The Top Five Morgan Silver Dollars
Why waste everyone's time? Let's skip the appetizers and get
to the meaty stuff right now: The Morgan silver dollars poised to
increase the most in value in the years ahead are the 1895,
1892-CC, 1894, 1878-CC, and the 1883-CC. Pretty bold prediction,
eh? At this point, the reader now has three options: (1) Stop
reading and act upon this information, (2) Stop reading and get
on with life, or (3) Continue on, evaluate the analytical
approach to identify the "Top Five" Morgan dollars, and then
implement a variation of (1) or (2) above. If you've gotten this
far, we encourage you to continue on with option (3).
First, a little background info on the Morgan silver
The Morgan silver dollar is today one of the most popular of
all collector coins. First minted in 1878 following the passage
of the Bland-Alison Act, the new dollar was named after its
designer, George T. Morgan. Political pressure by powerful silver
mining companies, in a gambit to stabilize the price of their
commodity at artificially high levels, created the impetus
driving the legislative action. Bland-Alison led to the
overproduction of silver dollars, resulting in millions of these
unused "cartwheels" languishing in bank and Treasury vaults.
Indeed, few coins have ever been released under more dubious
circumstances than Morgan silver dollars. Minting continued until
1904, and then again for one more year in 1921, when the series
finally came to a close.
For decades thereafter, Morgan dollars were largely snubbed by
hobbyists. Many dates, including those in mint state condition,
could be obtained for as little as $1.00. This situation shifted
dramatically in 1962, when the US government began selling
original 1000-piece silver dollar Treasury bags to the public at
face value. Stories of rare dollar finds circulated widely,
touching off a veritable Morgan mania. Within a matter of months,
all but a small fraction of the federally owned coins were
transferred from government vaults to private hands, consequently
expanding the Morgan dollar collector base far beyond anything
Since then, Morgan silver dollars have proudly perched
themselves atop the catbird seat of the numismatic world. Their
physical size, availability, beauty, and historical significance
have consistently attracted herds of new buyers. Numerous
boom-turned-bust cycles have come and gone, sometimes driven by
pure speculative motives, but from a long-term perspective, most
Morgan dollar prices have trended somewhat positive.
Unlike some controversial promoters in the past, I do not
propose purchasing Morgan silver dollars simply as investment
vehicles. However, for collectors hoping to satisfy their
numismatic yearnings AND acquire coins destined to be worth
substantially more in the future, Morgan dollars do present a few
opportunities. As noted above, as a whole, Morgans have gained
moderately in value over the years. The crucial challenge, then,
is to identify which members of this series have enjoyed the best
growth patterns in the past. The underlying logic is clear: coins
that have demonstrated the strongest gains over a long period of
time are the coins best positioned to show similar price
advancements with the continued passage of time.
In order to measure past performance and thus visualize
Morgans most likely headed toward a bullish future, I developed a
systematic approach. First, I researched individual Morgan dollar
retail prices as they existed in 1950, for a broad range of
conditions, and entered this data on a computer spreadsheet.
Moving forward in time, values from the years 1980, 1995, and
2000 were likewise recorded. Finally, estimated selling prices in
2005 were juxtaposed with counterpart data from those earlier
years. Because grading terminology has evolved over the 55 year
period, certain assumptions were made to progressively track
price movements throughout the time spectrum (e.g. an
"Uncirculated" value in 1950 is equivalent to the "MS-60" of
For each date and condition, compounded annual return rates
were computed from 1950 to 2005. [Editorial note: compounded
annual return rate is the accepted yardstick for comparing
investment performance. Of course, coins do not grow at a
guaranteed uniform rate, such as bonds do, but if a coin is
purchased at a certain price, and that price is compared with the
value of the coin at some later date, the compounded annual
return rate can be calculated for the time period in between].
Return rate computations were made from 1980 to 2005, 1995 to
2005, and 2000 to 2005. For each Morgan dollar, the data was
placed in tabular format.
Next, I calculated a "composite" score for each date by
averaging all the compounded return rates computed for that date.
I then ranked all the "composite" scores. The Morgan silver
dollars with the highest scores are as follows:
So, it would appear, based on past performance over a period
of 55 years, the 1895 is the Morgan silver dollar with the best
hope of appreciating significantly in the years ahead, followed
by the 1892-CC, 1894, 1878-CC, and 1883-CC. Not surprisingly,
dollars of the Carson City Mint occupy 13 of the top 16
positions, thanks to persistent collectors scrambling for bona
fide artifacts of the romantic American West. On the opposite end
of the rankings, Morgan silver dollars having the bleakest long
term prospects include the 1898, 1899-O, 1884, and the 1888-O,
followed by the 1897 coming in dead last with a score of
Anyone whose dual objective is to acquire Morgan silver
dollars with a bullish future ought to begin looking at the "Top
Five" above. Purchase coins in the best condition you can afford,
but be sure the coins are clean, problem-free, and CERTIFIED by a
reputable grading service. Be prepared to hold for at least five
years. Morgan dollars have skyrocketed in value in the last three
years, so some cooling off may be in order before the next upward
If a polling firm were to survey the population of US coin
collectors, it is very possible that Morgan silver dollars would
win the vote as the most appealing coin in American coinage
history. These beautiful coins have been the heartbeat of the
hobby for many years, with no retreat in sight. Ironically, these
same coins spent the better part of a century hidden away in
government vaults, unseen, unwanted, and unloved. My, how times
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