Another great article in CoinWeek (published March 11) is an interview by Al Doyle with Wayne Miller, author of the classic book on Morgan and Peace dollars. Here's an excerpt. Be sure to check out the web page, which also includes a video.
How does a person become fascinated with silver dollars? Growing up in a place such as Helena, Montana where Morgan and Peace dollars were a part of daily life meant that Wayne Miller was constantly exposed to the hefty coins at an early age.
“Montana was one of five states where silver dollars were used regularly,” he said. “You were considered a sissy if you used paper $1s.”
Miller set collecting aside while pursuing a BA in social work, but he returned to coins while still in school.
“I went to Washington, D.C. to get my master’s degree,” Miller said “I visited a coin shop in Washington and started getting the bug again, and I began taking orders for customers. Silver certificates couldn’t be redeemed for silver after June 24, 1968, so I spent a year buying them.” Even though he was a small fish in the coin business at that time, Miller made a bold and historic decision in 1968.
“I decided build the finest Morgan dollar set possible,” he recalls. “It took 12 years, then I decided to go for all the proofs. The set had all four of the recognized branch proofs – 1879-O, 1883-O, 1893-CC and 1921-S. The ’93-CC was blazing.”
Most of the coin photos in Miller’s first book on silver dollars came from his collection. Information from the Redfield hoard was included.
“I knew I was going to write a book someday when I was 6 years old,” Miller said. “I didn’t know it was going to be a coin book.” With more than 20,000 soft and hardcover copies sold, An Analysis of Morgan and Peace Dollars was a blockbuster by numismatic publishing standards. Issued in 1983, The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook was also a strong seller.
The surging rare coin and bullion markets of the late 1970s helped provide Miller with the funds to build his collection. The numbers from 35 years ago are staggering even by current standards.
“We sold $198,000 worth of coins in one day at the 1978 ANA convention, and prices were a quarter of what they are today,” he said. “You could make $30,000 in a day at a show. It was a wild time. Prices dropped to nothing in 1982.”
Some might say Miller unloaded his famed collection too soon, as many of the coins soared in value after the set was dispersed. Aside from the natural tendency to sell a collection once the goal has been achieved, there was an important reason to promptly convert the coins to cash.
Half the proceeds of the sale went to build and fund the God’s Love homeless shelter in Helena. The charity is run by Miller’s wife Ann along with qualified staffers. God’s Love is in its 28th year of operation, and it was the subject of a Religion & Ethics segment on PBS-TV. That program is available for viewing on the internet.
To read the complete article, see:
Silver Dollars and Charity – An Interview with Wayne Miller
Wayne Homren, Editor
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