A Brief History of the Morgan Dollar

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Posted by: John Roberts, on 3/8/2007, in category "General News"
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Abstract: A look at the history surrounding one of the most widely collected US coins, some of it surprising.

A Brief History of the Morgan dollar
           Like many Americans, the Morgan dollar is a descendant of European immigrants. Its beginnings tell a story of the seeds of deep political divisions. The coin’s basic design was intended for another denomination. Generally held in low regard at the time of its issue, the Morgan dollar has become a centerpiece of U.S. numismatics.
            Large silver coins of approximately dollar size entered the world’s economy late in the 15th century. Originating in the Tyrol region of present-day Austria, the 1486 Guldengroschen or “guldiner” of the Hall Mint was widely and readily accepted by merchants. Other nations quickly followed with large silver coins of their own. The discovery of silver deposits in the mountains of Bohemia led to the coining of the Joachimsthaler beginning in 1516. The “thaler” (a Czech word meaning “of the valley”), as it came to be known internationally, was loosely copied in size, composition, and, in some instances, even design by other minting authorities. The vague likeness of the Bohemian Lion may be seen on many other coins issued over the next two centuries. One such piece is the lion daalder of the United Netherlands. This coin, nicknamed the “dog dollar,” was circulated by Dutch traders throughout the world including the New Netherlands colony, present-day New York. Coins such as this are almost certainly responsible for the origin of the word “dollar” in our language.
1576 Lion Daalder       1771 Mo 8 Reales
          1576 United Netherlands Lion Daalder              1771 Mo Mexico 8 Reales
                             The “Dog Dollar”                              Spanish Colonial “Pillar Dollar”
            Some 50 years after the voyages of Christopher Columbus vast quantities of silver and gold were discovered by the Spaniards in South and Central America. With this huge influx of bullion Spanish colonial coins became a mainstay of the economies of the New World. By the middle of the 18th century the milled 8 real, also known by names such as the “Spanish dollar,” “Pillar dollar,” or “piece of eight,” had become the international trade coin. Coins of this design were issued by a number of Spanish colonial mints, most notably Mexico City and Lima, Peru. The currency of the American colonies was reckoned in the British sterling system but its sovereigns, crowns, and shillings seldom showed up in day-to-day commerce. Lightweight and often counterfeit halfpenny coppers were the only pieces of British denomination that routinely circulated in sizable quantities in America. Larger monetary transactions were handled with the mixture of coins that were on hand, chief among them the Spanish dollar and its fractions. These pieces of eight were sometimes cut to make smaller denominations or “bits.” A quarter of a dollar is still called “two bits.”
1776 Continential Dollar             1794 Dollar BB-1
                 1776 Continental “Dollar”         1794 Dollar: the first U.S. Mint–issued dollar
            With the advent of the American Revolution, the new nation sought to issue its own coinage. The natural choice was something equivalent to the money already in circulation. In 1776, the Continental Congress resolved to issue such a coin. The dollar had become America’s unit of currency by default. Examples of the proposed coin were struck in silver and brass, but most were of a pewter composition. Enough bullion could not be secured to issue a coinage sufficient to meet the financial needs of the fledgling country; therefore paper notes valued in promises to pay “Spanish Milled Dollars” were authorized and released into circulation. After securing its independence the United States sought to firmly establish its monetary system. Very shortly after the ratification of the Constitution and the establishment of the federal government, the Mint Act of 1792 became the very first law. The government’s authority to produce money, including a dollar coin, is derived from this statute. It also formally and legally made the dollar the standard unit of our currency.
            The U.S. Mint produced its first dollar coins in 1794. The diameter, weight, and fineness were intended to be similar to the Spanish dollar. They never widely circulated, many were exported as bullion, and coinage was halted in 1803. The famous 1804 dollars were officially made in 1834 for presentation to foreign dignitaries at the request of the State Department and others were clandestinely restruck sometime around 1858. Coinage of the dollar resumed in 1836 on a limited basis and regular issues resumed in 1840. This issue enjoyed sporadic domestic circulation and most were used for international trade. Other than the Confederate seizure of the New Orleans Mint, the Civil War had little impact on silver dollar production.
