Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Morgan Silver Dollar

The Morgan silver dollar is perhaps considered the most popular US silver dollar in existence, not just for the silver content or the beauty of the coin but also for its fascinating history.

Around a billion of the Morgan were minted in various mints around the county at different times. From New Orleans to Carson City and from San Francisco to Philadelphia where they are minted up to the present day. Relatively inexpensive, this was a coin that was introduced in 1878 mainly due to political pressure from silver mine owners to reinstitute silver dollars after production had been halted 5 years earlier. The lobbying was successful and the government of the day passed the Bland-Alluison Act resulting in the government purchasing millions of ounces of silver to turn into silver dollar coins.

The government contracted a young designer by the name of George T Morgan to design and engrave a new silver dollar. Morgan then engaged a young school teacher, Anna Williams, to sit for him so he could engrave her image as the "liberty Head" on the obverse of the coin. Anna became quite famous as a result of this sitting and her image being engraved on the nation's silver dollars. The reverse of the coin depicts an eagle resulting in the coin sometimes being referred to as the "buzzard dollar"

The coin is 38.1 millimeters in diameter, has a weight of 26.73 grams. Its composition is .900 silver, .100 copper and the silver weight is .77344 ounce of pure silver.

To add to the romanticism of the story, many Morgans were melted down in the 1960 as the price of silver rose and people were keen to cash their silver in. It has been estimated that there was only around 17-18 percent of the original strikes of the Morgan Silver Dollar still surviving today.

The in the 1970s a cache of 400,000 Morgan silver dollars were found in the home of the deceased Nevada eccentric, La Vere Redfield. They were eventually sold at auction to A-Mark Coins for 7.3 million dollars US. That was 18 dollars US per coin. Instead of selling these coins enmass, the dealer, in cooperation with other dealers, slowly trickled these coins onto the market, not only maintaining the price and value of the coins but also bringing into the market new collectors.

Then again another hoard of Morgan silver coins were found and distributed in the early 1980s. These were known as the Continental Bank Hoard and in that hoard there were 1.5 million silver coins

Morgan silver dollars have remained one of the favourite coins of collectors and will probably continue to do so for many years to come.

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