Morgan Silver Dollar Values: The Definitive Collector‘s Guide

As one of the most widely collected and iconic coins in American numismatics, Morgan silver dollars have captivated collectors for generations. First struck in 1878, these hefty 90% silver cartwheel dollars feature a classic design by engraver George T. Morgan and were minted by the millions until 1904, with one final issue in 1921.

While many Morgans can still be obtained for a small premium over silver melt value, the series is known for its rare key dates, condition rarities and varieties that can fetch astronomical sums. In fact, the most desirable Morgan dollar – an 1895 Proof graded PR-68 Ultra Cameo by NGC – realized $1,840,000 at auction in 2021.

So what makes one Morgan silver dollar worth a few bucks and another worth a fortune? As a lifelong collector and professional numismatist, I created this definitive guide to share my knowledge and insights on these fascinating coins. Whether you‘re just starting a collection or looking to maximize value when buying or selling, you‘ll find everything you need to assess Morgan dollars like an expert.

Morgan Dollar Basics

Before we dive into values, let‘s cover some essential facts about the Morgan silver dollar series:

  • Minted from 1878-1904 and in 1921 at 5 mints: Philadelphia (no mint mark), New Orleans (O), San Francisco (S), Carson City (CC) and Denver (1921-D only)
  • Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper, 0.77344 troy oz ASW
  • Diameter: 38.1 mm
  • Weight: 26.73 grams
  • Obverse: Liberty head left with motto, designer‘s initial M, 7 or 8 tail feathers in eagle
  • Reverse: Eagle clasping arrows and branch, motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, denomination and mint mark if applicable

History and Background

The story of the Morgan dollar begins with the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, which required the Treasury to purchase large quantities of silver from Western mines to mint into silver dollars. The new design by British-born engraver George T. Morgan replaced the Seated Liberty motif used since 1840.

Morgan‘s obverse features a left-facing portrait of Liberty with wheat and cotton in her hair, based on American Anna Willess Williams who modeled for the coin. The reverse shows an eagle with outstretched wings clutching arrows and an olive branch, along with the mottos E PLURIBUS UNUM and IN GOD WE TRUST.

From 1878 to 1904, the Philadelphia, New Orleans, Carson City and San Francisco mints struck hundreds of millions of Morgan dollars, many of which sat unused in Treasury vaults. Under the 1918 Pittman Act, over 270 million were melted. The final Morgans were struck in 1921 with one last hurrah before the Peace dollar took over later that year.

Determining Morgan Dollar Values

As with all collectible coins, Morgan silver dollar values are based on a combination of factors, primarily:

  1. Rarity (mintage, survival rate)
  2. Condition (grade)
  3. Demand (collector interest)

Let‘s break these down in more detail.

Rarity: Date and Mintmark

The first step in determining a Morgan dollar‘s value is identifying its date and mintmark.

Generally speaking, Philadelphia (no mintmark) issues tend to be the most common as that was the main mint. New Orleans and San Francisco struck smaller quantities but still enough to keep prices reasonable for most dates.

Carson City Morgans are a different animal. Coins from this short-lived but legendary Nevada mint have the lowest mintages and survival rates, making them highly sought-after and valuable in any grade. An 1889-CC in rough condition can cost $2000+, while a gem Uncirculated example might fetch $50,000 or more.

Then there are the key dates. For P-mint coins, the rarest are 1884, 1889, 1892, 1893 and 1901. New Orleans keys include 1893-O and 1895-O, while 1893-S and 1895-S are the toughest San Francisco issues. Coins dated 1893-1895 saw greatly reduced mintages due to an economic downturn, making them rare and desirable.

Here‘s a table showing mintages and average values for some notable dates:

Date Mintage Good Fine XF40 MS60 MS65
1878 8TF 750K $50 $70 $120 $350 $1100
1880-S 9.1M $40 $45 $60 $90 $250
1884-S 3.2M $1400 $2500 $5500 $12K $40K
1893-CC 677K $15K $175K
1895-O 450K $2000 $4000 $8000 $35K $125K

* Values based on PCGS CoinFacts price guide as of January 2023.

