1893 – S Morgan Silver Dollar
The United States began facing an economic crisis in 1893 due to the collapse of two of the country's largest employers, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company thereby resulting in a panic on the stock market that deeply affected every sector of the economy. As a result, President Grover Cleveland lobbied Congress for a repeal of the coinage provisions of the Sherman Silver Act, which resulted in much lower mintages of silver coins like the Morgan Dollar. An imbalance in the value of gold and silver at the time also contributed to the low mintage.
Of the 100,000 coins struck, many were more than likely melted down under the terms of the 1918 Pittman Act. It is extremely difficult to find 1893 Morgan’s in a Mint State and most are heavily worn but even those in their best condition feature a unique characteristic where they display a diagonal die scratch in the top of the T in LIBERTY. In fact, the 1893-S Morgan’s are of the lowest mintage and most valuable coins of any other of the dates made for circulation. Superb examples of the 1893-S have sold for more than $500,000.
The obverse of the coin depicts a left-facing profile portrait of Liberty, whom, it was decided, should be depicted as an American woman rather than a classical Greek figure. Morgan based his Liberty portrait on American teacher Anna Willess Williams, who he considered having the perfect profile. Along the obverse’s bottom edge are 13 six-pointed stars, representing the original Thirteen Colonies, in addition to the coin’s issue year. The motto of the United States, “E. PLURIBUS UNUM,” which means, “Out of many, one,” lines the top edge of the coin. The reverse depicts a gaunt eagle (from where the term “buzzard dollar” comes) with outstretched wings, an olive branch clasped in its right talons, and a bundle of arrows in its left. The words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” is the phrase "In God We Trust” and the value of “ONE DOLLAR” are also struck on the reverse of the coin.
The History of the Morgan Dollar
The Morgan Silver Dollar is named after George T. Morgan, a British die engraver who, at the urging of the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint, left his home country of England in 1876 to begin a new career with the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. Shortly after taking on his new role as Mint Assistant Engraver, Morgan was asked to design a new American silver dollar. Little did anyone know, this coin, although never considered the “people’s coin” in circulation, would live on to become one of the most beloved investment pieces in American coinage history.
The first Morgan Silver Dollar was struck in Philadelphia on March 11, 1878, after the passing of the Bland-Allison Act less than two weeks prior. This original coin, now housed at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums, consisted of 90% silver and 10% copper.
The new Morgan Silver Dollar replaced the previous iteration known as the Seated Liberty Dollar, which, five years earlier, was rendered defunct by the Coinage Act of 1873. This fourth coinage act also ended the free coining of silver, effectively acknowledging the gold standard.
Twelve years after its passing, the Bland–Allison Act was replaced in 1890 by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, followed by yet another replacement bill in 1898, which required all remaining bullion purchased under the Sherman Act to be coined into silver dollars. When those silver reserves were depleted in 1904, the Mint ceased striking of the Morgan dollar.
It wasn’t until 1921 that the Morgan Silver Dollar would reemerge and make its way onto the world stage. In 1918, near the end of World War I, the Pittman Act led to the melting down and selling of more than 270 million Morgan Silver Dollars to Britain in an effort to bolster that country’s wartime economy. The act necessitated that new dollars be produced, and as such, the Morgan Dollar was restruck in 1921. Since the original coin dies had been destroyed by this point, George T. Morgan had to create new versions from which to strike the 1921 coins. Because of this, coins from this year have a distinct look from those of the past and are therefore highly sought after by present-day investors.
Shortly after WWI ended, a commemorative Peace Dollar was minted to mark the end of the war. This new coin became so popular that production on the Morgan Dollar was ultimately ceased, finally putting an end to the coin’s storied run.
While most of the Morgan Dollars were minted in Philadelphia, a small mint was established in Carson City, Nevada near the source of the Comstock Lode. Mining here was short-lived, and as a result, the Carson City mint closed in 1893. Nonetheless, the mint's building remains intact and is currently home to the Nevada State Museum, Carson City.
The Morgan Dollars minted in Carson City are rare and highly coveted today. While the Philadelphia coins don’t feature mintmarks, a “CC” indicator appears on the Carson City issues. Morgan Dollar coins were also struck in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Denver, and these coins come with mintmarks of “S”, “O” or “D” respectively.
The Morgan Silver Dollar is perfect for beginners’ collections or as an addition to any level of silver holding.