1889 Morgan Silver Dollar: The Ultimate Collector‘s Guide

As a lifelong coin collector and professional numismatist, I‘ve always had a special fondness for Morgan silver dollars. These large, hefty coins are a favorite among collectors for their beautiful design, historical significance, and 90% silver composition.

Out of the entire series, the 1889 Morgan dollar holds particular interest. Struck at four different mints and containing several notable varieties and rarities, this issue presents both challenges and opportunities for the astute collector.

Whether you‘re just starting to collect Morgans or are a seasoned pro looking to dive deeper into the 1889 issue, this comprehensive guide will equip you with everything you need to know. We‘ll cover the coin‘s history and key features, a complete rundown of varieties by mint, a pricing guide for circulated and Mint State examples, and insider tips for building a high-quality 1889 Morgan dollar set.

The Story of the 1889 Morgan Dollar

First, some context. The Morgan dollar, designed by George T. Morgan, was born out of the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, a law that required the U.S. Treasury to purchase large quantities of silver for coinage. The new dollar, composed of 90% silver and 10% copper, featured a strikingly detailed portrait of Lady Liberty on the obverse and a proud eagle on the reverse.

1889 marked the twelfth year of the series, with dollars produced at the following mints:

Mint Mint Mark Mintage
Philadelphia (none) 21,726,000
New Orleans O 11,875,000
San Francisco S 700,000
Carson City CC 350,000

As the mintage figures show, the 1889-S and 1889-CC issues are considerably scarcer than their Philadelphia and New Orleans counterparts. The Carson City dollars in particular have achieved legendary status among collectors for their rarity and connection to the Wild West.

Key Dates and Varieties

Within the 1889 Morgan dollar series, there are several standout issues that collectors pay substantial premiums for. Let‘s break them down by mint.

1889-CC Morgan Dollar

The 1889-CC is the undisputed "king" of the date. With a mintage of just 350,000 coins, it‘s the rarest Morgan dollar from the Carson City Mint. Examples are scarce in all grades, but particularly so in Mint State.

The finest known 1889-CC, graded MS-68 by PCGS, sold for a staggering $531,875 in 2013. While not every collector has half a million dollars to spend, even lower grade examples command hefty price tags. An 1889-CC in Good-4 condition, with heavy wear and minimal detail, still sells for around $5,000.

For the variety specialist, there‘s the rare and highly coveted 1889-CC "Capped Die" Morgan dollar. This dramatic error occurred when grease clogged the obverse die, obliterating most of Liberty‘s hair and facial features. Only a handful of examples are known to exist, making it a true prize for the Morgan dollar aficionado.

1889-S Morgan Dollar

The 1889-S, while not as rare as the Carson City issue, is still a key date in the series with a mintage of just 700,000 coins. It‘s especially scarce in high Mint State grades, with gems (MS-65 and above) commanding five-figure price tags.

One notable variety to watch for is the 1889-S "Hot Lips" Morgan dollar. This distinctive die variety features an enlarged lower lip on Liberty, giving her a pouty appearance. While not extremely rare, the Hot Lips is popular with collectors and can bring a nice premium over a "normal" 1889-S dollar.

1889-O Morgan Dollar

The New Orleans Mint produced over 11 million Morgan dollars in 1889, making the 1889-O a relatively common issue in circulated grades. However, like most O-Mint Morgans, truly high-end examples are elusive. Coins graded MS-65 and above are condition rarities that sell for substantial sums.

Among the more interesting 1889-O varieties is the "Scarface" dollar, so named for the prominent die break across Liberty‘s cheek. This dramatic error is highly sought-after by variety collectors.

1889 Philadelphia Morgan Dollar

With a hefty mintage of over 21 million coins, the 1889 Philadelphia issue is the most common Morgan dollar of the date. Circulated examples are plentiful and affordable, making them an excellent choice for collectors on a budget.

That said, the 1889-P is still conditionally scarce in grades above MS-65. Coins at the very top end of the grading scale, especially those with Prooflike or Deep Mirror Prooflike designations, can bring strong premiums.

