The Morgan Silver Dollar might be one of the most popular American coins that is valued by collectors and numismatists alike. Let us look back at the origins of the silver dollar and why the coin industry as a whole has cherished it for so long.
History of The Morgan Silver Dollar
The Morgan Dollar was minted from 1878 to 1904 with one reissue in 1921, and it was struck at five U.S. Mints: Carson City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Denver. The coin came to life after the largest silver strike in the world: the 1859 Comstock Lode, which was a large silver deposit in Nevada, named after Henry Comstock, who was a part-owner of the property where it was discovered in June 1859. The lode resulted in a huge flood of silver to the market. However, in 1873, The Coinage Act put an end to the manufacture of silver coins in the United States as values dropped. The Bland-Allison Act made silver legal tender alive again in 1878, requiring the U.S. Treasury to purchase a certain amount of silver and minting 2 million silver dollars per month. This is when the Morgan Silver dollar started being produced until the year 1904.
In the early 1900s, the Comstock lode was deteriorating as the supply of silver was decreasing, which resulted in a halt in silver coinage production. Then came the Pittman Act in 1918, which resulted in the melting down of over 270 million stored Morgan Silver Dollars and the selling of the bullion abroad, leading to a reissue of the Morgan Silver Dollar in 1921.
The Designer: George T. Morgan
The exquisite Morgan Dollars were named after their designer, George T. Morgan. During the year 1876, the Director of the United States Mint, Henry Linderman, realized that the nation desperately needed a new silver dollar coin. He decided to hold a competition between William and Charles Barber, who had worked at the Philadelphia Mint for years, and George T. Morgan, a young new engraver whom Linderman had brought over from England. Morgan was born in Birmingham, England in 1845 and was working as an engraver for the Royal Mint in London before being recruited as a “Special Engraver” for the U.S. Mint’s Philadelphia branch. While both Charles and Morgan created the same design for the coin, Linderman obviously liked Morgan’s design better.
Morgan used Philadelphia school teacher Anna Williams as a model for Lady Liberty for one of his Half Dollar patterns in 1877 because her Greek profile was almost ideal. He expanded this pattern to the size of the Silver Dollar after the Bland-Allison Act was passed in 1878, and this was the model that was finally used for the Silver Dollars approved by the Act; the coin that soon became known as the Morgan dollar.
Did You Know?
Morgan Silver Dollars are Very Hard to Collect
One of the most coveted desires of collectors for decades has been to assemble a full set of Morgan Silver Dollars. Since many of the rarer branch mint and year-date issues were destroyed alongside the more common coins as a result of the Pittman Act, this task has proven to be extremely difficult. The exact number of Morgan Silver Dollars is not actually known, but collectors all over the world undoubtedly hope to complete their full collection of these rare coins. At The Franklin Mint, we offer a wide variety of Morgan Silver coins on our website, check them out right here.
Morgan Silver Dollars were nicknamed “Cartwheels”
Morgan Silver Dollars were mostly circulated in the West. Because of their large size and weight, the coins were nicknamed "cartwheels" by cowboys in the Old West.
The Debate Over Tail Feathers
Yes, even coins are subject to heated debates! The American Eagle on the coin's reverse was the focus of this controversy. There was general consensus that the Eagle should be depicted by an unequal number of tail feathers, and while the number of tail feathers on previous US coins was uneven, Morgan's eagle had eight. Consequently, the U.S. Mint changed the eagle's tail from eight to seven tail feathers in response to public demand.
Morgan Silver Dollars, dubbed "King of America's Coins", are coveted mementos of 19th-century America and are truly authentic bits of history. Any Morgan Silver Dollar added to a collection would undoubtedly be a valuable addition to it!