On April 15, 2015 Tom DeLorey published an article about the elusive 1895 Morgan dollars. I liked the title so much I borrowed it for
this excerpt. But be sure to read the complete version online. Nice eye for detail and dogged sense of determination are great qualities
for the numismatic researcher looking for that smoking gun to prove or disprove a theory. -Editor
The Morgan dollar has long been one of the most popular American coin series, apparently second only to
the Lincoln cent in the number of people who collect it in some manner, and the 1895-P dollar has long been called “The King of Morgan
However, for an equally long time it has been one of the more frustrating series to the collector who seeks completeness in his sets, as
no numismatist has ever been able to fill the 1895-P hole in his Whitman album or Capital plastic holder with a genuine business strike
specimen, despite a reported mintage of exactly 12,000 coins.
Wealthy collectors have usually been able to fill that hole with one of the 880 Proofs struck in that year.
Though none was ever found, reference books continued to list the 12,000 pieces as having been struck, and collectors held out the hope
that someday, somewhere one of them would turn up. Collectors remembered how the extremely rare 1903-O Morgan dollar, most of which had
indeed disappeared in 1918, became much less rare in 1962 when several hundred thousand pieces were discovered in Treasury vaults, and
various second or third hand reports about findings of so-called business strike 1895’s, invariably circulated Proofs, kept the myth
Even now I hear the numismatic equivalents of “urban legends” about how supposedly the famous coin dealer B. Max Mehl kept an original
bag of 1895-P dollars in his safe, or that the Las Vegas Mafia has two bags, or other such nonsense. Now, however, there is convincing
evidence that the 12,000 business strikes reported for 1895 never existed, or at least that if 12,000 coins were released in 1895 they were
actually dated 1894!
Q. David Bowers, in his monumental “Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States, An Encyclopedia,” presents an amazingly
in-depth reference source of contemporary accounts of all U.S. dollars that could not be duplicated without a lifetime of research. While
having the privilege to read this book in galley form, I noticed a comment from George W. Rice in an article from the June, 1898
Numismatist that I had not seen before, which stated “In 1895, Proofs only, numbering less than 1,000, were struck.”
This comment has generally been overlooked in the modern study of Morgan dollars, yet it clearly states that no business strikes were
known to exist or had even been produced long before the 1918 melting occurred. Bowers also quotes Pennsylvania dealer, ANA Governor and
for many years the ANA’s official counterfeit detector Charles Steigerwalt as writing in “The Curio” in December of 1898 that “Dollars of
1895 from the Philadelphia Mint are only found in the Proof sets.”
Henry T. Hettger has followed up on the questions raised in Bowers’ book with an article published in the May/June 1994 issue of Bowers
and Merena’s “Rare Coin Review” that does prove to my satisfaction that the 1895 business strikes never existed.
As Tom notes, others, no doubt, will have their own opinion. But Kudos to Tom, Dave, Henry and others who investigated this over the
To read the complete article, see:
Coin Profiles – The Phantom Silver
Dollars Of 1895 (www.coinweek.com/coins/coin-profiles/coin-profiles-the-phantom-silver-dollars-of-1895/)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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