1901 Morgan Silver Dollar Value
Finest Known: MS65 (NGC) MS66 (PCGS, unique)
Auction Record: $587,500 (MS66)
Image: USA CoinBook
The Philadelphia Mint struck 6.9 million Morgan dollars in 1901. A number were released into circulation soon afterwards. PCGS estimates that about 10% of the 6.9 million total mintage survive in all grades today.
No 1901s were apparently released in the great Morgan dollar Treasury disbursements of the 1950s and 1960s, leading numismatists to assume that nearly the entire mintage was melted down in 1918 under the Pittman Act. Seeing as how the bags of Mint State 1901s would be sitting at the front of the Treasury vaults, this is a logical assumption.
The Value of a 1901 Morgan Dollar
The 1901 Morgan dollar seems like nothing special, when looking at the mintage of over 6.9 million coins. In circulated grades, it carries a modest premium. But in uncirculated condition, the 1901 Morgan dollar is the rarest of all Philadelphia business strikes, except for the 1895 Morgan, which has no surviving non-proof coins at all. This makes the 1901 one of the great Mint State rarities in the entire history of the Morgan dollar. With nearly no Mint State 1901 Morgan dollars (less than 200 are believed at MS63 and above), Almost Uncirculated examples are sometimes used as "stand-ins".
Unfortunately, most 1901 Morgan dollars have a soft strike that is more often associated with mintages from New Orleans. Some of the higher grade coins still extant do exhibit a sharper strike with more mint luster.
There have been no MS65 1901 Morgan dollars appear at auction in ten years. The sole surviving MS66 (PCGS) coin holds the world auction record for a 1901 Morgan, selling for $587,500 in the October 2015 Legends auction of the Coronet Collection.
Because of the extreme rarity of 1901 Morgans in Mint State, frauds and counterfeits abound. Beware of 1901-O or 1901-S Morgan dollars that have had their mint mark filed off, so to pass them off as a 1901 from the Philadelphia Mint. Experts strongly urge collectors looking at 1901 Morgans in AU condition or above to only purchase coins authenticated, graded, and slabbed by one of the major third-party grading services.
1901 Morgan Dollar Price Guide
|Very Fine||Extremely Fine||About Uncirculated|
|Mint State 61||Mint State 63||Mint State 65||Auction Record (MS66)|
The information on this page does not constitute an offer to buy or sell the coin(s) referred to. Statistics are for Mint State coins only. Proof and prooflike examples of this issue may have greater or lesser "finest known" and different record auction prices.
Grading Morgan Dollars
The guidelines below will apply to all Morgan dollars, not just the 1901-P.
Coins are usually graded on a scale from 1 to 70, with 1 being something hardly recognizable, and 70 being a coin with zero post-mint defects visible, even under 5x magnification. This scale, called the Sheldon Scale, became popular in the 1960s. Grading guidelines have been developed by the American Numismatic Association (among others) and the advent of professional coin grading services.
THE HIGH POINTS WHERE SIGNS OF WEAR FIRST APPEAR ON MORGAN DOLLARS:
- Top of cheek
- Hair over ear
- Curls over date
- Top of cap
- Eagle's breast
- Eagle's legs
- Eagle's head
- Right wingtip
PRIME FOCAL AREAS ON MORGAN DOLLARS
- Face and neck of Liberty
- The field in front of Liberty's face
- Body and wings of the eagle
- Fields to sides of wings and above eagle's head
A Very Fine (VF35) Morgan dollar will have light to moderate overall wear. High points on the obverse will show some flattening and loss of detail, but all major and some minor details are still present. Most of the mint luster will be gone. Liberty's cheek will show moderate abrasion. Her hair from her forehead to over her ear will show flatness, as will the high points of her cloth cap. The cotton bolls will be missing minor detail, and the cotton leaves will have flat portions.
On the reverse, the eagle's breast and legs are worn nearly flat. A few hints of feathers may be seen on the edges of the breast. The wingtips are worn, but all wing feathers are present.
The XF45 Extremely Fine Morgan dollar will retain nearly all of its details. Approximately half the mint luster will remain. There will be light wear on the high points on both sides. There will usually be a light amount of cheek abrasion, but less than that found on the VF35 coin. Liberty's hairline will be full, with some light flatness. The bolls of cotton will show most minor details, and the edges of the cotton leaves will be slightly flat.
The eagle on the reverse will display some feathers on the head and the sides of the breast and legs. Most of the wing feathers will retain small details, the exception being the right wingtip.
An AU55 Almost Uncirculated Morgan dollar will only have extremely light to barely visible wear on the highest points of the coin. Eye appeal will almost always be greater than that of the lower Mint State coins. Mint luster should be complete, except on Liberty's cheek and the highest points of her hair and cap. All feathers on the eagle should be present and detailed. Any nicks and scratches should be small and inconspicuous.
Uncirculated Morgan Dollars
Uncirculated coins are those that were never paid out to the public before being acquired by a collector or coin dealer. Uncirculated coins have no wear, and no "post-Mint" damage. That doesn't mean that they are all completely undamaged, however. When coins intended for circulation are produced, there is no special care taken with them after they roll off the coin press.
Loads of Morgan dollars would be poured from holding bins at each coin press, into automatic counting machines. These machines filled large U.S. Mint canvas bags with 1000 Morgan dollars each. These bags were then piled on carts and sent to holding vaults. Loads of these $1000 Mint bags were shipped to the Treasury Department, where they were stored until a bank ordered silver dollars.
You can see how Morgan dollars (or any coin) could get banged up this way. No matter how much a coin got damaged in storage, they had no circulation wear, which is the only criteria to be Mint State. Scratches and deeper damage on Mint State coins received from mass storage is called "bag marks" to distinguish it from circulation damage.
The Mint did nothing wrong by treating them like this. Coins were expected to get nicked, scratched, and worn out in everyday use. Collectors that wanted an unblemished coin ordered a proof coin directly from the Philadelphia Mint. These coins were carefully handled and struck one at a time using special dies.
Mint State 61
A MS60 of MS61 Mint State Morgan dollar has never been paid out to the public, but that's about all they have going for them (unless they are a rare mintage). They will have significant heavy and light damage across the main focal points. It is rare to see anyone pay to have a MS61 coin graded, since there is no market for them in most dates.
Mint State 63
A Mint State MS63 Morgan dollar is considered the average grade for most Morgan dollar mintages. The tradeoff between condition and price make MS63 a popular grade for many collectors. A MS63 Morgan dollar will have a full mint luster. It will have fewer marks and scratches than a MS61 coin, but still enough to impair its eye appeal.
Mint State 65
In many mintages, the MS65 Morgan dollar is the highest practical grade for most collectors. This grade used to be known as "Gem Uncirculated," and once you see one, it's obvious why. MS65 Morgan dollars will exhibit a very attractive eye appeal. It will display full mint luster, and a sharp strike. Any bag marks should be few and far between. Liberty's cheek and the eagle's breast may show slight abrasion from sliding against other coins and the sides of the canvas bag itself.