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1894-S Morgan dollar availability a mystery

The 1894-S Morgan dollar is usually a nice coin and makes you wish there were more of them.

The 1894-S Morgan dollar is usually a nice coin and makes you wish there were more of them.

Had the coin?s mintage of 1.26 million been a Carson City total, no one would have given it a second thought, but this was San Francisco and Morgan mintages there tend to be much higher.

San Francisco mintages were much higher in the 1880s, but in 1893 there was the repeal of the silver purchasing clause from the Act of July 14, 1890, and that meant big changes, as there would be no new silver purchases.

It was seen in the mintages of 1893, as the 1893-S had a mintage of just 100,000, while the high mintage for the year was the 1893-CC at 677,000.

The situation in 1894 was not quite as unusual, but neither was it normal, as the 1894 dollar had a mintage of just 110,000, while the New Orleans and San Francisco totals were both less than 2 million, which was unusual for both.

The 1894-S, like many San Francisco dollars, was well struck with excellent luster, although it can have die-polishing lines that make it look cleaned to some, but otherwise your average 1894-S is going to be a nice coin.

We are not certain what happened to the supply of the 1894-S, but it was a low mintage, so any numbers lost were significant. Some were released into circulation, but not that many, as in VG-8 the 1894-S today is $62.50, which is a solid premium.

The simple fact is that we do not have many recorded cases of the 1894-S appearing in significant numbers. The one everyone remembers is a bag that was allegedly one of a number released in Deer Lodge, Mont., in the 1950s that contained 980 examples of the 1894-S and 20 examples of the 1893-S. How that happened is anyone?s guess.

Q. David Bowers has tracked the release of bags of every Morgan dollar date in his The Official Red Book Of Morgan Silver Dollars and he suggests that bags were available during the 1950s for their $1,000 face value, but that demand was low.

It was apparently a case where the 1894-S, despite being in the San Francisco vault, was never sent to Nevada for the casinos, like other Morgan dollars.

It?s less surprising that there appear to have been few 1894-S Morgans released at the height of the Treasury releases. With its modest mintage, it would have been surprising to see any numbers make it to Washington in the mid 1950s and early 1960s, as the San Francisco dollars released during that period tended to be the ones with larger mintages.

Bowers reports some numbers coming from Wayne Miller, who suggested there were hoards of up to 100 entering the market back in 1982. Beyond that report, however, there is relatively little by way of real evidence of any significant numbers of the 1894-S.

If you look at the prices of the 1894-S in top grades today, you see an MS-60 at $720, a solid premium that indicates a lack of supply. You might, in MS-65 under those circumstances, expect a slightly higher price than the current $6,850, but that price is likely a bit lower than expected because the 1894-S has a fairly high percentage of its Mint State examples reach higher grades.

It all makes the 1894-S an interesting date and a bit of a mystery, as we cannot trace it the way we can others. But what would a Morgan dollar be without a little bit of mystery?