Mint State Investments

Coin  Knowledge


Many collectors know little about the design elements of a Morgan Dollar. It understandable since
1921 was the last year Morgan Dollars were minted, but there are a few elements of the design, along with a bit of history that collectors should learn about in regard to this very popular U.S. Coin series.

Morgan Silver Dollars were minted from 1878-1904, then again in 1921. The so-called Cartwheels where minted in San Francisco (S), New Orleans (O), Carson City (CC), Denver (D), and if the coin has no mint mark then it was minted at the Philadelphia and referred to as "Plain" or "P". Also to be noted, the only date to have the "D" is the 1921. The mint mark is located on the back, or reverse (the side of the coin with the eagle and reef design), and just under the said reef, and just above the bottom of the rim. (Refer to diagram above.)

Morgan Dollars are the most popular coin to collect because of the amount minted. However, there were several historical instances when millions were melted by the US Government for their silver content, and some like the 1884-S were mostly circulated, causing some dates and mints to become scarce in uncirculated condition. Of course, there are low mintage examples like the 1893-S and the 1894-P which are considered 'key dates' of the series.

Another aspect that has helped the popularity of this series is VAM attributions. A VAM is an acronym for Leroy Allen and A. George Mallis who were numismatic authors and researchers. Together they discovered many Morgan varieties, or slight details and differences in the die strikes and design elements of each date. VAM collecting is a very popular, and sometimes lucrative, cherry pickers dream. It's another reason a coin collector should know the nomenclature of Morgan Dollar design. By nomenclature, I mean the names of various parts or design elements of the Morgan Dollar.

Many Morgan Dollars demand large premiums in the higher grades or with VAM attributions, so buyers should be wary of most grading companies or dealers that place the highest grades on the silver dollar. Use only highly recommended grading companies to grade, authenticate and attribute your coins.

If one is seeking a raw or ungraded example in a high grade, the first thing to look for is the absence of contact marks on Liberty's Cheek, then the absence of contact marks in the fields surrounding Liberty's Head. It needs to be noted, that most Morgan Dollars will have contact marks in these areas from banging against other coins in the mint bags, and the least amount of these marks a coin has, the higher the coin will grade.

Also, the coin will not have any wear on the highest points of the design. Sometimes a coin will have roll friction or be weakly struck, so it takes practice, experience, and advice (from other knowledgeable collectors), dealers, and maybe a few submissions to a top tier grading company like PCGS to learn the differences in grades and grading.

If you collect or decide to collect Morgan Dollars, or any coin, make sure you ask questions, check people's reputation, do research before purchasing these often over-graded and misrepresented silver dollars.

PEACE DOLLARS 1921-1928, 1934-1935

Peace Silver Dollars where minted from 1921-1928 / 1934-1935 & 1964. The Peace Dollar was issued in response to the end of World War I, hence the name Peace Dollar. The minting of the Peace Dollar was allowed due to the Pittman Act of which allowed 35 million silver dollars, held in vaults, to be melted and most of these were Morgan Dollars.

It's fascinating to think of what rare and valuable Morgan Dollar dates that might have been melted just to make a common 1922 or 1923 Peace Dollar. But, at the time, this wasn't even considered, since millions of Morgan Dollars were stored in bags and boxes in the basement of the U.S. mints, and not many collectors wanted them.

The series had a ran from 1921-1928, again from 1934-1935 and was almost resurrected by the Denver Mint when they minted over 300,000, 1964-D Peace Dollars but none were released for circulation. Eventually all specimens were melted, and no surviving specimens have been reported. However, rumors persist there may be some surviving examples of the 300,000+ struck 1964-D.

All Peace Silver Dollars were struck at the following US Mints: San Francisco "S", Denver "D", Philadelphia "P" or "Plain" (no mint mark on coin). The 1921 was struck with a High-Relief design, and look smashed on the hair lining the cheek of Liberty's Head. This High Relief design was halted for the 1922 series, but there are rare High Relief 1922 examples to be found.

Peace Dollars have never been as popular as the Morgan Dollar, but certain dates have been sought after over the years like 1928, 1921, 1927 dates and mints, and the 1934 and 1935 in the higher grades. Of course, any of the dates with mint marks, in high grades, bring a premium. Peace Dollar Proofs where only struck in 1921 and 1922, but are rare, and highly sought after.

Another aspect that has help the popularity of this series is their VAM attributions. A VAM is an acronym for Leroy Allen and A. George Mallis who where numismatic authors and researchers. Together they discovered many Peace varieties, or slight details and differences in the die strikes of each date. VAM collecting is a very popular, and often lucrative, cherry pickers dream.