            The silver dollar was dropped from the list of authorized coins and replaced with a “trade dollar” by the provisions of the Coinage Act of 1873. The rationale behind the law was to provide a coin capable of competing with the Mexican 8 reales in trade in the Orient. Western banking and mining interests, in particular those associated with the massive Comstock Lode, were the driving force behind the new minting standards. However, when the huge quantities of bullion coming out of these mines drove the price of silver sharply down, politicians from the Western states, including many who had voted for the Coinage Act, spoke out harshly against the “Crime of ’73.” The law had effectively placed the United States on the gold standard and debate concerning this financial policy dominated the political landscape throughout the last quarter of the 19th century. Behind the politics, the silver interests were looking for a customer large enough to absorb their supply and willing to pay stable prices.
The debate over a new silver dollar had gone on for several years as the price of the metal declined shortly after the Coinage Act of 1873. A compromise between bills in the House and Senate, calling for the resumption of a standard silver dollar, was co-sponsored by Representative Richard Bland of Missouri (who advocated the unlimited coinage of silver) and Senator William Allison of Iowa (a supporter of the limited use of silver as part of the money supply in co-operation with the other leading nations of the world). President Rutherford B. Hayes opposed the measure, citing that it would damage the nation’s credit and result in financial hardship, particularly for “those who are dependent on their daily labor for their daily bread.” On the 28th of February, 1878, Congress enacted the Bland-Allison Act over the veto of Hayes. The new law provided for a standard silver dollar of 412-1/2 grains—the historical size, weight, and composition that had been specified under the act of January 18, 1837. The provisions of Bland-Allison required the government to purchase and coin between two and four million dollars worth of silver bullion every month. Silver certificates, redeemable for the newly coined dollars, were also authorized by this statute. The coins minted under this law were commonly referred to as “Bland dollars” and were officially known as “standard dollars” in the 19th century.
J-1509 Morgan’s 1877 pattern for proposed redesign of the half dollar
             While the politicians argued, the Engraving Department of the Mint had been working on several designs. Chief Engraver William Barber and Assistant Engraver George Morgan both submitted patterns to Director of the Mint Henry Linderman for approval. Morgan’s design was chosen a few days before the law actually passed. George Morgan had immigrated to the United States from England in 1876 at the age of 30 specifically at the request of Dr. Linderman, who wanted to change American coin designs. He was born in Birmingham, England, in 1845. Morgan came with the recommendations of the Wyons of the British Royal Mint. He served as the assistant engraver under William Barber and then his son Charles Barber. He was chief engraver from 1917 until his death in 1925 at the age of 79.
            The obverse design that became the representation of the Goddess of Liberty on the dollar was begun in 1876 as a series of studies of Greek figurines and incorporated the profile of Anna Williams, a 19-year-old model who sat for Morgan on five separate occasions. The eagle was based on studies of nature, according to the artist. His designs were first used for a proposed revision of the half dollar in 1877. A number of patterns survive, including Judd-1509, which looks most like the dollar of the following year. Other similar versions of his design were patterned for a proposed redesign of the $10 gold piece. A detailed study of these pieces may be found in United States Pattern Coins,by J. Hewitt Judd (Whitman Publishing). This title is available at whitmanbooks.com.
The basic elements of the design were mandated by the Act of January 18, 1837, Section 13, stating that there would be on “one side an impression emblematic of Liberty” and “upon the reverse of each of the gold and silver coins the figure or representation of an eagle.” A letter of October 18, 1877, from Dr. Linderman to James Pollock, the superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, instructed Morgan to modify a half dollar design that was best suited for use as a standard dollar and requested that when dies were ready that six impressions be struck on silver planchets of 412-1/2 grains. 
 Judd-1550a           Reverse of 79
   J-1550a Morgan 1878 dollar pattern     The 7 tailfeather reverse design used for
            Three leaves on olive branch           almost all Morgan dollars from 1879 to 1904
The first six J-1550a pieces were completed and delivered on December 3, 1877. Twenty additional specimens were struck shortly thereafter. The engraver made several modifications to the reverse, creating J-1550. It had slightly different letter placement, notches between the legs and the bottoms of the wings, and pointed backs on the arrowheads. Approximately 20 examples survive in silver with about another 10 in copper, J-1551. Linderman again wrote Pollock on February 21, 1878, expressing his preference for Morgan’s design a week prior to the passage of the Bland-Allison Act because of the lower relief as compared to the Barber patterns. Another slightly modified reverse design, J-1552, was prepared with thinner and straighter wings and nine leaves on the olive branch. Only two examples of the design are known struck in silver with but a single impression in copper, the unique J-1553. The pattern dollars all had seven tail feathers; impressions of the eight-tailfeather feature appeared after the design was approved. One researcher has suggested that this was an attempt to further reduce the relief of the design. Morgan’s letters indicate he was preparing working hubs for regular coinage at the same time he was preparing the patterns and he was not satisfied with the appearance of J-1552. Eight tailfeathers may have been little more than an exercise in artistic license and aesthetics. While other characteristics of the dies were discussed, the number of feathers in the tail was not specifically mentioned.
