# Morgan dollar die life increased over time

What kind of die life did the Mint get with the Morgan dollar dies?

As is usually the case, they got better with practice. With all the start-up problems they got an average of 83,400 strikes per die pair in 1878. By the following year die life jumped to 137,700; by 1884, 234,000, and by the 1890s it had increased to 350,000 to 400,000.

**I was given a roll of 1970-S nickels, but when I tried to sell them I was told they weren’t proofs. How can this be?**

The San Francisco Assay Office was reopened in 1968 with the principal function of striking proof coins. But it also struck “S” circulation strikes in several years, including the SBA dollars as well as cents, nickels and dimes. Your ’70-S nickels are normal circulation strikes.

How many private mints are there, or were there?

Any answer is guesswork. The number varies, as dozens or hundreds of private mints struck silver bars during the 1970s fad in the U.S. Very few struck coins for foreign countries. Some big names went down with the upstarts.

**When did the U.S. Mint finally satisfy the country’s demand for coins?**

It may come as a surprise, but it wasn’t until the 1870s that production caught up with demand. The statement is made that the Mint produced less than 50 percent of the country’s coin needs up to 1853, the balance being foreign coins that circulated freely until 1857.

**What is the largest U.S. proof set in number of coins?**

That honor goes to the proof coins of 1873, but it bears some explanation. Although there were some 25 “complete” proof sets delivered in early 1873 that contained all of the coins (then currently being struck) from the cent to the $20 gold, most of the proof coins were issued either as part of individual sets such as the minor sets or gold sets. Later in the year proofs were made of the silver coins with arrows at date. Breen lists one so-called “double set” presented by the Mint to Charles A. Whitney that included specimens of both the with- and without-arrows silver coins of that year. In all, 20 different coins were struck as proofs in 1873. The Whitney set contained two specimens of each coin to show the obverse and reverse.

**Which is correct – 1,000 proof 1878 Morgan dollars were struck, or only 500?**

Robert Julian presents excellent Mint record evidence that only 500 were struck and delivered: 100 each on March 12, 15 and 18, and a final delivery of 200 on March 26, 1878. He also makes a good argument that the rare “7 tail feather” proofs were not officially struck but were under-the-counter “specials.” To top it off, of the 500 officially struck, 16 were placed in circulation at the end of the year.

**Did Carson City strike any proof dollars?**

Among the Carson City proofs listed by Breen are dollars dated 1870, two half dollars dated 1871, both with just the obverse as a proof, plus 1883, 1884 and 1892 dollars and 12 1893 dollars that Wayte Raymond says apparently were given out at a ceremony marking the closing of the Mint. Breen lists two that have been authenticated and two other possible examples known.

**Did the U.S. Mint fulfill all of the orders that it had for the 1964 proof sets, the ones that had the Kennedy half dollar and that were the last 90 percent silver?**

The official mintage of the 1964 proof sets was 3,960,752, but the Mint was literally swamped with between 10 and 12 million orders. The supposed cutoff was at 3,800,000 sets, but by the time they got through they had fulfilled an extra 160,000 orders. It had been necessary to cut back on most multiple set orders in order to stay within the projected limit.

As a special concession to small collectors, the Mint cut bulk orders back to 75 sets and reopened the ordering period only for those wanting just one or two sets. This made 384,737 sets available, but orders “far exceeded” that number and many got their money returned. Price? $2.10 a set.

**A confusing problem. Some sources list the 1827 quarters as regular issues, some as proofs, including the one sold in the Garrett sale. Please clear this up.**

Mint records list a mintage of 4,000, but R.W. Julian believes these were struck with 1825 dates. Breen, in his book on proofs, estimates “12 1827 proofs” and lists the pedigrees for nine of them. The Garrett piece, sold for $190,000, is one of the four proofs obtained by Joseph J. Mickley directly from the Mint in 1827. Julian mentions “one known” 1827 circulation strike and elsewhere describes the proofs as “technically and legally ... medals struck with coinage dies.”

**Old-timers tell me that the U.S. Mint sold its entire production of proof sets in 1969 in just six days. How could that have happened?**

Those were the good old days: B.C., or before computers. At that time collectors could order up to a maximum of 20 sets. With production moved to San Francisco in 1968 after a three-year hiatus, collectors and dealers were quick to jump on the bandwagon and there were a lot of people who submitted multiple order blanks, each for the maximum. The fact that the 1968 mint sets had “sold out” in a month undoubtedly had an effect as well. The sales wound up at 2,934,631 sets. The Mint did make an effort to spread the sets around by searching for and eliminating duplicate orders, but many of those who procrastinated about getting their orders in failed to receive sets that year.

**Why have we had the Lincoln cent design so long?**

The current law says a design is to be used for a minimum of 25 years. Obviously, if Congress wanted they could change the design practically overnight, as was done with the Kennedy half. However, Lincoln is a favorite and this year we see four new reverses for the 200th anniversary of his birth.

**Next to the Lincoln cent (100 years), what U.S. coins have remained in production the longest?**

The Washington quarter has been struck for 77 years if we count the commemorative reverses. The Coronet eagle, struck from 1838 to 1907 and the Coronet half eagle 1839-1908 are tied at 69 years each, the Coronet quarter eagle made from 1840 to 1907 is 67 years and the Jefferson nickel was struck for 66 years before the new Jefferson obverses began.

**Has anyone compiled percentages of existing examples of old series of coins?**

Walter Breen cites a few figures – an estimated 3 to 6 percent of the large cents surviving, 4 to 8 percent of the early silver and 0.02 to 2 percent of the half cents. Any such figures have to be classed as estimates as there is no known way of determining exact numbers.

**Who or what official body keeps track of the number of coins of any given issue that have survived?**

There is no such body, as there are too many factors involved to keep anything approaching accurate records. In fact, most official meltings of coins are by weight without regard to date or mint. Keeping track of private meltings is virtually impossible since nobody bothers to keep records of denominations or dates melted.