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
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
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
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 CENT 1909-PERSENT
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
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.
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
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"
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."