Silver coins have captured the popular imagination worldwide for centuries, and American silver dollar coins are some of the finest examples of the breed. Many designs produced by the U.S. Mint stand out in numismatic circles, including the Morgan Dollar and the Peace Dollar. With a history of excellence and unmatched artistry, these coins can be the perfect collectors’ item as well as a repository of investment value.
Silver dollar coins in the United States date back to the late 18th century, when the newly-formed government commanded the formation of a U.S. Mint to produce the nation’s coinage. Prior to the opening of the mint in 1794, the country used the Spanish eight-reales coin, more popularly known as the “”pieces of eight.”” American coins were based on the Spanish coins in terms of purity, size, and weight, but they used images of Lady Liberty on the obverse and eagles on the reverse. America minted silver dollars from 1794 through 1935.
U.S. silver dollar designs include the Flowing Hair, the Draped Bust, the Seated Liberty, the Trade, the Morgan, and the Peace. The U.S. Mint currently strikes a silver bullion coin design known as the American Silver Eagle; although it has a face value of one dollar, these coins are collected and purchased as investments (generally at a price considerably higher than the currency value) rather than circulated.
The Morgan Dollar is named for George T. Morgan, the British-born engraver who was asked to put together a new silver dollar design in the aftermath of the Bland-Allison Act. This legislation required the U.S. Mint to purchase and press millions of dollars’ worth of silver each month. Previous to the Act, silver dollar coinage as a domestic currency standard had stopped in the United States; at that time, only so-called Trade Dollars were struck, primarily designed for use in Asian countries.
Morgan’s design was somewhat unusual in that it featured a Liberty not based on Grecian classicism (modelled by Anna Willess Williams). The obverse features the head of Liberty with several headbands; the reverse shows an eagle in flight, clutching arrows for strength and an olive branch for peace. The design also includes two U.S. mottos (“”In God We Trust”” and “”E Pluribus Unum””), the face value, the year of pressing, and, for coins not pressed in the main Philadelphia Mint, a mint mark. The coins were 90% silver and weighed .77344 troy ounces.
As widely circulated coins, Morgan Dollars have wildly varying certified grades, with truly uncirculated coins being something of a rarity. However, coins with some degree of wear are far more common and a great way to enter the field of collection.
The Peace Dollar design was commissioned after the Allied victory in World War I and was intended to commemorate that triumph as well as to comply with a legal requirement of the Pittman Act. The coin was designed by a limited contest, won by young Italian immigrant Antonio de Francisci, who beat out then-Chief Engraver George T. Morgan. The Peace Dollar was the last circulating silver dollar coin to exist in the U.S., with the last of its type pressed in 1935.
The design of de Francisci features an obverse with Lady Liberty’s head in profile with a radiant crown; his wife, Teresa, served as his model. The reverse shows a perched eagle clutching an olive branch over a radiant sunburst; originally, the eagle also held a broken sword, but public outcry after descriptions of the design circulated led the mint to alter the image at the last minute. The design also features several U.S. mottos (“”Liberty,”” “”In God We Trust,”” and “”E Pluribus Unum””) as well as the value, date of issue, and, for non-Philadelphia coins, a mint mark designating the place of pressing. The coins were 90% silver and weighed .77344 troy ounces.
Pressed more recently than the Morgans, Peace Dollars exist in a variety of graded conditions and can often be found in better shape than their older counterparts. As always, value usually increases with quality.
As mentioned above, condition is a prime driver of coin price. Reputable coin dealers will offer products graded by professional services that examine the items carefully for any faults and assign a numeric value (typically 1-70) and a condition descriptor (Poor to Uncirculated) to the piece. Better conditions almost always translate to higher prices.
Price is also contingent on scarcity. While the Morgan and Peace Dollars were generally pressed in numbers high enough to create a reasonable supply, a few rarer years and mint marks are notable. For the Morgan, coins from the first year that contain an eagle with eight tail feathers are valuable and rare. The Carson City and San Francisco mint marks are also rare in certain runs.
As circulating currency, U.S. silver dollars tended to be produced in quantity; however, the collector community and fluctuations in precious metal values have combined to drive their value up far beyond the face price of one dollar. Reputable and reliable coin dealers such as JM Bullion provide graded and certified coins. Browse our selection today and add one of these pieces to your investment.
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