The 1896 silver dollar – at almost the end of the century

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By 1896 the Morgan silver dollar had been around for around 20 years and was an everyday part of American life. Transactions were carried out day after day with it. Nobody gave the fact they used a real silver coin a second thought.

Today it would seem inconceivable to use such coins as “normal” currency because we have become used to the cheap alloy, amalgam metals, which are used in our coinage.

With a mix of 90% silver and 10% copper – a weight of 26.73 g (the equivalent .7734 Troy ounces of silver) and .1 ounce of copper – these coins were made to last and to be used as well as being treasured.

Any in-depth look at the 1896 Morgan silver would be incomplete without some background as to the year of its release and events going on at the time.

The US Mint released this particular silver dollar coin just as Utah became admitted as the 45th state of the union after abandoning polygamy to gain membership and Miami incorporated as a city.

Emile Grubbe used radiation to treat breast cancer – the first doctor to pioneer this technique

In Detroit, Charles Brady King designed built and drove the original automobile out of the city, on March 7. After being tested vehicle went on sale – becoming the inaugural car to be rolled out in Motor City.

Gold was discovered in the Yukon territory of Canada on April 4th – leading to a gold rush and Dow Jones started an index of 12 manufacturing stocks.

William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan to become the 25th President of the United States – to mark this milestone John Philip Sousa wrote “Stars & Stripes Forever.”

Striking out

Morgan silver dollars from this year were only minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. As usual, with these coins, those from Philadelphia have no mint mark under the ribbon of the wreath on the reverse side of the coin. Silver dollar values for the Philadelphia mint coins are the least valuable in terms of numbers because over 9.5 million coins were struck here in 1896.

New Orleans struck 4.9 million Morgan dollars, and San Francisco, 5 million. Philadelphia struck just 762 proof coins to check the dies, and to make examples of the coin to keep for posterity. Because of their relative rarity, these proof coins can fetch anywhere from $2,450-$2,800 in reasonable condition.

Silver coins do have a melt value equivalent to the price of silver at the time the melted and refined metal, is sold. Melting a Morgan silver dollar Is not straightforward because of its copper content. The metals need to be separated and have different melting points. Both are highly conductive and very ductile.

Melting silver into bars

Silver has a melting point of 961.8°C – copper is 1085°C – so there is a large disparity between the two. This is utilized to good effect. The silver will melt away from the copper at the lower temperature. Provided the heat does not go above 1000°C the two metals should separate. The copper will be left as a solid –  with the silver oozing out of the amalgam mix the coin is made of.

This process can be used with junk silver which has no real “numismatic” value other than its silver melt value. Extremely fine silver fetches a premium as bullion as it can be used for jewelry and as investment-grade silver.

The same method can be used with gold coins which are not 24 karat and mixed with other metals to strengthen them and make them more durable. out of interest, the melting point of gold is 1064°C, which is slightly lower than copper, but usefully higher than silver. Silver and gold are often mixed together and even occurs in nature as a substance known as “electrum.”

Here’s a quick link if you’d like to try this at home!

There are some excellent YouTube videos of the process too.

All we would say is – check the legality of doing this before you start – be careful: 961.8°C is HOT – and whatever you do – don’t melt a coin which is worth more than the silver!

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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