    1878 VAM-9 obverse    1878 VAM-9 reverse
   1878 VAM 9 Presentation Piece with 8-tailfeather reverse
Struck during ceremony, March 11, 1878
            After approval and legal authority for the new dollar were secured at the end of February, it took about 10 days to fully sink working dies. Two reverse hubs or hardened steel tools with the design in relief were already prepared. The obverse hub had been ready for several weeks. Each die required seven to ten blows from the hub to reach the desired depth of design. The dies had to be softened between each hubbing, a process known as annealing. Working dies for circulation strikes were completed and ready for use on March 11, 1878. A newspaper reporter for the Chicago Tribune was present at the Philadelphia Mint and recorded the first strike ceremony in the Coining Room at 3:17 in the afternoon of March 11. The first Morgan dollar was presented to President Hayes. This piece, along with its case and certificate, are preserved in the Rutherford B. Hayes Museum in Fremont, Ohio. In all, 10 presentation pieces were reportedly struck on polished planchets. Several examples of these presentation pieces survive. The same dies were employed for regular coinage as the concluding action of the first strike ceremony. Any examples from the first Morgan dollar dies are greatly desired by variety collectors. A number of 8TF reverse varieties exist; all were the product of the Philadelphia Mint during 1878. The basic 8TF design proved to be fragile; most of the dies cracked and sunk early in their production life.
            During the second week of coinage, Director Linderman instructed Morgan and Barber to correct “slight imperfections” in the dies and to further reduce the relief of the design. The result was the first hub with the “Reverse of ’78”; it features an eagle with a flat and somewhat hollow breast, seven tailfeathers, and parallel arrowfeathers. The central shaft of the arrows protrudes past the end of the feathers; this is sometimes referred to as the “long nock” reverse. This hub was impressed over some of the 8TF dies creating the 7/8TF varieties. These dies were only used in Philadelphia, also during 1878 only. Other dies were made using this hub and account for some of the Philadelphia coinage, a handful of the San Francisco issue, and about half of the Carson City mintage. This design was also only used during 1878. A slight modification of the  “Reverse of ’78” hub was produced with a “short nock” and was used for a sizable percentage of the Philadelphia issue of 1878; most of the San Francisco coinage of 1878 and a small portion of the 1879 production; as well as about half the Carson City mintage of 1878 and a small portion of the 1880 coinage.
            One would expect the dollar to have been met with a warm reception in Nevada, being the central source of the silver production the coin was subsidizing as well as the site of much of the political pressure for its creation. However, the April 17, 1878, edition of the Carson City Morning Appeal denounced the design of the coin, referring to the eagle’s likeness as a “wide, flat pelican-bat of the wilderness.” The writer further suggested that the coin should be offered at a discount below face value to help make it more attractive.
            Dies with the “Reverse of ’78” design did not work as well in production as hoped and were still subject to breaking and sinking. Yet another major design modification was ordered and the “Reverse of ’79” was created. This hub features an eagle with a round breast, seven tailfeathers, and a slanted top arrowfeather. It was placed into limited production around mid-May. Further slight modifications of the obverse and reverse designs were made in the hopes of improving die life. Full-scale production began around the end of June. Other than the few exceptions already described, this basic design was used for almost every Morgan dollar produced until 1904. A slight modification of the reverse was made in 1900 and new hubs had to be made for the 1921 issue. A study of die progression will quickly reveal the various designs employed in 1878 do not follow a neatly arranged chronological order. While there is documentation for when the design changes came about, the pressure to coin the amount mandated by law was enormous. Any serviceable die would have been placed into production when the need arose, no matter how long or why it was “on the shelf.” In 1878 alone, more silver dollars were struck than in all previous years combined.
