Key Date Morgan Dollars: Colleting Tips and Prices
As any Morgan dollar enthusiast could attest, there are many key dates in this silver dollar series! Count the myriad rare varieties listed by numismatic authors Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis as published in their 1971 work Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars, and the number easily crosses into the hundreds.
Indeed, entire volumes can be written about rare Morgan dollars. However, in this review, we’ll look at the most widely regarded and popular regular-issue key dates. These are coins which are scarce or rare regardless of grade.
Morgan Dollar Key Dates & What They're Worth
1893 s morgan silver dollar
The price chart below includes all of the key-date Morgan dollars.
*Prices are for coins that aren’t cleaned or exhibit other signs of damage and are typical representatives of their grade.
Collecting Morgan Dollars & The Key Dates
1921 Morgan silver dollar
If you would like to build a Morgan dollar collection, you’ll see here that the prices of some coins in the series are truly astronomical. This may dissuade some collectors at first glance. Yet many hobbyists decide to pursue the series regardless.
The Morgan dollar is what many collectors refer to as a lifetime coin collection. That is, it's a goal that is tackled over the course of many decades. Some of the best Morgan dollar collections around are the culmination of many years of hard work. When taken as a long-term objective, building a complete Morgan dollar collection can be a financially obtainable goal—though one for which several dates may require saving your money for many months, even years.
Some of the ways a collector may assemble a set of Morgan dollars is to arrange them in folders, albums, or holders. Also popular these days is collecting Morgan dollars certified by third-party grading services. These coins can then be included in a registry set.
A registry set is essentially an inventory of coins in one’s collection that is published online and made available for public viewing. These sets are given grade-point averages based on the coin’s labeled grade. The sets with the highest grade-point averages are usually recognized with awards presented by the respective grading company. This can be a highly competitive and fun way to build a collection of Morgan dollars or any other coin series.
There are generally two approaches to building a set of Morgan dollars. One is to buy all the least expensive, most common dates first to fill as many holes (literal or figurative) in the set. Then you save the rarest, priciest coins for last.
The other approach is to buy the most expensive coins first and then save the common ones for later. There are advantages to each strategy.
The former approach provides plenty of instant gratification to the collector who wants to see her album fill up with silver dollars. The latter gets the most valuable coins out of the way before they possibly become too expensive to afford.
Disadvantages? The first approach means buying the expensive dates in the future, when they may cost way more to buy. The second tack will likely leave a lot of empty holes in the collection—gaping holes that may remain so for a very long time.
Of course, if you’ve got deep pockets and loads of ambition, you might just work as quickly as possible on building a complete set of Morgan dollars, keys and all. The only thing that stands in the way of that method is finding the right coins. That can sometimes prove quite difficult, even if you’ve got all the money in the world.
The toughest dates are sometimes extremely challenging to come by and, when they do appear in the marketplace, they may not carry the quality or eye appeal you want for your collection. So goes the joy, challenge, and mystique of collecting Morgan dollars! It’s little wonder why this beloved series has lured generations of collectors and continues appealing to numismatists of all ages!
More About the Morgan Silver Dollar
Few would argue with the claim that Morgan dollars are the most popular United States collectible coin, aside from Lincoln cents.
This hefty silver coin has enthralled American coin collectors for generations. Minted from 1878 through 1921, it was originally and officially called the "Liberty Head Dollar" per the United States Mint. The coin has since been dubbed the "Morgan" dollar as an homage to the coin's celebrated designer, George T. Morgan.
The Morgan dollar holds great mystique for collectors. Many have been intrigued about the identity of the woman who appears on the obverse of the coin. While serving as a symbolic depiction of Miss Liberty, the lady on the coin is none other than Anna Willess Williams. Williams was a 20-year-old Philadelphia teacher whom Morgan used as his model for the coin.
Anna Willess Williams, the model for the Morgan dollar design
Then there are the numismatic curiosities about Morgan dollars, including its connections with the Old West, a time and place romantically depicted in Western TV shows, movies, and novels. The Morgan dollar was widely used in the expanding American frontier during the turn of the century. It has been frequently featured in these Western stories ever since.
Only further epitomizing the Morgan Dollar’s Old West connections is the fact that the coin was produced at the Carson City Mint in Nevada. Many of these so-called “CC” mint Morgan dollars from Carson City are among the rarest of all the coins in the series. They, along with several other issues, comprise the litany of Morgan dollar key dates. The key dates are highly scarce, quite valuable, and very much in demand.
While most every Morgan dollar is conditionally rare in the better Mint State grades, there are several dates that are scarce, even elusive, in any grade. These key-date Morgan dollars are the coins that are listed above, along with prices and other important information.
Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a journalist, editor, and blogger who has won multiple awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild. He has also authored numerous books, including works profiling the history of the United States Mint and United States coinage.
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