An interesting topic presented itself to me this morning in my email.
I will share the contents with you as well as my answer to the question below.
“I was recently on vacation in Arizona and while in Tombstone I took a tour of an old silver mine called the Good Enough Mine.
"The tour guide said that if anyone wanted some silver that was extracted from the mine to buy an 1880-O or 1881-O Morgan dollar.
“I want to do that, as a remembrance of my trip, but is there any way to tell if the tour guide was speaking the truth, or making something up as tour guides have been known to do?
“I tried doing some research online on both the Good Enough Mine and the 1880-O and 1881-O Morgans, but I am unable to find anything on where the silver came from for those coins.
"Is there some reference available that tracks that type of information?”
End of email.
I am not aware of any such handy reference, but naturally, my answer is much longer than that simply statement.
This is how I responded:
“Sounds like a great story, but the truth of it seems questionable.
"Most silver of the time came from the Comstock Lode in Nevada and any that might have found its way out of Arizona would have been overwhelmed in the flood of the other silver.
“Certainly claiming entire mintages for 1880-O and 1881-O would be made of Arizona silver sounds fanciful.
There were 5,305,000 silver dollars struck in New Orleans in 1880. In 1881 the total was a similar 5,708,000. The combined total is 11,013,000. That works out to 8,517,454 troy ounces of silver turned into silver dollars in those two years.
"There were two processing mills in the area that I found in a Google search. At their peak they processed $1.4 million in silver combined in a year 1881-1882.
"If all of this silver were shipped to New Orleans in either year, that would have been an amount roughly 26 percent of the silver used for dollars by New Orleans.
“I also found online that there were 25 mines in the mining district. Now they all wouldn’t have had the same output, but if we assume they did, that means roughly 1 percent of all the silver that New Orelans used in dollars could have been supplied by the Good Enough Mine.
"If this mine had a much larger share, you are still talking roughly 5 percent or 10 percent of the silver that might have been used in the silver dollars.
“Did all of the silver from the mine get shipped to New Orleans? Did all of it end up at the mint there? Was it all coined into dollars?
“Even if you believe the answers are yes to all of those questions, most of the dollars struck in 1880 and 1881 in New Orleans would be made of silver from somewhere else.
“I am going to turn this question into a blog post. The experts can look at it and point out any flaws in my logic.
"To sum up, I can write that many years ago Krause Publications used to publish titles about the wild West. The contents were mostly made up. They were Mark Twain type stories.
“But who doesn’t like a good tale about the frontier?
“As someone who grew up watching “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke,” I sure do.
“Anyone who wants to buy a silver dollar to remember a good time out West, has my support, but I cannot provide any proof of the origin of the silver in it.”
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."