Condition: Grade is King

A coin‘s grade or level of preservation makes a huge difference in its value. Morgan dollars are graded on the 70-point Sheldon Scale, which ranges from a barely identifiable Poor 1 to a flawless Mint State 70. Here‘s a quick primer:

  • Poor (PO-1): Heavily worn, date barely visible if at all
  • Fair (FR-2): Heavily worn, most detail gone but date readable
  • About Good (AG-3): Very worn, some peripheral detail but most lettering visible
  • Good (G-4 to 6): Heavily worn but major design elements visible
  • Very Good (VG-8 to 10): Moderately worn, all lettering and most design detail visible
  • Fine (F-12 to 15): Moderate to light even wear, all lettering and design elements clear
  • Very Fine (VF-20 to 35): Light wear, most fine detail visible
  • Extremely Fine (EF-40 to 45): Slight wear on high points, nearly full detail
  • About Uncirculated (AU-50 to 58): Traces of wear on high points, mint luster may be present
  • Mint State/Uncirculated (MS-60 to 70): No wear, mint luster present. Numeric grade determined by overall visual appeal, strike, luster and number/severity of marks and blemishes.

As a general rule, collectors prefer coins that are original and problem-free for their grade. Signs of cleaning, harsh toning, stains, bagmarks, nicks or rim damage can severely depress values.

While low grade "cull" Morgans can be bought near melt value for their silver content, most numismatists focus on nice VF through Uncirculated examples. A common date 1880-S might cost $40 in VF but over $200 in MS-65. For rare dates and CC-mints, the multipliers get eye-popping. An 1893-CC can run $15,000 and up in Uncirculated, while an 1895-O in MS-67 could cost half a million bucks if you can find one.

Other Factors

Besides the 3 main value determinants of date, mint and grade, there are other things that can impact a particular Morgan dollar‘s price:

  • Variety – Certain die variations, errors and oddities can make a coin much more desirable to specialists. The 1878 7 over 8 Tailfeathers and 1880-O Micro O are popular examples.
  • Strike – How well the design details are brought up. Some issues, especially from New Orleans and Carson City, are known for weak, mushy strikes lacking fine detail.
  • Toning – Many collectors prize Morgan dollars with original, attractive toning in shades of blue, purple, red, gold etc. Too dark or splotchy toning can hurt value.
  • Eye appeal – A coin‘s overall visual impact. Bright, frosty luster, clean fields and good eye appeal for the grade are a plus.

How Can I Tell if My Morgan Dollar is Valuable?

So you found some old Morgan silver dollars – how do you figure out if you hit the jackpot or just have a few more bucks in melt value? Here‘s my expert step-by-step process:

  1. Identify the date and mint mark. If it‘s pre-1921 Carson City or a key date, you may really have something.
  2. Determine the grade. You‘ll need a decent magnifier in good light. Be conservative as many online photos are deceptive. When in doubt, assume a lower grade.
  3. Check a price guide. PCGS CoinFacts, the Red Book and Greysheet are reliable places to assess value based on date, mint and grade. Coin World‘s Coin Values also lets you quickly look up retail prices.
  4. Consider other factors like toning and eye appeal that can affect value vs. an average coin. Probably best to consult an expert rather than "guesstimating."
  5. Get a second opinion. Post pics on the PCGS CoinTalk forum or /r/coins. Take them to a coin show or dealer for a free verbal appraisal. If they might be rare/valuable, consider having them professionally authenticated and graded by NGC or PCGS.

Despite what some unscrupulous marketers claim, there‘s no such thing as a "rare 1921 Morgan dollar" or special highly valuable ones you should look for in Grandpa‘s cigar box. Myths about certain mintmarks being worth huge bucks are just that – myths. It all comes down to date, grade and eye appeal.

Speaking of myths, let‘s puncture a few more while we‘re at it:

  • "Coins have to be 100+ years old to be valuable." Not so. A 1921-S in MS-65 is worth $300+.
  • "Cleaned coins are worthless." Harshly cleaned coins definitely lose significant value, but a lightly wiped key date can still be worth good money. Get them evaluated.
  • "Only uncirculated Morgans have value." Nope. Circulated key dates and semi-keys are highly sought after, just at lower price points.

