Morgan Dollars (1878-1921)
Silver Morgan Dollars were issued by the United States Mint from 1878 through 1904 and then again for a short period in 1921. The coins are named after their designer, George T. Morgan and feature the profile of the mythical figure of Liberty on their obverse and an eagle with outstretched wings on the reverse.
Morgan Dollars are composed of 90% silver and contain 0.7734 ounces of the precious metal (melt values for the Morgan Dollars can be found by using the calculator in the right column of this page). Each coin has a total weight of 26.73 grams with a diameter of 38.1 mm.
Prior to the Morgan Dollar release, the U.S. Mint had not struck a silver dollar for circulation within the United States since the last Seated Liberty Dollar was minted in 1873. It had produced Trade Dollars in the interim, but those coins were intended for use in Asia.
Historical Morgan Dollar Silver Coin Melt Values
However, the silver market in the latter half of the 1870’s was severely depressed owing to factors such as the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada, vast amounts of German silver appearing in American markets and the lack or silver coinage. In order to combat the falling market, several attempts were made by Congress to re-institute the coining of silver.
Then, in 1878, the Bland-Allison Act was passed which called for the U.S. Mint to strike millions of dollars worth of silver coins each month. With a new order for silver coinage in hand, officials at the U.S. Mint turned to assistant engraver George T. Morgan for his designs.
Morgan had actually only come to the United States in 1876 at the request of U.S. Mint Director Henry Richard Linderman. Linderman wrote to C.W. Fremantle, Deputy Master of the Royal Mint in London, to inquire if he knew of anyone willing and capable of becoming the assistant engraver at the U.S. Mint. Fremantle strongly recommended Morgan who was currently working at the Royal Mint.
Morgan’s obverse for the silver dollar shows a left-facing profile of the mythical figure of Liberty. Surrounding Liberty are the inscriptions of “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” the year of minting and thirteen stars representative of the original thirteen colonies.
The reverse of the strike shows an eagle with its wings stretched out. The eagle is depicted clasping a bundle of arrows and an olive branch. Reverse inscriptions include “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “ONE DOLLAR.”
Annual production of silver coin ceased in 1904 as bullion supplies dwindled and demand was at a low level. Production shortly resumed in 1921 as the Mint was directed once again to produce silver coinage, however, Morgan Dollars were soon replaced with Peace Dollars. Throughout their entire production, the Morgan Dollar was struck at five different facilities of the United States Mint: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans and Carson City.
Owing to their unique history, well-liked design and relatively abundant supplies, collectors favor Morgan Dollars in great numbers. However, even if a Morgan is in such poor shape as to not warrant numismatic interest, it is still relatively valuable for its silver coin melt value.