The 1888 Morgan Silver Dollar – Moving Forward

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1888 was a significant year in the United States. The Morgan silver dollar had been in circulation for 10 years at this point, and had proved a versatile and popular coin with the public at large.

These silver dollars were easily recognisable, difficult to counterfeit, and, because of their size, not easily lost or misplaced.

As usual, to put everything into perspective, we’ll just take a quick look at the events going on in the world at the time of this coins release.

It was a year of exceptionally bad weather – with Dakota being hit with a blizzard which killed 235. The spring of this year saw another huge blizzard which struck along the eastern seaboard of America. This one was so severe that it killed 400 people and shutdown towns and cities along the east coast.

The National Geographic Society was founded in Washington DC – and in Austin, Texas, the state capitol building was opened. In Germany the first long-distance drive was completed in a car made by Karl Benz, and driven by his wife for 40 miles. Another technology first was the registration of Kodak as a trademark, along with a patent, by George Eastman, for a camera which incorporated a roll of film.

Over in South Africa, a company called De Beers opened what was to become the largest diamond mine in the world, at Kimberley – whilst an unknown painter called Vincent van Gogh cut off the lower part of his ear.

Business as usual

It is into this background that the next in the series of Morgan silver dollars was released. 

Aside the date, nothing on this coin differed from the previous designs. The Morgan dollar still had the bust of liberty on the face, and the eagle clutching the arrows and an olive branch, on the reverse, as it had since its initial release.

Of course, as with all Morgan dollars, it is not just the date which varies. The distinctive mint mark, which is found between the D and the O of “dollar” beneath the eagle’s claws, can indicate which of the three mints your 1888 coin was struck in.

It is a bit of a misnomer to say that the Philadelphia mint had a mint mark, as such. It’s mint mark is actually the absence of a mint mark! When the coin was initially released Philadelphia was the launch site and there was no need of a distinguishing reference for it. However, when the other two mints were chosen by the government to manufacture the coins in this year, it was decided that each would have its own “stamp,” in the same way as previous years.

These marks are denoted by a single letter. San Francisco has an S. New Orleans has an O.

Of the three mints, San Francisco is the rarest for the 1888 Morgan. During the previous 10 years of production, most mints involved in producing these coins struck them in the millions. For some reason, which is not documented, the San Francisco Mint produced only 657,000 examples of the 1888 Morgan silver dollar.

 I left my heart …

These production figures are taken from Whitman’s Red Book – which is known as “the bible of United States coins,” First published in November, 1946, this book was written and edited by Richard Yeoman, until he retired in 1971. Ironically, this was the year that President Nixon took the United States off of the gold standard. It is not known whether Yeomen resigned in disgust …

Because of this low production run, the increasing number of coin collectors, and people hoarding silver, all combined with the inherent rarity of the coin, the San Francisco mint marked coins are particularly valuable to any coin dealer.

Coin collectors vie for this particular example of the Morgan even over the “Indian Head” coins of the same year.

Like all coin collecting, the coin grading is an essential part of its value. The better the condition of the coin the more valuable it will be. It goes without saying that the uncirculated version of  any silver dollar will be more valuable than a circulated one. This is simply because of the wear factor. An uncirculated coin would have no flaws. It would be pristine with no dents, scratches, or other signs of use.

Collin Plume

Collin Plume

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The Morgan Silver Dollar is an essential part of American History. The first was released in 1878 and became an immediate success. We have sourced 3 different versions of this iconic coin. These will be an investment as well as a family heirloom for generations to come.

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