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1893-S Key Date of Morgan Dollar Series

The two full U.S. coin series thus far uploaded to Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ Coin Resource Center, Walking Liberty half dollars and Morgan dollars, offer many dates and varieties to examine. This week we’ll be taking our first look at Morgan dollars, specifically the 1893-S. With the series’ smallest business-strike mintage, 100,000, for the 1893-S, even fairly heavily circulated or “problem” coins command significant prices when they come up for sale. 

As the Panic of 1893 deepened, mintages of Morgan dollars fell precipitously; the early-to-mid 1890s saw some of the series’ lowest production figures as the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in late 1890 marked the beginning of the end of the silver dollar denomination. The 1893-S emerged as a prime rarity, tagged as “legendary” by many a zealous cataloger.

Like many San Francisco Morgan dollars, strike quality is strong on the 1893-S. Per our CRC entry: “Strike quality is sharp, with even worn pieces apt to have good detail. Luster is usually rich and deep on Mint State examples—when they can be found.”

Much of the issue’s small mintage entered commerce after their delivery in January 1893, the result of which is, as our CRC entry puts it, “most circulated examples of the date are VF or so; lesser and finer grades can be obtained but all are moderately scarce. This date saw regular commercial use in the era it was issued. No matter the grade, AG to AU, there is seemingly always a buyer for an example of this rarity. We suggest a problem-free VF example is the way to go for budget-conscious collectors.”

Uncirculated examples are few and valuable. The CRC offers these comments: “Not surprisingly, this date was not greatly represented in the Treasury releases of the early 1960s. MS-60 to 62 grades can be found with a modicum of difficulty, but above that level it’s a mid-five figure coin and is even more valuable in MS-64 and higher. If you’d like a gem example of the date, be prepared to spend well into six figures if you can locate a specimen.”

Recent auction results reflect this date’s desirability. In our August 2023 Global Showcase Auction, an example graded AU-53 by PCGS realized $43,200. In our November 2020 sale, the Larry Miller Specimen of the 1893-S Morgan dollar, graded MS-65 by PCGS with a green CAC sticker and status as the second-finest known, realized $600,000. Another example graded Unc Details – Cleaning by PCGS realized $96,000 in 2018.

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