       Coining press at Philadelphia Mint, 1896    
Coining press circa 1896
(Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1896)
Morgan dollars were struck at five mints
Philadelphia     1878-1904, 1921
San Francisco    1878-1904, 1921
Carson City 1878-1885, 1889-1893
New Orleans         1879-1904
Denver                   1921
            The politics surrounding the silver dollar did not end once it was placed into production. From 1878 to 1890 (the span of years that the provisions of the Bland-Allison Act were in effect), the government spent approximately $300 million to produce around 370 million Morgan dollars, yielding a net profit on coinage (called seigniorage) of around $70 million. Grover Cleveland was elected to his first term as president in 1884. He was a strong advocate of the gold standard and petitioned Congress to repeal Bland-Allison but could not gain enough support to make this a reality. During his administration, production was reduced in San Francisco and the Carson City Mint was closed in 1885. Benjamin Harrison won the presidency in 1888 and the price of silver immediately went up. He was a strong supporter of silver coinage and the “soft money” policies of the late-19th century. Carson City resumed production in 1889. The Sherman Act was signed into law by Harrison on July 14, 1890. Its provisions repealed Bland-Allison, but in its place mandated the government purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver each month with a minimum coinage of two million dollars each month until July 1, 1891. The purchase of silver was to be funded by Treasury Notes created by this act. Unlike the Silver Certificates of 1878, these notes were instruments of debt and payable in silver or gold. Most notes were turned in and reissued several times in exchange for gold which was once again increasing in value relative to silver. The result was a stockpile of silver dollars and bullion purchased with dwindling gold reserves. The law authorized the coinage of silver dollars after July 1, 1891, as they were needed to redeem the Treasury Notes created under this act. With millions of coins sitting in vaults, no further pieces were truly needed and production fell.
Grover Cleveland was elected to his second term in 1892. Two months after taking the oath of office, the Panic of ’93 struck the nation. Banks failed, factories closed, and millions were unemployed. Cleveland felt one of the basic causes of the nation’s financial distress was the silver-purchasing clause of the Sherman Act. He called Congress into special session with the specific purpose of repealing this portion of the law. Despite strong opposition by the pro-silver politicians, the repeal passed November 1, 1893. The Carson City Mint permanently ceased coin production in 1893 as well. Some of the rarest Morgan dollar dates are a result of Cleveland’s policies, such as the 1893-S and the 1894 and 1895 Philadelphia issues.
            With the country in the grip of a depression, economics took the stage as the central issue of the presidential election of 1896. William Jennings Bryan secured the Democratic and Populist nominations with his famous speech. The Congressman from Nebraska declared: “We answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” The Republican Party chose William McKinley, a strong supporter of the gold standard, as its candidate. McKinley won the election by half a million votes, carrying virtually the entire industrialized North and Midwest. With improved economic conditions, when the two candidates ran against each other again in 1900, McKinley defeated Bryan by nearly a million votes. There were other issues in this campaign, but the free and unlimited coinage of silver dollars had died as a major political issue. The Gold Standard Act of 1900 set the legal value of the dollar at 25.8 grains of gold, 9/10 fine. An Act of 13 June 1898 had directed the Mint to coin all the remaining bullion from Sherman Act purchases into silver dollars. The supply was exhausted in 1904 and the production of the Morgan dollar ceased.
Press and coiner at the Philadelphia Mint, 1901
Coining at the Philadelphia Mint, 1901
(Scientific American,1901)
            From 1878 to 1904 more than half a billion Morgan dollars had been struck. Nearly 90% were held in Treasury reserves and did not circulate. Silver certificates performed the function of the dollar unit for most transactions and higher denominations took the place of stacks of “cartwheels” in day-to-day life. The coins did circulate in the West, but the paper dollar was the most commonly encountered form of the denomination as expected in accordance with a principle of economics known as Gresham’s Law. Simply put, with the same face value, money (in this instance paper, silver, or gold) of lesser intrinsic value will tend to drive money made from a higher-value material out of circulation. In the past copper or silvered copper has driven out high-quality silver coins, and silver in turn has a long history of displacing gold. Gresham’s Law is a psychological phenomenon that can still be observed today. Only the perception of greater value is required for the effect to occur. The Sacagawea dollar does not circulate normally, while its paper counterpart is barely noticed. There is little value in the coin’s metallic composition, yet most people will set it aside while they freely spend Washington’s likeness on a Federal Reserve Note. The debate that raged over the fabric of American currency may seem trivial to some in hindsight, but economics is an evolving science and the nation was in financial distress at the time. Money matters; particularly when it is sorely lacking.
