1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar Value
Finest Known: MS68 (NGC) MS67+ (PCGS)
Auction Record: $19,200 (MS67)
Image: USA CoinBook
Morgan dollar production in 1921 was totally unnecessary. Literally millions of untouched Morgan dollars filled Treasury vaults. However, the Pittman Act forced the US Mint to replace 270 million silver dollars that had been melted in World War I.
Since it was 99% certain that these new Morgan dollars would never see the light of day, the U.S. Mint made new shallow relief coin dies to get the most mileage possible from each die. This means that all 1921 Morgan dollars have a mushy appearance, even when fully struck.
The 1921-S Morgan dollar is exceedingly common. The 21.6 million mintage that year in San Francisco was the highest annual Morgan dollar mintage ever at the Mint. Even though millions of 1921-S Morgan dollars were melted in 1942 for the war effort, there are more than enough remaining for collectors today.
The Value of A 1921-S Morgan Dollar
The soft strike on the 1921-S Morgan dollar means that most of them lack much eye appeal. Traditionally, this issue is considered one of the worst looking Morgans. Demand is mostly for curiosity's sake, or to fill out a collection.
1921-S Morgan Dollar Price Guide
|Very Fine 25||Extremely Fine 45||About Uncirculated 55|
|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 value of a Morgan dollar depends on its rarity and condition. Like anything else, the better the coin's condition, the more it is worth. Prices show a substantial jump as their condition reaches mid-level uncirculated grades.
Determining the condition of a coin is called "grading." The coin grading scale, for reasons too lengthy to cover here, goes from 1 to 70. A Mint State 70 coin (MS70) is completely flawless, even when examined under 5x magnification. This level of detail was impossible with the coining technology of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
THE HIGH POINTS WHERE SIGNS OF WEAR FIRST APPEAR ON MORGAN DOLLARS
There are a few high points on the Morgan dollar that will be worn down first. Other than rarity, the amount of wear in these high places is what drives most of the value of the coin.
- Top of cheek
- Hair over ear
- Curls over date
- Top of cap
- Eagle's breast
- Eagle's legs
- Eagle's head
- Right wingtip
Note that some mintages of Morgan dollars may have been weakly struck at the Mint. Morgan dollars minted at the San Francisco and New Orleans Mints are more likely to have weak strikes than those produced at Philadelphia. A weakly struck Morgan dollar may be missing some fine detail, but this does not mean that the coin is worn. Be aware if the coin you are looking at is from a date known for weak strikes.
PRIME FOCAL AREAS ON MORGAN DOLLARS
There are certain places on a Morgan dollar where damage is far more noticeable. Damage in these "focal areas" will affect the grade a Morgan dollar achieves, more than damage in other places.
- 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 VF25 Very Fine Morgan dollar will have light to moderate wear. Wear will be greater on the high points of the coin. Bag marks or circulation damage may be present in prime focal areas, keeping this coin from a higher grade. High points will show some flattening and loss of detail, but all major and many minor details are still present. Most or all mint luster will be gone.
Liberty's hair will show flatness along the hairline above the forehead, over the ear, and down next to the date. Liberty's cheek might show moderate abrasion. The top of Liberty's cap will show wear. The cotton bolls in Liberty's crown will have some minor detail worn away. The cotton leaves will also exhibit flatness.
The top of the eagle's breast and legs will be worn smooth. The head and neck will be worn, but not to the same extent. The talons will be flat. The leaves of the wreath will be distinct, but with many showing wear. All wing feathers will be present, but some will be missing detail. The right wingtip will be worn.
The XF45 Extremely Fine Morgan dollar will exhibit light wear overall, focused on the usual high points. Nearly all minor details are present and well defined. It might display up to half of the original mint luster. Again, marks or circulation damage may prevent this coin from earning a higher grade.
Liberty's hairline is full, with some flatness on the high points above the eye and ear. The hair retains fine strands, giving the face a more detailed appearance. Mild wear has taken the luster from Liberty's cheek, but it retains its full shape. The cotton bolls are beginning to exhibit minor details. Flatness is evident on the top of the bolls and the edges of the cotton leaves. The high point of the cap is flat.
Feathers are beginning to show on the eagle's breast. The head and neck are more detailed, but retain some flatness. The legs show major details on the sides, but the tops are worn. The talons are slightly flat. Most wing feathers are well-defined. The right wing shows wear across 25% of the wing. The edge of the left wing will show some wear.
An AU55 About Uncirculated Morgan dollar will present very light friction or wear, but only on the high points. Mint luster should be complete, or nearly so. Scratches and marks should be small and unobtrusive. An AU55 Morgan dollar should present positive eye appeal, even when compared to low-grade Mint State coins.
Slight rubbing or friction may be seen at the regular high points. Liberty's hair will display high detail. The cotton and wheat in the hairband will have full detail. The cheek may show impaired or missing luster.
The reverse should present full detail, aside from faint rubbing on the high points of the eagle (the head, breast, top of the legs, and talons.)
Mint State Morgan Dollars
Mint State (Uncirculated) coins are those that remained in sealed canvas Mint bags before being acquired by a coin collector. As a rule, these coins will have complete mint luster, and no "post-Mint" damage. However, when talking about Mint State coins, "uncirculated" does not mean "undamaged."
That last detail is important, because while Mint State Morgan dollars were never paid out (people preferred paper silver certificates), they could still see substantial damage from being slung around in the giant canvas bags the same way bags of quarters, nickels, dimes, and cents were. The damage coins receive from banging into one another is called "bag marks."
No matter how beat up a Morgan dollar looks, if there is no circulation wear and it retains mint luster, it will grade as Mint State. This is why Mint State coins are graded from MS60 (worst) to MS70 (perfect). Because Morgan dollars were handled like any other circulation coin, there will never be a perfect MS70 Morgan dollar
Mint State 61
A MS61 Mint State Morgan dollar will have substantial mint damage. Much of this damage will be in prime focal areas (see "What Are The Prime Focal Areas On Morgan Dollars", above.) Many large and small bag marks, and even gouges make this coin unattractive. It is readily apparent when a coin is going to grade as low as MS61. Coin collectors will not waste money having such a coin professionally graded, unless it is a rare mintage.
Mint State 63
Mint State MS63 (and MS64) Morgan dollars are more attractive than lower grades, with good strikes and mint luster. They will still have enough marks or scuffs to be distracting. Some of these will be in prime focal areas. None will be heavy or particularly detracting. MS63 and MS64 are the most popular grades of Morgan dollars. They're nicer than the MS60-MS62 coins, and not nearly as expensive as MS65 ones.
Mint State 65
A Mint State 65 Morgan dollar is also known as "Gem Uncirculated," with good reason. It will have a sharp strike, and full, attractive luster. It will show scattered, light marks, with none in the prime focal areas. The eagle's breast or Liberty's cheek may display light friction from the time the coin spent in a bulk canvas bag in Treasury vaults The far higher attractiveness of a MS65 Morgan dollar explains the large difference in price when compared to a MS63 of the same date.
Mint State 66
MS66 Morgan dollars are rare, even when compared to a MS65. They will have a clean, sharp strike. The MS66 Morgan dollar boasts a pleasing, full original luster. It has very few, very light marks or imperfections that barely detract from the coin's very attractive appearance.