This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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If the 1893-S is not the key Morgan dollar date, it is certainly on a very short list, and that makes it a special and expensive Morgan dollar date. It also makes the 1893-S a coin well worth understanding and appreciating.
One fact about the 1893-S that stands out immediately is its mintage of just 100,000. Of the regular business strike Morgan dollars, there are no lower mintages. So, why such a low mintage? The dates in the mid-1890s routinely had lower mintages. While silver dollars were still being produced, the nation was virtually awash in them.
The 1893-S lists for $2,750 in G-4, $90,000 in MS-60 and lists for with an MS-65 at $715,000. Clearly it is not available in any grade.
The grading services support these prices. Professional Coin Grading Service has a total of 2,329 1893-S Morgans graded. Of that total only 24 were Mint State and, of those, only five reached MS-65.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation’s 1893-S total is 912. Of that number 21 were Mint State with just a single example in MS-65.
The 1893-S has developed a nearly legendary reputation in top grades, and why not with such numbers?
What happened to the 1893-S? Were some examples melted like so many other dates as a result of the Pittman Act, or is there some other reason for the scarcity of the 1893-S in top grades?
From all appearances, there was not unusual or even unexplained destruction of the 1893-S. It appears to have done what dollars were supposed to do, which was circulate. The belief is that sometime in the 1920s, thousands many have simply been placed into circulation in the Rocky Mountain area. That is possible as at the time there were very few silver dollar collectors to jump at the chance to save a nice, new 1893-S. Moreover, by the 1920s, the Rocky Mountain area would have been an area where silver dollars were still in regular use even though much of the nation had turned to bank notes.
Basically the 1893-S has become an extraordinary Morgan dollar the old-fashioned way: by being very low mintage and by not being saved. It appears to not have been heavily melted or hoarded. It simply acted like a coin, which, in the case of many Morgans, was somewhat unusual. As a Morgan dollar that acted like a coin, it certainly deserves some recognition but because it is scarce and the key Morgan in most grades, it will get even more attention than normal.