One notable variety to look for is the 1889 "Doubled Ear" Morgan dollar. This distinctive doubling of Liberty‘s ear occurred when the working die received two impressions from the hub at slightly offset angles. While not extremely rare, the Doubled Ear is popular with variety collectors.

A Pricing Guide for 1889 Morgan Dollars

As with any coin, the value of an 1889 Morgan dollar depends on its condition, mint mark, and overall eye appeal. Here‘s a table breaking down approximate values for each issue in various grades:

Grade 1889-P 1889-O 1889-S 1889-CC
Good-4 $35 $40 $135 $5,000
VF-20 $45 $55 $160 $6,000
EF-40 $50 $60 $180 $6,500
AU-50 $55 $75 $275 $8,000
MS-60 $75 $110 $450 $15,000
MS-63 $110 $225 $750 $45,000
MS-65 $350 $1,000 $4,500 $150,000
MS-67 $3,500 $12,500 $45,000 $500,000

As you can see, the premiums for high-grade examples are substantial, especially for the scarcer S-Mint and CC-Mint issues. Collectors with deep pockets compete fiercely for condition census coins, driving prices into the six- and even seven-figure range for the finest known specimens.

Building an 1889 Morgan Dollar Collection

So, you‘ve caught the bug and want to start collecting 1889 Morgan dollars. Congratulations and welcome to the club! Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the series, including key dates, varieties, and grading standards. Reading books, perusing online forums, and attending coin shows are all great ways to deepen your knowledge.

  2. Set goals. Decide what you want to accomplish with your collection. Are you aiming for a complete date set? Focusing on a particular mint? Chasing rare varieties? Having a clear direction will help guide your purchases.

  3. Buy the best you can afford. When it comes to Morgan dollars, quality is king. Coins with attractive luster, minimal bagmarks, and strong eye appeal will always be in demand. Don‘t be afraid to stretch your budget for a truly exceptional coin.

  4. Stick with certified coins. For high-value issues like 1889-CC dollars, it‘s essential to buy coins graded by reputable third-party services like PCGS and NGC. This helps protect you against counterfeits and overgrading.

  5. Be patient. Building a high-quality Morgan dollar set takes time. Wait for the right coins at the right prices rather than settling for inferior examples. The thrill of the hunt is part of the fun!

  6. Enjoy the journey. Collecting is meant to be enjoyable, so don‘t put too much pressure on yourself. Take pleasure in learning about the history behind your coins and sharing your passion with fellow collectors. The friendships you forge along the way are priceless.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is the 1889 Morgan dollar rare?

A: It depends on the mint mark and condition. In circulated grades, the 1889-P and 1889-O are quite common, while the 1889-S and especially the 1889-CC are much scarcer. In Mint State, all issues are conditionally rare, with gems (MS-65 and above) commanding hefty premiums.

Q: Where is the mint mark on an 1889 Morgan dollar?

A: The mint mark, if present, appears on the reverse of the coin just above the "DO" in "DOLLAR." Coins struck at the main Philadelphia Mint bear no mint mark. "O" denotes New Orleans, "S" San Francisco, and "CC" Carson City.

Q: What‘s the most valuable 1889 Morgan dollar?

A: The undisputed king of the series is the 1889-CC in Mint State, especially in high grades. The finest certified example, an 1889-CC graded MS-68 by PCGS, sold for $531,875 in 2013. However, any 1889-CC in Uncirculated condition is a major rarity that commands a substantial premium.

Q: Are there any special varieties to look for?

A: Absolutely! Notable varieties include the 1889-CC "Capped Die," 1889-S "Hot Lips," 1889-O "Scarface," and 1889 "Doubled Ear." These coins can bring significant premiums over "normal" examples, especially in higher grades.

The Bottom Line

The 1889 Morgan dollar is a fascinating and challenging issue that offers something for collectors of all budgets and interests. Whether you‘re drawn to the legendary 1889-CC, the scarce 1889-S, or the more affordable 1889-P and 1889-O, there‘s no denying the allure of these classic 90% silver coins.

By educating yourself, setting clear goals, and staying patient, you can build a Morgan dollar set that will bring you joy for years to come. Remember, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the journey. Happy collecting!

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