The finest example of the rarest Morgan silver dollar sold on
August 29 at auction for $2,086,875 – a new record for the series and the first
coin to garner over $2 million! The coin is graded PCGS MS67 CAC.
The undisputed key date coin of the entire Morgan silver dollar
series that ran from 1878 to 1904 and then came back for a year in 1921 is the
1893-S coin. It is also the most popular coin in the series largely because it
has been known to be the lowest mintage coin by far for so long.
This issue was struck during the famous economic crisis of
1893 known as “the panic of 1893,” which had a variety of causes, including the
crashing of wheat and other commodity prices and the bursting of the bubble of
railroads, which had been vastly overbuilt in the years leading up to this
crisis. There was also an oversupply of silver from Western mines (some of
which was used to strike all those Morgan dollars in excess of what was needed
for commerce) that led to a debate about how much of our coinage should be made
from that metal.
Those developments contributed to the collapse of two of the
country’s largest employers, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the
National Cordage Company, and this heightened economic uncertainty was followed
by bank runs as people rushed to get their money out of banks.
In this context, the need for silver dollars was further diminished,
which led the U.S. Mint to produce just 1.5 million coins at all four branch
mints that year, and that included a mere 100,000 coins at the San Francisco
Plus, many of those 100,000 1893-S coins are believed to have been
melted down under the Pittman Act of 1918 that authorized the melting of up 350
million Morgan silver dollars to be sold in silver bars to Great Britain at the
price of $1 an ounce to help stabilize that country’s economy against an effort
by Germany to manipulate the price of silver. It also called for an equivalent
number of new silver dollars be made from U.S.-sourced silver, which led to
all those 1921 Morgan dollars and the Peace dollars.
Today, there are 7,119 examples in all grades graded by
PCGS, and another 3,473 graded by NGC with the vast majority of those coins being
circulated ones. In mint state the coin is a real rarity with just 37 graded by
PCGS and one Prooflike coin plus 28 by NGC and 2 PL’s. It has long been
estimated that not much more than 100 mint state examples still exist.
There may also be some coins graded by other services or
possibly even some raw examples.
The coin that sold recently was part of the legendary
collection of Jack Lee, who is widely known to have put together the all-time
finest set of Morgan dollars. This example was the first Morgan dollar to sell
for over $1 million.
Lee assembled a set of 175 of the finest Morgans, sold the
collection and then later collected the whole set again! Each coin in his
collection has its pedigree noted on the grading label.
This coin was first introduced into the coin market in 2001
when the collection of collector Cornelius Vermeule III, an art curator and
author of Numismatic Art in America, was sold. In that first auction it was sold ungraded and
listed as Gem Brilliant Uncirculated, fetching $414,000, a real bargain
compared to today’s value for the piece.
In was next offered in 2017 after having been purchased in
2008 for over $1 million but went unsold in that auction because it failed to
reach its presale estimate of $1.3-1.5 million.
A small hoard of 20 or so mint state examples of this rarity
was discovered in the early 1960s at a bank in Great Falls, Montana, but no large
hoards have ever been reported, and this coin was not part of the amazing
Treasury hoard of bags of mint state coins discovered in their vaults in the early
Dave Bowers said that probably sometime after 1925 thousands
of circulated examples that graded around Very Fine were discovered in Rocky
Mountain states where these large silver coins circulated more widely than in
most other parts of the country.
It is important to understand that many fake examples have
been reported over the years, typically created by taking an 1893-P coin and adding an “S”
mintmark. NGC calls it one of the top 10 most counterfeit American coins, so
beware! That is why it is absolutely imperative that only coins professionally
graded and preferably by either PCGS or NGC be purchased, especially for a coin
Walter Breen once said he had heard of someone who had a full
bag of this date, but Bowers did feel enough evidence existed for those coins
to include them in his estimate of how many coins exist.
1893-S Morgan Value
PCGS values this issue in Good 4 at $2,500, Fine 12 at $4,250,
XF40 at $10,000 and AU55 at $43,50. Then it jumps to $425,000 in MS63, $475,000
in MS64, $750,000 in MS65 and $2,250,000 in MS67.
For most collectors a nice VF under $3,000 or an XF under
$10,000 would probably be a good goal for this famous key date unless they can
afford to acquire one of the truly rare mint state coins.
This content was originally published here.
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