Daniel Carr reproduced the 1964-D when he created a die with this date and mint and over-struck authentic and common date Peace Dollars. Mr. Carr only minted 1,964 and all sold out fast.
There's also a few countefeit Peace Dollars on the market and they will be offered at low bargain prices. The couterfeits are obvious to a seasoned collector so if you're not sure then do some research.


Lincoln Cents are very popular to collectors, especially with mint error and variety collectors, and those looking for a rare and valuable error to "cash-in". It appears that every year and mint has some variety or error and collectors and dealers alike buy them by the thousands, in boxes of rolls, bags and collections. Many new errors and varieties are being found each year, as well as, valuable errors and varieties already discovered.

The Lincoln Cent has been minted for well over 100 years, and mintages have been in the multi-millions to multi-billions, so there's plenty to search and plenty of collections, rolls and bags that have not been searched. It's easy to obtain rolls from a bank for face value, and sometimes can be bought in collections for for a little over face value. It's no wonder their wide appeal to collectors.

Why wouldn't a collector, armed with the latest Cherry Pickers Guide or Strike It Rich With Pocket Change books, not search through rolls or just their pocket change, to find a hidden gem or be the discoverer of a new error or variety? It's something that can be done with family members or to pass time on a cold or rainy day.

Furthermore, with the increase in values, low mintage coins are still to be found in unsearched lots, rolls and collections. It's a fact, you can't lose anything when you obtain Lincoln Cents at face value, you can always get your money back.

Words of caution: If you're a collector or plan on searching Lincoln Cents then be wary of whom and where you buy them from. Ebay has hundreds of lots, and many claim to be unsearched, others claim a rare end coin in the roll, but it's not always true. If you would rather not buy cents at your local bank then look for mint sewn bags, original bank-wrapped rolls (watch for sellers and dealers who bank-wrap their own), or purchase lots from dealers who have a good track record for being honest on what they sell.

You should do some research on what a actual and original bank roll should look like, and stay clear of rolls wrapped in modern looking wrappers. If a seller is hyping up their rolls and lots with terms like "estate", "unsearched", "jar found", "box of mystery coins", "long lost hoard", etc., then check their feedback and reputation. Many of these sellers have very recent and multiple negatives and I can't recommend buying from them. I don't and you shouldn't.

The Steel Cent was produced in 1943 only, and minted by the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver Mint. There are reports of copper 1943 Cents, but an authentic copper or bronze cent will not attract a magnet, and most are copper plated, steel cents. However, there's a few authentic 1943-D copper cents and they can sell for over $1,000,000!

Coronet Head Double Eagle 1849-1907

America's largest circulating gold coin was the Double Eagle or $20 piece, born in the exciting years of the great California Gold Rush. The new mines yielded the greatest mass of gold in recorded history. Vast quantities of the yellow metal helped to speed development of the American West and had far-reaching effects on the world's coinage.

Acceding to the pressing need to mint gold into larger coin form, McKay was quickly persuaded to amend his bill to include another new gold coin at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Double Eagle or $20 piece. The authorizing statute was passed by Congress on March 3, 1849.

Cushing Wright, and the corrupt Chief Coiner Franklin Peale feared that Longacre would disrupt his illicit medal-making racket. Patterson and Peale harassed Longacre mercilessly at every turn, forcing him to create three separate Double Eagle obverse designs before the first patterns could be struck bearing the date 1849 (Judd 117, 118). Longacre, whose initials JBL appear on Liberty's neck, survived the campaign, and developmental patterns were struck in silver without a date in early 1850. Circulation coinage finally began on January 26.

Longacre used a similar Liberty for both the dollar and $20, a handsome woman's head displaying a meticulous nose and wearing a pearl-bordered diadem inscribed LIBERTY. It was modeled after an ancient Greco-Roman sculpture, the Crouching Venus. His reverse reflected his training as a two-dimensional engraver. Based on the Great Seal of the United States, it depicts a spread eagle with a shield on its breast, 13 stars in an oval with rays above. The nation's name appears above, the denomination expressed as TWENTY D. below.

The Type 1 (or No Motto) double eagles were struck at the Philadelphia Mint every year from 1850 through 1865, at New Orleans from 1850 through 1861, and at San Francisco from 1854 through 1866. The O or S mintmark is found below the eagle's tail. Average mintages were several hundred thousand, but ranged up to just under three million for the 1861 issue. The San Francisco coins of 1866 were the last of the design, and were also issued as part of the Type 2 series, with the new motto IN GOD WE TRUST.

