible but less than 75% visible, then it’s ‘Very Good’ VG8 or 10.

If Liberty’s hairlines and the eagle’s wing feathers are only a little worn and lacking full detail the coin is ‘Fine’ F12 or 15.  With full detail on Liberty’s hair and the eagle’s wings we look at the eagle’s chest.  If no feathers or only a few feathers are visible the coin is ‘Very Fine’ VF20, 25, 30, or 35.

The eagle’s breast feather details varied from year to year, but if they are visible with a little wear it is ‘Extra Fine’ XF40 or 45.  If there is considerable detail of the breast feathers of the eagle, and only slightest signs of wear anywhere on the coin then Morgan silver dollar is considered ‘About Uncirculated’ AU50, 53, 55, or 58.

If the silver coin has absolutely no signs of wear, although marks and scratches from being stored in bulk in bags is acceptable.  There is usually some of the original luster.  These are ‘Mint State’ MS 60-70.  These quality coins are extremely hard to find in the Morgan dollar and it would be wise to have a certified professional document such a coin.

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