The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 5, January 31, 2021, Article 23


I didn't manage to get this one in last week's issue, but Dennis Tucker has written a nice article on the Mint News Blog about the new Morgan dollars coming out later this year. This is just an excerpt - see the complete article online for more, including a nice bibliography of books on the Morgan dollar. -Editor

2021 Morgan silver dollar rendition obverse 2021 Morgan silver dollar rendition reverse
Mint rendition of the 2021 Morgan silver dollar.

For several generations, the Morgan silver dollar has ranked near the top of the list—if not sitting comfortably in the #1 spot—as the most popular classic American coin. Hobbyists collect them by date and mintmark, by die variety, and sometimes even by the roll or bag. There are folders, albums, display cases, and other ways to store and show off the hefty old coins. Entire books have been written about them. Even people who don't consider themselves coin collectors are familiar with, or at least vaguely aware of, the Morgan dollar. It's part of our national shared culture.

That awareness is about to take a sharp upward turn this year.

Morgan dollars started becoming popular with coin collectors in the 1950s. Then, something remarkable happened. In 1962, as the holiday season approached, bags of silver dollars that had been sealed in the Philadelphia Mint since 1929 were brought out of storage. They would meet the year-end demand from people who liked to give the fancy old-time coins as Christmas gifts. Soon it was discovered that the bags included Brilliant Uncirculated 1903-O dollars—at the time, considered to be the rarest of them all, worth $1,500 apiece! In the treasure hunt that followed, hundreds of thousands of coins of that particular date/mintmark were discovered in beautiful Mint State. Previously experts had estimated only a dozen or so had survived the Pittman Act melt of 1918.

Through 1963 and up to March of 1964, speculators and collectors lined up at banks and the Treasury Building to get their hands on the bagged-up riches. Some people even came with wheelbarrows, traded paper currency for cold hard cash, and left with 1,000-coin canvas sacks to search through. Hundreds of millions of Morgan dollars were brought back into the light of day (and into hobby collections). Then, when there were about three million coins remaining—many of them from the Carson City Mint—the Treasury put a stop to the payouts at face value. The last few million coins were auctioned off by the General Services Administration.

This flurry of activity, excitement, and competition cemented the popularity of the Morgan dollar. Instead of permanently oversaturating the market, the hundreds of millions of coins actually increased the number of active collectors, and values went up with the demand.

For 100 years, collectors have known those 1921 Morgan dollars as the last of their breed—but that's about to change. For 2021, Congress has authorized the minting of new centennial dollars to celebrate the famous coin series and mark the 100th year of its (previously) final issue.

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee convened by videoconference on January 19, 2021, to review designs for the new Morgan dollars. U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Joseph Menna and Ron Harrigal, the Mint's manager of design and engraving, discussed the process of creating the new coins. They will be an "homage" or "rendition" of the old silver dollars, crafted from a variety of Mint assets and records to "honor the original intent of the original artists as much as possible," as Menna said. Harrigal pointed out that the change from the historical .900 fineness to .999 fine silver would cause a minuscule reduction in planchet volume. Modern technology will bring improvements over what was available a century ago. CCAC members reviewed computer-generated illustrations of the new designs and were pleased with the outcome.

The coins are being minted under the 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on January 5, 2021. It "requires the Department of the Treasury to mint and issue coins in honor of the 100th anniversary of the completion of coinage of the Morgan dollar and the 100th anniversary of the commencement of coinage of the Peace dollar." The legislation was the brainchild of two members of the CCAC, chairman Thomas Uram and Michael Moran. Both are longtime numismatists and published researchers active in the hobby community. Several committee members praised Uram and Moran during the January 19 meeting for their persistence and hard work in getting congressional support for the legislation. The two numismatists, in turn, thanked Kentucky congressman Andy Barr, whose faith in them and the project helped bring it from dream to reality.

To read the complete article, see:
The triumphant return of the Morgan silver dollar (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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