These early twenties range from elusive to very rare in all Mint State grades. Branch mint pieces are particularly so, with many New Orleans issues numbered among the great rarities of the series. Low mintage New Orleans dates include 1854-O with 3,250 pieces struck; 1855-O, 8,000; 1856-O, 2,250; 1859-O, 9,100; and 1860-O, 6,600 pieces. The only over date in the series is the rare 1853 over 2, discovered in 1959 by the late Walter Breen.

Other legendary rarities are the Paquet Reverse issues of 1861 and 1861-S. These coins were the result of Mint engraver Anthony C. Paquet's attempt to improve the reverse design. Paquet used tall, boldly elongated lettering for the legend and a very narrow raised border in place of the wide rim of the Longacre reverse. This rim was inadequate to shield the design from immediate wear and caused early die breakage as well. Only two 1861 Philadelphia Paquet Reverse double eagles are known-the MS-67 example in the Norweb Collection selling for a record $660,000. The San Francisco Mint struck 19,250 Paquet Reverse coins that made it into circulation before Mint Director Snowden's frantic orders to stop coinage were received.

When grading double eagles, wear is first noticeable on the locks over Liberty's ear and on the eagle's head and neck. Bag marks are usually a problem with these large, soft gold coins. They generally picked up many bag, reeding and contact marks even before entering circulation. The lack of high quality, and in many cases, any specimens of some dates, stops most from collecting this series by date and mintmark. It is more commonly sought as a "type" coin.

Saint-Gaudens Low-Relief Double Eagles 1907-33

"Gauden's brilliance and renown brought him to the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the two men developed a warm relationship that was at once both personal and professional. In 1905, Saint- Gaudens designed a handsome inaugural medal for the president. Pleased and impressed, Roosevelt then invited him to fashion prospective new designs for the two largest U.S. gold coins, the double eagle and eagle, and also for a one-cent piece (which never reached production). Saint-Gaudens welcomed the challenge and plunged into the project with all his prodigious energy and skill.

Both men admired the high-relief coinage of ancient Greece, and both agreed that U.S. gold coins patterned after that model would be a spectacular achievement. They would also stand in stark contrast to the two undistinguished-looking coins that were being replaced, the Liberty double eagle and the Coronet eagle, both of which had their roots in the first half of the 19th century.

Although his health was deteriorating as the project went along, Saint-Gaudens created superb designs for both gold coins. The double eagle, especially, is a masterpiece. Its obverse features a full-length portrait of Liberty with a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left. She is shown in full stride with rays of sunlight behind her and the U.S. Capitol Building to the left of her flowing gown. Encircling her are 46 stars-one for each state in the Union at that time. The coin's reverse depicts a breathtaking eagle in flight, with the sun below extending its rays upward. Above the eagle, in two semicircular tiers, are the inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TWENTY DOLLARS. High points to check for wear are Liberty's breast and knee and the eagle's wing.

Saint-Gaudens placed another required motto, E PLURIBUS UNUM, along the edge of the coin, thus reducing the clutter on the obverse and reverse and reinforcing their clean, open look. He and Roosevelt conspired to omit IN GOD WE TRUST from the first of the new double eagles, but God-fearing members of Congress noticed this and mandated addition of this motto on later issues, starting near the end of 1908. On pieces produced thereafter, it appears above the sun on the reverse.

Fortunately, the beauty of the coin remains dazzling, even in lower relief. And thankfully, Saint-Gaudens' original art was preserved in its pristine beauty through the minting of small numbers of extremely high-relief patterns and high-relief business strikes in 1907-or rather MCMVII, for the date was shown on these coins in Roman numerals.

The first production pieces were made with high relief. But after striking just 11,250, Mint officials substituted new dies with the modified, lower relief, and these remained in use through the end of the series. As if to underscore the shift from the classical to the commercial, the Mint used Arabic numbers in dating all reduced-relief double eagles.

"Saints" were minted each year from 1907 through 1916. A three-year hiatus followed, after which the coins were struck yearly from 1920 through 1933. The branch mints in Denver and San Francisco augmented the main Philadelphia Mint production, but not in every year. Mint marks appear above the date the designer's initials (ASG) below.

From 1929 onward, newly minted examples were held almost entirely as part of the nation's gold reserves, with few being released into circulation. Almost all of these were melted (along with many earlier double eagles) following the gold recall order signed in 1933 by another President Roosevelt-Theodore's cousin, Franklin. As a result, double eagles dated 1929 through 1932 are exceedingly rare today. The Mint produced nearly half a million pieces dated 1933, but the government maintains that these were never released, and thus it is illegal to own them. That was the end of regular-issue U. S. gold coinage."