Series 1899 Silver Certificate
Series 1899 Silver Certificate—the “Black Eagle”
Many dollars of this nature circulated as redeemable for a Morgan dollar
            Any attempt to fix a standard value to the dollar is doomed to failure over time. Any measure of money is an abstract concept just as money itself is abstract in its nature. Money is only worth what people are willing to give up to acquire it, whether it is time, the fruits of their labors, their services, or their possessions. When perception changes, value also changes. Theoretically, the total supply of money in the world is equal to the amount required to purchase all the goods and services in the world. The money of a gold or silver standard system is based on the perceived value of the metal. This type of money is counted as an asset rather than an obligation of the issuing government. The paper issued against deposited coin is not debt; this is why such currency is called a “certificate” rather than a “note.” A fiat or credit monetary system is based on debt. The national debt is largely comprised of the money supply. All modern nations use this system. A unit of this type of money is again based on perceived value. Such currency is far more volatile in an open market because it is not backed by a tangible asset. However, the money’s value is balanced by the faith the public has in the financial management of the issuing government. In the past, a number of nations with fiat currency have over-extended their money supply in times of financial distress with disastrous results. Any increase in the money supply, unless it is accompanied by a similar increase in productivity, causes a reduction in the value of each unit of currency. This effect is known as inflation.
            The Morgan dollar, even though it was called the “standard dollar” by the government at the time of its issue, was neither truly a standard unit nor was it fully a fiat currency. It was a subsidiary coin with part of its worth drawn from its metallic content and part from the credit the government gained through the profit on coining, or seigniorage. Currency of this nature is not regarded as a debt and the seigniorage is only lost if the coin is later destroyed by the issuing government. This is usually only a minor budgetary item with the return of a relative handful of worn-out coins. If they are melted and recoined in the same year, there is no net loss in seigniorage. The cost of bullion for a coin is a large part of the price of manufacturing it, but the metal is an asset even if grossly inflated prices were paid for it. There is no real loss when the price of metal fluctuates; any party will only lose money if they sell the bullion for less than what they paid. For a 412-1/2 grain silver dollar, any bullion price under $1.29 per ounce made it worth less than a dollar in the melting pot.
            The fortunes of war have left a huge mark on the history of the Morgan dollar. German agents during the course of World War I sought to undermine the position of the British in India with the hope of inciting rebellion within the colonies of their enemy. There was an effort to question the liquidity of British silver certificates issued against Indian rupees. 1918 saw a run on financial institutions on the subcontinent. There was some truth to the rumors being spread as an economic weapon. England turned to her American ally for help. A source of silver ready to coin had to be rapidly located. On the 23rd of April, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Pittman Act into law. It authorized the melting of 270 million Morgan dollars for sale to the British government as bullion at a price of not less than $1 per ounce. The melting of dollars under this law eliminated nearly half the total coinage produced between 1878 and 1904. Records were not kept regarding which dates were melted, but the rarity of some dates in uncirculated condition, such as the 1901 and 1884-S, are likely a result. Other provisions of the Pittman Act authorized the purchase of domestic silver and the recoinage of the same number of dollars as destroyed. This allowed the U.S. to recapture its seigniorage in its entirety over a period of several years. The British moved quickly to coin all the bullion they had paid well over market value for. The rupee was also a subsidiary coinage so the cost of the metal was easily absorbed once actually minted.
            Recoining of silver dollars began in 1921. The new design intended to commemorate the end of the Great War was not ready, so the Morgan dollar was resurrected for another year. New hubs with slightly different obverse and reverse designs were again made by George Morgan, now the chief engraver and well into his seventies. More than 86 million coins were produced at the Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver mints. Coinage of the Peace dollar commenced in December of 1921 and lasted until 1928, when the remaining 180 million or so silver dollars were replaced under the specifications of the Pittman Act. Peace dollars were again coined in 1934 and 1935 under authority of Depression-era legislation.
            As an economic weapon, the Morgan dollar accomplished its mission without the loss of human life or the destruction of homes and livelihoods. The horrors of World War I did not spread to India. In its deployment, the silver from these dollars calmed an atmosphere of fear rather than creating one. Few weapons can claim this level of success.
