This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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The 1894 Morgan dollar is a low-mintage date from the main facility in Philadelphia. With tough dates from Philadelphia being the exception instead of the rule, the 1894 is an interesting story for anyone interested in Morgan dollars.
The story really begins on Nov. 1, 1893, as that was the date when the July 14, 1890, silver purchasing clause was repealed. The clause had been the legal basis for purchasing large amounts of silver to be made into silver dollars. With that clause, the silver to be potentially used to make silver dollars was limited to a number of regular and smaller sources. That meant large silver dollar mintages were a thing of the past, and the impact of the change was seen almost immediately in small mintage totals for 1893 to be followed by other low totals.
At the time of the repeal, the country was almost buried in silver dollars. The June 1893 edition of The Numismatist reported that it “would require 250 freight cars to carry away the $93,000,000 of silver dollars stored up in a single vault of the U.S. Treasury.”
Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that the 1894 would have a mintage of just 110,000 pieces. It is also not surprising that the 1894 was not likely released in large numbers in 1894.
In addition to the surplus of silver dollars, the country was also experiencing tough economic times. While the 1893 depression was easing, the economy was still very uncertain. There was also a real weakness in the rare coin market of the day, according to published reports. Even with the second-lowest business strike total in the Morgan dollar set, there was little if any demand for the 1894 from the nation’s collectors and dealers.
Precisely what happened to the 110,000 1894 Morgan dollars is an interesting question. It is possible that some of the mintage might have been destroyed in the Pittman Act melting in 1918.
Thanks to its mintage, the 1894 seems to be a date that was quickly recognized as being better. As bags would appear from Treasury vaults, they were more likely to be noticed and saved. However, the numbers are still sparse.
There are no real supplies of the 1894 in any grade. We can see that reflected in a VG-8 price of $1,425. There are very few other Morgan dollars that top $1,000 in VG-8.
The 1894 does not really get any more available in higher grades. In MS-60, it lists at $3,650. In MS-65, the current price is $49,000. The one good thing is that the 1894 is usually very nice in upper grades.
It may not command the top-grade prices as some others do, but don’t be fooled. The 1894 is tough in any grade and one of the real keys to the set.