They were called "The Coins Jesse James Never Got!" And it was true, he didn't get them, but in fairness, neither did Frank James, Cole Younger, Bob Younger, John Younger, Jim Younger or any other bank-, train- or stage-robbing Western outlaw. Why? Because the coins in question were part of the General Services Administrations' June 1, 1973 to July 31, 1973 sale of excess silver dollars still in government vaults—most having languished there since their minting in the 19th century.
The sale was the second in a series of GSA disposals of nearly 3 million silver dollars, largely from the Carson City Mint, that remained in Treasury's hands. The first sale, "The Great Silver Sale," was held from Oct. 31, 1972 to Jan. 31, 1973. Others followed, in 1974, wrapping up with "The Last of the Carson City Dollars," running from July 1, 1980 to July 31, 1980.
The government hoard included some rarities, but what was remarkable was the percentage of certain relatively low-mintage CC dates from 1880-1885 that were included.
For instance, out of an original mintage of 1,136,000 1884-CC Morgans, the GSA holdings included 962,638 coins (or 84.74 percent). The 1885-CC, with a scant mintage of 228,000, would likely otherwise be a rarity. However, 755,518 coins (65.04 percent) survived to be offered by the GSA.
Original mintages and percentages for the other 1880-1885 CC dates not already mentioned included: 1880-CC (591,000), 22.60 percent; 1881-CC (296,000), 49.83 percent; 1882-CC (1,133,000), 53.40 percent; and 1883-CC (1,136,000), 62.75 percent.
Although rules for participation varied from sale to sale, "The Coins Jesse James Never Got!" offering was divided into nine sales categories, all of which required participants to place bids. Under GSA rules, a bidder could bid on one coin from each of the nine categories, but no collector could bid on more than nine coins.
If the category sold out, the coins would go to the highest bidders. In one group, "The Potluck!", the minimum bid was as low as $3 per coin for the offering of 95,000 circulated Morgan and Peace dollars from various mints (you couldn't chose date or mint) and $5 for the 28,000 uncirculated Morgan and Peace dollars from various mints, also featured in this group.
The highest minimum bid was $30, which applied to several categories of uncirculated CC dollar selections. (A complete breakdown can be found for this and the other sales in Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection, (Krause Publications, 2001).
By the conclusion of the Jesse James sale, the GSA had received 1 million bids for 453,000 coins, leaving a little over 1.7 million silver dollars left to be disposed of.
The most popular categories were those with the lowest minimum bids. The average bid for circulated coins in the "The Potluck!" was $3.90 per coin, while the average bid for the uncirculated coins was $7.66, but some bids ran up to $200.
Those coins mentioned earlier, with large percentages of their mintages still existing, were the least popular. For instance, of the roughly 521,000 1884-CC dollars offered, just 51,500 bids were received. Minimum bid on these was $30.
Today the GSA sales are a popular topic among collectors, who can still obtain the coins in original GSA packaging, including those that Jesse James never got.