1920 British India Rupee
The Morgan dollar as a weapon
Silver from the Pittman Act was used for coinage in India
to counter German attempts to destabilize their paper money
            For several decades the store of millions of Morgan dollars sat in Treasury vaults bundled up in thousand-coin canvas bags while Silver Certificates did the work of the dollar without incurring public debt. Occasionally a few scarce dates would filter out but only a handful of numismatists had any interest in the series. There were several coin dealers who specialized in Morgans in the 1950s. Most bags of 1,000 coins could be bought for a little over face value. A typical price was $1,050 plus the cost of shipping the 60-pound bag. Several dates were noted as rarities, such as the 1903-O, 1885-CC, and 1895. In November 1962, the Treasury released bags of uncirculated 1903-O dollars. This had been the key-date Morgan and was listed in the 1962 Guide Book of United States Coins (the “Red Book”) at $1,500 in Mint State. Most veteran coin dealers had never seen an Uncirculated example. They were now available by the thousands and naturally prices were plummeting dramatically. Virtually overnight the coin went down to $15 and within a few weeks, it was trading as low as $3. Several other previously rare New Orleans issues were released at the same time. The government did not search bags prior to issue; they merely inspected the coins for defects such as corrosion. Finding a cache of rare or scarce dates was the luck of the draw. The Morgan dollar was front-page news and the general public was on a treasure hunt. By 1964 the price of silver was rising and the stockpiles of dollar bags were dwindling. The Treasury halted the payout of dollars on March 26, 1964.
            With a vastly increased supply of Uncirculated coins available at relatively low prices, collector interest expanded and the Morgan dollar was now in the mainstream. The remaining bags of dollars in government holdings were inventoried and most were found to be Carson City issues. The General Services Administration conducted a series of public sales of the coins from 1972 to 1974. Two final smaller sales were conducted in 1980. For some of the Carson City dates, well over half the total mintage survived in Mint State and was dispersed through the GSA sales. In fact, most Uncirculated Carson City dollars are likely from one of these sales. Many of these pieces exhibit strong deep mirror prooflike surfaces. These DMPL (or “dimple”) dollars command strong premiums. Some dates, the 1883-CC and 1884-CC in particular, have representatives that display an incredible depth of reflectivity. Examples that have mirrored fields that will reflect a clear image (standard newsprint is traditionally used for this measure) from more than 12 inches away are considered as having ultra deep mirror or UDM surfaces. Such dollars are always highly sought and command significant premiums. The release of entire thousand-coin bags of silver dollars by the Treasury and the fervor surrounding them lead to the accumulation of several notable hoards of Morgan dollars. The Redfield Hoard contained more than 400,000 silver dollars and was distributed in the mid-1970s. The Continental-Illinois Bank Hoard was even larger although not as widely publicized. Approximately one and a half million silver dollars were in this accumulation. A large number of DMPL dollars were located in this hoard, which was distributed between 1982 and 1984.
            It is believed millions of common-date circulated Morgans were melted during the boom in the silver market in the late 1970s, but this has had little long-term impact on the numismatic market. However, the mid- and late 1980s saw speculative investment in Morgan dollars by people with little or no numismatic background. Premium prices were being paid for common coins. When the market crashed, these investors lost a large chunk of their portfolio. Only a few key dates have advanced past the 1989 price levels. Knowledge of the subject collected (or invested in) has always been a critical element of success. A copy of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars by Q. David Bowers is a good start and will prove invaluable to the novice collector. The book is available at www.whitmanbooks.com or at bookstores and hobby shops.
Some collectors study their coins in far greater detail than others and for them, the world of variety collecting awaits. The Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis listed every known variety at the time of publication. The Van Allen-Mallis (or VAM) numbers are the standard reference for the series. Updates of new varieties are published annually by Van Allen. Approximately 3,500 Morgan and Peace dollar die marriages or stages are now recognized. While most display minor variety characteristics and command little or no premium, others are quite valuable and are eagerly sought by specialists. Some of the most significant die pairings are listed in the booklet The Top 100 Morgan dollar Varieties: The VAM Keys by Michael Fey, Ph.D., and Jeff Oxman. Many collectors of Morgan dollar varieties are members of the Society of Silver Dollar Collectors. More information about the SSDC and VAM collecting may be found at www.VAMLINK.com. An interactive wiki-based format of all the known VAM listings may be found at www.VAMworld.com.  This site also hosts a discussion forum where collectors discuss almost every VAM topic imaginable.
In 2006, the San Francisco Old Mint Commemorative Silver Dollar featured Morgan’s design for its reverse. With the recent trend of resurrecting classic designs, the Mint may once again issue a dollar bearing the Goddess of Liberty with a resemblance to the profile of a certain Miss Anna Williams. Mr. Morgan would be pleased.

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