1903-O Morgan Silver Dollar Value
Finest Known: MS67+ (NGC) MS67+ (PCGS)
Auction Record: $8,519 (MS67)
Image: USA CoinBook
The 1903-O Morgan dollar was once considered the rarest Morgan dollar in existence. Most dealers and even the richest collectors had never seen one. This made the 1903-O THE key date Morgan dollar, more rare than even the 1893-S.
Contemporary accounts in the early part of the 20th century estimated ten or fewer 1903-O Morgans existed, out of a mintage of almost four and a half million coins. Common consensus was that they had all been melted in 1918 under the Pittman Act.
This changed in October 1962. A small bank in Michigan had started handing out Mint State 1903-O Morgan dollars. Early the next year, a bank in Helena, Montana began distributing 1903-O Morgan dollars. Soon, bags upon bags of the legendary coin were emerging from Treasury vaults. No one knows for sure how many 1903-O Morgan dollars were released in the early 1960s. Some say less than 100,000 and some say more than 1 million coins.
The Value of A 1903-O Morgan Dollar
It seems that practically the entire mintage of 1903-O and 1904-O Morgan dollars went straight from the coining press to the vault at the New Orleans Mint. Even though the Mint itself ceased operation in 1909, these silver dollars laid undisturbed in its vaults for another 20 years. In 1929, they were shipped from New Orleans to Philadelphia, where they promptly went into long-term storage for the next 33 years.
The minimal moving around of the dollar-filled canvas bags meant that 1903-O Morgan dollars generally have fewer bag marks than other silver dollars of the era. Many have retained a beautiful luster. Strike quality can vary from unremarkable to sharp.
It is still considered a scarce coin, with PCGS estimating around 445,000 1903-O Morgan dollars exist in all grades - one-tenth the original mintage. The vast majority apparently went into the smelter in 1918 to be sold as bullion to Great Britain.
1903-O Morgan Dollar Price Guide
|Very Fine||Extremely Fine||About Uncirculated|
|Mint State 61||Mint State 63||Mint State 65||Auction Record (MS67)|
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 1903-O.
Aside from the date, the condition of a coin has the greatest effect on its value. Naturally, if there are two coins of the same date, the nicer one is worth more. Determining the condition of a coin is known as "grading" it. The industry-standard scale runs from 1 to 70, with 70 being the "flawless" coin. To earn a grade of 70, the coin must have absolutely no defects or damage, even when viewed under 5x magnification.
Because everyone has different levels of experience and different opinions, grading coins is still a very subjective subject. To meet the demand for accurately graded coins, professional grading companies were formed. Two of the largest are NGC and PCGS. These companies hire numismatic experts to give "third party" assessments of coins. Logically known as third party grading services, these companies authenticated and grade coins, then seal them in a tamper-proof clear plastic shell called a slab.
A slabbed coin gives buyers that extra peace of mind when they are deciding which coins to buy. Due to the cost, though, people usually only submit rare and high quality coins for grading.
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 overall wear. All major details and much of the coin's minor details are visible. There may be light to moderate abrasion on Liberty's cheek. Minor bag marks or circulation damage will affect eye appeal. The base of Liberty's hairline and the hair over her ear will be worn, but most strands of hair will be visible. Minor detail will be missing from the cotton balls in her headband, and the outer parts of the cotton leaves with be worn.
The breast and legs on the eagle will be flat. The neck will be worn. Some traces of feathers on the sides of the eagle's breast may be visible. All wing feathers will be present, but show some wear. The tail feathers between the eagle's legs are worn, but present. The right wing will show wear.
The Extremely Fine (XF45) Morgan dollar will have very light wear overall, mostly on the high points. All major and most minor detail is visible. There may be minor cheek abrasion. Liberty's hairline will be full, with some flatness on the highest part. The hair over the ear will be similar. A good bit of minor detail will show on the cotton balls. The edges of the cotton leaves will display minor wear.
The breast and legs of the eagle will be lightly worn, with more traces of feathers visible than on a VF coin. The tail feathers between the legs are prominent. The right wing will show wear on the high points.
There should be no more than barely visible wear on an About Uncirculated (AU55) Morgan dollar. At a casual glance, the coin should almost pass as Uncirculated. This coin will not only be far more attractive than lesser grades of circulated coins, it should be more attractive than lower grade Uncirculated (Mint State) Morgans. All details should be present and pleasing to the eye. Any nicks or scratches, if present, should be tiny and unobtrusive. None should be in prime focal points. An AU55 Morgan dollar should have nearly complete mint luster, except for the high point of the cheek.
All feathers and features on the eagle will be present. Only the very slightest of wear will be visible.
Uncirculated Morgan Dollars
An Uncirculated, or Mint State Morgan dollar is one that was never paid out to the public before a collector or dealer purchased it. A Mint State coin cannot show any wear at all. Wear signifies that it circulated. Mint State coins are graded from 60 to 70, with 70 being a flawless coin.
Just because a coin is Uncirculated does not mean that it is undamaged. Because Morgan dollars were intended to be used in everyday commerce, just like a quarter or a nickel, there was no special care taken during their production. Morgan dollars were struck as fast as possible, to meet the demands of the Bland-Allison and Sherman Silver Purchase Acts.
When the high-speed coining press ejected a newly-minted Morgan dollar, it went into a hopper. The coins were gathered from the hoppers of each press, then poured into an automated counting machine that bagged them in 1,000-coin bags. These bags were then sewn shut and put on a cart, then wheeled into a vault where the bags were stacked for storage. When a bank ordered Morgan dollars, one or more sacks of dollars were shipped out by truck and rail.
As you can see, there was plenty of chances for the Morgan dollars to clash and scrape together. That's why severely damaged coins that have never left their Mint bag are still considered Mint State. They've never circulated, no matter how ugly they are.
Mint State 61
Mint State 61 (MS61) coins are frankly ugly. Even a sharp strike is severely marred by the many contact marks and scratches the coin has suffered. Some of the mint damage can be deep and across main focal areas such as Liberty's face and the area in front of the face.
Mint State 63
A MS63 Morgan dollar will have fair eye appeal. MS63 is considered the "average" Mint State Morgan dollar condition. Most Mint State Morgan dollars will be MS63 or MS64.
Liberty's cheek will show far less abrasion than a MS61 coin. A MS63 Morgan dollar will have enough marks to impair its appearance, but no heavy marks. Mint luster will be full.
Mint State 65
A Mint State 65 Morgan dollar is a very attractive coin. The strike will be sharp, compared to other coins of the same date, and will display full mint luster. There will only be a few marks, all of them very light. MS65 coins are also known as "gem uncirculated," for good reason.