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Time to look at Morgans

Morgan dollars are easy to find. Almost every dealer has at least a few available. However, collectors should look out for a few select dates and shop around for a good price.

Morgan Dollar

Morgan Dollar Denomination: One dollar Composition: 90 percent silver, 10 percent copper Weight: 26.73 grams Diameter: 38.1 mm Dates Minted: 1878 to 1904, 1921 Designer: George T. Morgan

Gary Rosencrans, owner of Gary’s Coin, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., said  there’s a developing demand for about uncirculated (AU) Morgans.

“The hottest part of the market is AU Morgan dollars,” he said. “As a coin wholesaler, I get calls on AU Morgans everyday.”

Semi-key Morgans are also moving up in price and demand, he said.

“I’m not seeing the 1903-O in circulated grades as much,” he said. “The 1903-O in brilliant uncirculated (BU) is even harder to find. That’s one of our target coins.

“The 1887-S in MS-60 and up is a sleeper date and a semi-key date.”

With many dealers selling Morgan dollars, there’s opportunity to get a good price, he said.

“You’ve got to be a shopper,” Rosencrans said. “Everyone has Morgan dollars for sale, there’s always someone that’s willing to work on a smaller profit margin.”

Harry Miller, who owns Miller’s Mint, Patchoque, N.Y., said the Morgan dollar market is steady, with good deals available to collectors.

“The 1894-P has come down in price and is available at a reasonable discount,” he said. “It is probably at a level where I’d say it’s a reasonable buy.

“AU to BU San Francisco minted Morgans are a good buy. Coins like the 1896-S, 1898-S and 1899-S appear to be a good value.”

When purchasing, collectors should remember that not all low mintage Morgans are rare, he said.

“In terms of Morgan dollars, mintages should be almost entirely ignored,” he said. “In many cases, mintages are not indicative of the coin’s rarity due to hoarding or melting.”

An example is the 1892 and 1892-CC Morgan dollars. The 1892, with a mintage of 1,037,245, catalogs at $35 in XF. The 1892-CC, with a higher mintage of 1,352,000, is around $485 in XF as many were melted over time.

Certain dates in uncirculated grades can be easy to find due to the large quantities paid out from government vaults, he said.

“Up until 1964, people could order silver dollars at face value and get bags of uncirculated Morgan dollars,” Miller said. “Some coin dealers made money at the time reselling those coins.”

Rosencrans said collectors should also focus on quality over quantity when building a set.

“Buy the best one you can afford,” he said. “Everyone begins with buying as many as they can afford.”

Looking for quality Morgans also extends to slabbed coins, he said.

“With slabbed coins, I’ve found MS-64 Morgans that I don’t like and MS-63 Morgans that are really nice,” Rosencrans said. “If you buy based on description, you might be stuck with a coin you don’t want.”

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Miller said beginning collectors should avoid cleaned and AU Morgans passed off as Mint State examples.

“There’s nothing wrong with a lightly cleaned Morgan dollar if this is factored in the price,” he said. “A heavily cleaned Morgan is a problem.

“Some collectors though, who have a fine to extremely fine set may buy a heavily cleaned AU Morgan and keep as a pocket piece to get it down to that grade. That’s all right as long as it’s bought at a discount.”

Counterfeit Morgan dollars are easily found for sale, especially online, he said.

“Collectors should be very careful of fakes,” Miller said. “There are a lot of fakes coming from China, coins like 1885-CC, 1889-CC, 1893-S, 1895-O or 1895-S Morgans. Fake 1894 no mintmark Morgans are being found, either 1894-O or -S Morgans with a removed mintmark or entirely fake.”

Buying coins that have been authenticated by the top grading firms will eliminate the risk of getting stuck with counterfeits.

With sensible precautions like this observed, collectors will find there are many deals and quality specimens available for building a Morgan dollar set.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express.
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