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One of the most collected coins of the XX century: The Morgan Silver Dollar

By rcintas on the

Over the past weeks, we have been talking about the commemorative coins of 2 euros minted throughout 2017 (part1, part2 and part3) and also the new coins that will be minted next year. This week we travel to the past, as we are going to talk about one of the most collected coins: The Morgan Dollar.

Dollar Morgan

It’s common that whenever we think of dollars, the image of the omnipresent dollar bill comes to our minds, but this has not always been the case. At the end of the 19th century, a large number of coins of one dollar value were minted. 

Without a doubt, the best known and precious dollar right now is the "Morgan Silver Dollar". It is the most popular currency among American collectors and we will focus on its history.

In 1876, the Director of the Mint House, Henry Richard Linderman redesigned the US silver coins. This work was commissioned from George Morgan, an English engraver who had assumed the position of assistant engraver at the Philadelphia Mint House.

Anna and eagle, Morgan dollar coin models

George Morgan designed the coin in 1876, using for the obverse a portrait of an American girl, an 18-year-old student, Anna Willess Williams in a profile portrait representing freedom. The reverse shows a bald eagle with the wings extended. This new dollar was coined in the United States of America from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921.

As with many other currencies, for example the current German coins, there is more than one mint house in charge of minting them. Between the mints that minted the Morgan dollar we find:

  • CC (Carson City, Nevada)
  • D (Denver, Colorado)
  • O (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • S (San Francisco, California)
  • Unbranded (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Of all the coins, the most valuable are those that contain the CC trademark because they are the smallest coins and those minted as proof in Philadelphia.

Another characteristic of this coin is the consistency of its design, which didn't vary  much over all the minted years. In order to comply with the Law of the 1837 coin, the Morgan dollar contains 90% pure silver and 10% copper. The measures are 38.1 millimeters of diameter and the weight of 26.73 g. Let's look more closely at the design of both sides of the coin:

The obverse of the coin shows an allegory of Lady Liberty represented by the profile of woman looking to the left. The woman is wearing a crown of cotton and wheat branches, also a tiara with the legend "LIBERTY". Surrounding the image of the woman, at the top, one of the main slogans of the United States appears: "E PLURIBUS UNUM". The motto means "out of many, one" and was established during the War of American Independence. If we look closer, the motto has 13 letters, the same number of stars that appear in the currency, representing the 13 original colonies that became independent of the United Kingdom, and next to them, the date of minting.

The reverse of the coin has a bald eagle with its wings open and holding between its claws an olive branch as a symbol of peace. There are also three arrows that recall the thirteen arrows on the national shield of the United States. Above the eagle we see the national motto of the USA "IN GOD WE TRUST". On the outside of the coin, the name of the issuing country "United States of America" appears together with the face value "One Dollar". Finally, above the the facial value but under the eagle, there is the mint mark on the inscription.

In addition to this iconic coin, coins of 1 dollar are still being minted. Among them we can highlight those dedicated to the Olympics.

Or the new collection dedicated to the presidents of the United States.

Apart from these dollar coins, the quarter coins dedicated to the American states are also very collectible coins.