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Mystery is key to 1895-O Morgan

The 1895-O is a Morgan dollar with a great story and a few mysteries. The 1895-O, basically alone among Morgan dollars, did not manage to find its way into the Treasury bags paid out in the 1960s, thus it never had any added numbers in Mint State to help supplies. Yet its scarcity today is just a small part of an interesting story.

The situation with silver dollars had changed by 1895. The large silver purchases of the Bland-Allison Act and Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which were used to make silver dollars quite literally by the ton, had either expired or been changed.

The United States certainly did not need any more silver dollars in 1895, but they were still minted, though in smaller numbers.

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In the case of the 1895-O Morgan, the mintage was a low 450,000, but of course there were virtually no silver dollar collectors who cared at the time. Whether there was any saving of the 1895-O is a good question.

Of course with virtually everything about it a mystery, it is hard to answer.

What little we know is that the 1895-O simply never appeared anywhere in great numbers. Q. David Bowers suggests that perhaps a total of around 100,000 were issued at the time of its minting. It is worth noting that as of July 1, 1895, there were some 9.6 million silver dollars sitting in the vaults at New Orleans. It might have been normal to release some examples of a new date but certainly if anyone in New Orleans needed a silver dollar the 1895-O was not the only choice on hand.

If we assume Bowers is right, the next question is what happened to the remaining 350,000 1895-O dollars?

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There is the very real chance that at least some were part of the more than 270 million silver dollars melted in 1918 because of the provisions of the Pittman Act.

If, for example, 250,000 1895-O Morgans were melted as a result of the Pittman Act and 100,000 had already been issued, we suddenly have only 100,000 sitting in vaults. They could have trickled out a few at a time without generating much interest.

Bowers reports rumors of several dozen to a couple hundred coming from the Treasury but concludes “I have found no account or even a rumor of any being a part of the 1962-1964 Treasury releases.”

That leaves us with a supply today of lightly circulated pieces with an MS-60 priced at $15,000 while in MS-65 the price is $165,000.

In fact, most settle for something less than MS-64, as once you reach upper Mint State grades there is very little supply. The 1895-O was not especially well made, with most being lightly struck with dull luster.

With fewer than 20 examples likely in MS-65 or better, the real issue is what happened to the 1895-O? To that question, there are simply theories, as there is no proof it was melted or simply circulated.

Certainly the reputation of the 1895-O as a key Morgan in top grades is deserved, as few can be found at any price. The fact that it was never found in any Treasury releases makes the 1895-O Morgan dollar stand out as something special and especially interesting.

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