Selling Your Morgan Silver Dollars

Decided to sell some of your Morgans and turn them into cash? You have a few main options:

  1. Coin shop/dealer – Most local shops will make an offer on the spot based on wholesale value. Expect to get 50-70% of retail unless they‘re super rare.
  2. Online dealer – Many dealers have "sell to us" functions on their websites with instructions for shipping. Payments are fast and fair if you‘re dealing with a reputable company.
  3. Auction – For high-end coins ($1000+) a major auction house like Heritage, Stack‘s Bowers or Legend can help you maximize value. Commissions run 15-20% typically.
  4. eBay – Selling on eBay yourself lets you set the price, but you‘ll have to deal with listing, shipping, returns and the 13% fees.
  5. Private sale – Probably the cheapest option, but finding the right collector buyer takes work. Try a coin show, club or online forum.

Whatever you do, avoid pawn shops, "traveling buyers" and hotel "buying events." They often pay rock bottom prices and use high pressure tactics.

If you have raw ungraded coins, especially keys, consider having them certified by PCGS, NGC or ANACS first. Yes, grading costs $30-50+ per coin, but it can more than pay for itself in higher sale prices and buyer confidence.

Tips From an Expert

To recap, here are my top tips for getting the most value from your Morgan silver dollars:

  1. Learn to grade conservatively, and always assume a raw coin is less than sellers claim.
  2. Focus on rarity and grade over everything else.
  3. Understand the difference between retail and wholesale prices. You‘ll nearly always get much less than published values.
  4. Be patient. Don‘t let anyone pressure you into a fast sale, and take the time to shop around offers. Value your coins properly up front.
  5. Get rare coins graded by NGC or PCGS. Yes, it costs money but will more than pay for itself.
  6. Buy the best you can afford. High grade examples of rare dates have the most appreciation potential.
  7. If a deal seems too good to be true, it is. Beware of fakes and "raw" coins in holders masquerading as rare dates.
  8. Look for attractive, original coins. Avoid problem coins that have been harshly cleaned, retoned or have damage.
  9. Educate yourself. Read NumisMedia, CoinWorld, PCGS CoinFacts and books on Morgan dollars.

I hope you‘ve found this guide informative and useful for valuing your own Morgan silver dollar holdings. Collecting and investing in these gorgeous coins can be incredibly rewarding, financially and emotionally. There‘s nothing quite like holding a heavy silver cartwheel in your hand and imagining where it‘s been the past century or more.

If you have any questions or need advice, I‘m always happy to help my fellow collectors. Feel free to reach out, and most importantly – have fun!


How much is a 1921 Morgan silver dollar worth?

Over 86 million Morgan dollars were struck in 1921 at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints. A common date in typical circulated condition can be worth as little as $25. In Mint State grades, 1921 Morgans range from $30-50 in MS-63 to $100-125 in MS-65 and $750-1000 for superb MS-67 examples.

What makes a Morgan silver dollar rare?

Morgan dollar rarity is a function of a coin‘s mintage, survival rate and condition. Key date coins had low mintages under 1 million pieces. Nearly all pre-1904 Carson City coins are rare, especially in Mint State grades, due to low survival rates. Morgans from 1893, 1894 and 1895 are extremely rare due to limited production during the economic downturn.

Are old silver dollars worth anything?

All U.S. silver dollars dated 1935 and earlier contain .77344 troy ounces of pure silver, giving them a melt value around $18-20 each at 2023 bullion prices. Many Morgan and Peace dollars carry additional numismatic premiums based on date, mintmark, condition and other factors. Rarities can cost from a few hundred to well over $1 million.

Why are CC Morgan silver dollars so valuable?

Morgan dollars from the Carson City Mint are highly prized by collectors for their rarity and Old West mystique. The Nevada branch mint only operated from 1870 to 1893 and generally produced far fewer coins than Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco. Many CC-mint Morgans were later melted under the 1918 Pittman Act, making survivors even rarer today.

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