The Top Five Morgan Silver Dollars
By Daniel J. Goevert
Why waste everyone’s time? Let’s skip the appetizers and get to
the meaty stuff right now: The Morgan silver dollars poised to increase
the most in value in the years ahead are the 1895, 1892-CC, 1894,
1878-CC, and the 1883-CC. Pretty bold prediction, eh? At this point,
the reader now has three options: (1) Stop reading and act upon
this information, (2) Stop reading and get on with life, or (3)
Continue on, evaluate the analytical approach to identify the “Top
Five” Morgan dollars, and then implement a variation of (1) or (2)
above. If you’ve gotten this far, we encourage you to continue on
with option (3).
First, a little background info on the Morgan silver dollar…
The Morgan silver dollar is today one of the most popular of all
collector coins. First minted in 1878 following the passage of the
Bland-Alison Act, the new dollar was named after its designer, George
T. Morgan. Political pressure by powerful silver mining companies,
in a gambit to stabilize the price of their commodity at artificially
high levels, created the impetus driving the legislative action.
Bland-Alison led to the overproduction of silver dollars, resulting
in millions of these unused “cartwheels” languishing in bank and
Treasury vaults. Indeed, few coins have ever been released under
more dubious circumstances than Morgan silver dollars. Minting continued
until 1904, and then again for one more year in 1921, when the series
finally came to a close.
For decades thereafter, Morgan dollars were largely snubbed by
hobbyists. Many dates, including those in mint state condition,
could be obtained for as little as $1.00. This situation shifted
dramatically in 1962, when the US government began selling original
1000-piece silver dollar Treasury bags to the public at face value.
Stories of rare dollar finds circulated widely, touching off a veritable
Morgan mania. Within a matter of months, all but a small fraction
of the federally owned coins were transferred from government vaults
to private hands, consequently expanding the Morgan dollar collector
base far beyond anything seen previously.
Since then, Morgan silver dollars have proudly perched themselves
atop the catbird seat of the numismatic world. Their physical size,
availability, beauty, and historical significance have consistently
attracted herds of new buyers. Numerous boom-turned-bust cycles
have come and gone, sometimes driven by pure speculative motives,
but from a long-term perspective, most Morgan dollar prices have
trended somewhat positive.
Unlike some controversial promoters in the past, I do not propose
purchasing Morgan silver dollars simply as investment vehicles.
However, for collectors hoping to satisfy their numismatic yearnings
AND acquire coins destined to be worth substantially more in the
future, Morgan dollars do present a few opportunities. As noted
above, as a whole, Morgans have gained moderately in value over
the years. The crucial challenge, then, is to identify which members
of this series have enjoyed the best growth patterns in the past.
The underlying logic is clear: coins that have demonstrated the
strongest gains over a long period of time are the coins best positioned
to show similar price advancements with the continued passage of
In order to measure past performance and thus visualize Morgans
most likely headed toward a bullish future, I developed a systematic
approach. First, I researched individual Morgan dollar retail prices
as they existed in 1950, for a broad range of conditions, and entered
this data on a computer spreadsheet. Moving forward in time, values
from the years 1980, 1995, and 2000 were likewise recorded. Finally,
estimated selling prices in 2005 were juxtaposed with counterpart
data from those earlier years. Because grading terminology has evolved
over the 55 year period, certain assumptions were made to progressively
track price movements throughout the time spectrum (e.g. an “Uncirculated”
value in 1950 is equivalent to the “MS-60” of today).
For each date and condition, compounded annual return rates were
computed from 1950 to 2005. [Editorial note: compounded annual return
rate is the accepted yardstick for comparing investment performance.
Of course, coins do not grow at a guaranteed uniform rate, such
as bonds do, but if a coin is purchased at a certain price, and
that price is compared with the value of the coin at some later
date, the compounded annual return rate can be calculated for the
time period in between]. Return rate computations were made from
1980 to 2005, 1995 to 2005, and 2000 to 2005. For each Morgan dollar,
the data was placed in tabular format. Next, I calculated a “composite”
score for each date by averaging all the compounded return rates
computed for that date. I then ranked all the “composite” scores.
The Morgan silver dollars with the highest scores are as follows:
So, it would appear, based on past performance over a period of
55 years, the 1895 is the Morgan silver dollar with the best hope
of appreciating significantly in the years ahead, followed by the
1892-CC, 1894, 1878-CC, and 1883-CC. Not surprisingly, dollars of
the Carson City Mint occupy 13 of the top 16 positions, thanks to
persistent collectors scrambling for bona fide artifacts of the
romantic American West. On the opposite end of the rankings, Morgan
silver dollars having the bleakest long term prospects include the
1898, 1899-O, 1884, and the 1888-O, followed by the 1897 coming
in dead last with a score of 2.66.
Anyone whose dual objective is to acquire Morgan silver dollars
with a bullish future ought to begin looking at the “Top Five” above.
Purchase coins in the best condition you can afford, but be sure
the coins are clean, problem-free, and CERTIFIED by a reputable
grading service. Be prepared to hold for at least five years. Morgan
dollars have skyrocketed in value in the last three years, so some
cooling off may be in order before the next upward cycle.
If a polling firm were to survey the population of US coin collectors,
it is very possible that Morgan silver dollars would win the vote
as the most appealing coin in American coinage history. These beautiful
coins have been the heartbeat of the hobby for many years, with
no retreat in sight. Ironically, these same coins spent the better
part of a century hidden away in government vaults, unseen, unwanted,
and unloved. My, how times have changed!
About the Author: Daniel J. Goevert is the webmaster
of US Coin Values Advisor, specializing in US coin value trends
and coin collecting advice, plus an illustrated history of the US
and the Mint.
Published - November 2005