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Morgan Silver Dollar: A Glittering Piece of American History

Morgan Silver Dollar: A Glittering Piece of American History


When it comes to iconic American coins, the Morgan Silver Dollar stands tall as a symbol of a bygone era. Minted from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921, the Morgan Silver Dollar carries historical significance, captivating collectors and enthusiasts alike. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating story behind the Morgan Silver Dollar, exploring its history, design, value, and enduring legacy.

The Birth of the Morgan Silver Dollar

The Morgan Silver Dollar came into existence as a result of the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. This act was passed by the United States Congress in response to public demand for the free and unlimited coinage of silver. The goal was to stimulate the economy, which was still recovering from the financial panic of 1873. Under the Bland-Allison Act, the Treasury Department was required to purchase a certain amount of silver bullion each month and coin it into silver dollars.

To design the new silver dollar, the Director of the United States Mint, Henry Linderman, held a competition among the Mint's engravers. The winning design was submitted by George T. Morgan, a talented and skilled engraver from England who had recently joined the Mint. Morgan's design was chosen for its artistic beauty and symbolic representation of American ideals.

Design and Symbolism

The design of the Morgan Silver Dollar is a masterpiece of numismatic art. On the obverse side, Morgan depicted Lady Liberty, a classic symbol of freedom and opportunity. Her profile is surrounded by thirteen stars representing the original thirteen colonies. She wears a Phrygian cap, which symbolizes liberty, and her hair is adorned with wheat and cotton, representing America's agricultural heritage. The word "LIBERTY" is inscribed on her tiara.

On the reverse side of the coin, Morgan crafted an intricate design featuring a bald eagle with its wings outstretched. The eagle holds an olive branch, symbolizing peace, and a bundle of arrows, symbolizing strength. Above the eagle, the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" is inscribed, while the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and "ONE DOLLAR" appear below. The design is completed by a wreath encircling the eagle, consisting of oak leaves and acorns, representing strength and prosperity.

Morgan's design for the Morgan Silver Dollar is not only aesthetically pleasing but also carries deep symbolism, reflecting the values and aspirations of the American nation.

Minting and Distribution

The Morgan Silver Dollar was minted at several United States Mint facilities, including Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Carson City. These minting locations are indicated by mint marks found on the coins. The mint marks include "CC" for Carson City, "S" for San Francisco, "O" for New Orleans, and no mint mark for Philadelphia.

The production process involved the use of silver bullion, which was melted and refined to the appropriate purity. The resulting silver planchets were then fed into coin presses, where the obverse and reverse designs were stamped onto them. The coins were struck with tremendous force, giving them their crisp and detailed appearance.

Once minted, the Morgan Silver Dollars were distributed throughout the United States. They entered circulation and were used in everyday transactions, becoming a familiar sight in the pockets and purses of Americans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Collecting Morgan Silver Dollars

Collecting Morgan Silver Dollars has become a popular hobby. The coins are highly sought after for their historical significance, exquisite design, and silver content. Many collectors focus on building complete sets of Morgan Silver Dollars, which can include different mint marks and years of issue.

When collecting these coins, factors such as condition, rarity, and desirability play a crucial role in determining their value. Collectors often strive to acquire coins in the best possible condition, with minimal wear and attractive toning. Rare varieties, such as those with specific mint marks or die varieties, are particularly valuable and highly coveted by collectors.

Collecting Morgan Silver Dollars allows enthusiasts to connect with the past, appreciating the craftsmanship and beauty of these tangible pieces of history.

Determining the Value

Determining the value of a Morgan Silver Dollar involves considering several factors. The condition of the coin is of utmost importance, with well-preserved, uncirculated coins commanding higher prices. Grading services, such as the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), assess the condition of coins and assign them a grade on a numerical scale.

Rarity is another significant factor influencing the value of Morgan Silver Dollars. Some years and mint marks are scarcer than others, making those coins more valuable and sought after by collectors. Additionally, specific die varieties or errors can add to a coin's desirability and value.

Lastly, the prevailing market demand for Morgan Silver Dollars affects their value. Factors such as collector interest, silver bullion prices, and general market conditions can impact prices. Auctions, coin shows, and reputable dealers are sources where collectors can gauge the current market value of these coins.

By considering these aspects, collectors, and investors can assess the value of their Morgan Silver Dollars and make informed decisions regarding their numismatic holdings.

1878 Morgan Silver Dollar

The 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar is the inaugural year of the series, making it historically significant. These coins hold a special place as the first coins to bear George T. Morgan's iconic design. The 1878 issues have distinctive features such as the seven-tail feathers reverse design, which was later modified to include eight tail feathers due to a design error. Varieties with seven tail feathers are highly sought after by collectors. The 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar is highly valued for its historical significance and the charm of being the first coin in a long-running series.

1893 Morgan Silver Dollar

The 1893 Morgan Silver Dollar is considered one of the scarcer dates in the Morgan Silver Dollar series. It was minted in Philadelphia, and only a limited number of these coins were produced that year.

One of the main reasons for the scarcity of the 1893 Morgan Silver Dollar is the economic downturn that occurred during that time. The Panic of 1893 led to a decrease in demand for silver and caused the U.S. government to suspend the coinage of silver dollars for a brief period. As a result, fewer Morgan Silver Dollars were minted in 1893 compared to other years.

1921 Morgan Silver Dollar

The 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar holds a special place in the series as the last year of regular-issue production. The 1921 Morgan Silver Dollars were produced in larger quantities compared to some of the earlier years of the series. This increased mintage was a result of the resumption of silver dollar coinage after a hiatus of several years. The Pittman Act of 1918 required the melting of millions of Morgan Silver Dollars, and the subsequent demand for new coins led to increased production in 1921.

2021 Morgan Silver Dollar

In 2021, the U.S. Mint reintroduced the Morgan Dollar to commemorate its final year of production in 1921. This special release of the 2021 Morgan Dollar is part of the Morgan and Peace Dollar Anniversary Coin Program. Following that, in 2023, the Mint issued additional Morgan Dollar coins with uncirculated, proof, and reverse proof finishes.

For the 2021 Morgan Dollar, the Mint produced an uncirculated version with five different reverse designs. Each design represented a specific Mint facility that originally minted the coin. The coins minted at the Denver and San Francisco Mint facilities were marked with "D" and "S" respectively. The Philadelphia Mint, on the other hand, produced three versions:

  • One without a mint mark to pay homage to the historic Philadelphia Mint.
  • One with an "O" privy mark to recognize the historic Mint in New Orleans, LA.
  • One with a "CC" privy mark to honor the historic Mint in Carson City, NV.


Morgan Silver Dollar is an iconic American coin cherished by collectors and enthusiasts. Its rich history, exquisite design, and symbolism make it a prized addition to numismatic collections. From the inaugural 1878 issue to the scarce 1893 coin and the special commemorative 2021 edition, each Morgan Silver Dollar carries its own unique appeal. Whether for its historical significance, rarity, or aesthetic beauty, the Morgan Silver Dollar remains a timeless symbol of American numismatic heritage.

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