1886 Morgan Dollar Image
Morgan Silver Dollar Facts

Many collectors know little about the design elements of a Morgan Dollar. It understandable since 1921 was the last year Morgan Dollars were minted, but there are a few elements of the design, along with a bit of history that collectors should learn about in regard to this very popular U.S. Coin series.

Morgan Silver Dollars were minted from 1878-1904, then again in 1921. The so-called Cartwheels where minted in San Francisco (S), New Orleans (O), Carson City (CC), Denver (D), and if the coin has no mint mark then it was minted at the Philadelphia and referred to as "Plain" or "P". Also to be noted, the only date to have the "D" is the 1921. The mint mark is located on the back, or reverse (the side of the coin with the eagle and reef design), and just under the said reef, and just above the bottom of the rim. (Refer to diagram above.)

Morgan Dollars are the most popular coin to collect because of the amount minted. However, there were several historical instances when millions were melted by the US Government for their silver content, and some like the 1884-S were mostly circulated, causing some dates and mints to become scarce in uncirculated condition. Of course, there are low mintage examples like the 1893-S and the 1894-P which are considered 'key dates' of the series.

Another aspect that has helped the popularity of this series is VAM attributions. A VAM is an acronym for Leroy Allen and A. George Mallis who were numismatic authors and researchers. Together they discovered many Morgan varieties, or slight details and differences in the die strikes and design elements of each date. VAM collecting is a very popular, and sometimes lucrative, cherry pickers dream. It's another reason a coin collector should know the nomenclature of Morgan Dollar design. By nomenclature, I mean the names of various parts or design elements of the Morgan Dollar.

Many Morgan Dollars demand large premiums in the higher grades or with VAM attributions, so buyers should be wary of most grading companies or dealers that place the highest grades on the silver dollar. Use only highly recommended grading companies to grade, authenticate and attribute your coins.

If one is seeking a raw or ungraded example in a high grade, the first thing to look for is the absence of contact marks on Liberty's Cheek, then the absence of contact marks in the fields surrounding Liberty's Head. It needs to be noted, that most Morgan Dollars will have contact marks in these areas from banging against other coins in the mint bags, and the least amount of these marks a coin has, the higher the coin will grade.

Also, the coin will not have any wear on the highest points of the design. Sometimes a coin will have roll friction or be weakly struck, so it takes practice, experience, and advice (from other knowledgeable collectors), dealers, and maybe a few submissions to a top tier grading company like PCGS to learn the differences in grades and grading.

If you collect or decide to collect Morgan Dollars, or any coin, make sure you ask questions, check people's reputation, do research before purchasing these often over-graded and misrepresented silver dollars.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Designer: George T. Morgan

Diameter: 38.1 millimeters

Metal Content:
Silver - 90%
Copper - 10%

Weight: 26.73 grams

Edge: Reeded

Mint mark: If none  can be found it is (Philadelphia)
Wheat Stalks ----------------
---------------------    Arrows With Nock
------------------Breast Feathers
1878 7/8 Tail Feathers There two main types strong 8TF and weak 8TF
1878 with reverse of 1878 (concave).
1878 with reverse of 1879 (convex).
1921 Reverse Eagle's breast
Cherry Picker's List:

Key Dates:

1978 CC
1879 CC
1880 CC
1881 CC
1882 CC
1883 CC
1884 CC
1885 CC
1888-S   
1889-S   
1890 CC
1891 CC
1892 CC
1892-S              
1893-P   
1893 CC
1893-O 
1893-S  
1894-P       
1894-O      
1894-S        
1895-P   
1895-O       
1895-S        
1899-P        
1900-O/CC 
1902-S         
1903-S        
1903-O        
1904-S
---------------------    Mint Mark Location
Designer Initials --------
---------------------    Tail Feathers
-----Blossoms
Designer Initials -
MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR 1878-1904 (1921)
Notable VAMS:

1878 7/8TF Strong
1878 7/8TF Triple Blossoms
1878-S Long Nock Varieties
1879-CC Large CC-Small CC
1880 Knobbed 8
1880/ 79 Reverse of 78
1882-O/S Varieties
1883 Sextupled Stars
1887/6 Over Date
1887 Donkey Tail
1887/6-O Over Date
1888-O Scarface
1888-O Hot Lips Picture
1889 IN on obverse
1889-O E on reverse
1890-CC TailBar
1891-O E on reverse
1900-O Die Break through date.
1900-O/CC varieties
1901 Shifted Eagle
1902 Doubled Ear
1921 Chapman Proof
1921 Zerbe Proof
1921 Pitted Reverse
1921-D TRU-T
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The Morgan Dollar has many parts as pointed out in the image and these parts are important for grading, identifying fakes and attributing VAM varieties. It's important to know that the design of a Morgan Dollar is referred to as the devices and the entire area around Liberty's bust, letters and numbers is called the "fields".

If you like Morgan Dollars then you should check out our Morgan Dollar images by date and mint where you can also see images of VAMs and values for each date and mint mark.
Images By Date And Mint
1878 7/8TF Reverse Of 78', 2nd Rev.
1879-S 3rd Reverse
1879 CC   CC over CC
1879-CC Clear CC
1880 80 over 79
1880-O 80/79
1880-CC 80 over 79, 2nd Reverse
1880-CC 8 over 7, 2nd Reverse
1880-CC 8/High 7, 3 Reverse
1880-CC 8/Low 7, 3rd Reverse
1880-S 80 over 79
1880-S O over 9
1882-O O over S
1887 7/6
1887-O 7/6
1888-O Doubled Die Obverse
1891-O
1895   Proof
1901 Doubled Die Reverse
1921-S