1896 Morgan Silver Dollar: San Francisco Coins Bring Highest Average Value

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Morgan Silver Dollar Overview

The Morgan silver dollar was first minted in 1878, signaling the return of silver coinage following the Coinage Act of 1873.

The legislation behind the Morgan silver dollar was the Bland-Allison Act, which remonetized silver and mandated that the Treasury purchase between two and four million dollars’ worth of silver each month to be used expressly for making coins.

Morgan silver dollars were minted continuously until 1904, a year in which a silver shortage stopped production.

Minting resumed for one final year in 1921, the same year that the Morgan silver dollar’s successor, the Peace dollar, was first minted.  

The coin takes its name from its designer, George T. Morgan. On the obverse of Morgan’s design is a profile bust portrait of Liberty wearing a coronet. Above her head is the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and below her is the year of mintage.

The reverse features an eagle with outspread wings, perched with one foot on an olive branch and the other on a bundle of arrows. Surrounding the eagle is a laurel wreath, below the base of which can be found the mint mark, if one is present.

Below the wreath is the denomination “ONE CENT,” and the motto “In God We Trust” is above the eagle’s head. Along the upper portion of the rim is the legend “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

Both faces feature a denticled rim, a rim composed of small bumps.

Morgan’s elegant design has made this silver dollar an iconic and beloved coin by collectors of all types.

History of the 1896 Morgan Silver Dollar

Despite the economic crisis that occured only three years prior, 1896 was a relatively prolific year of production for the Morgan silver dollar.

Nearly twenty million silver dollars were struck across three mints: Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

Philadelphia produced by far the most Morgan silver dollars in 1896: 9,967,762. These coins are still very common–so common that the NGC has graded almost 6,000 examples in gem (MS-65 or higher).

San Francisco reports striking 5,000,000 silver dollars in 1896, almost all of which made their way into circulation. Many of those that didn’t still display signs of wear, mostly marks from bag storage.

Accordingly, compared to the the Philadelphia issues, high-grade San Francisco coins of this year are rare, only 19 gem examples having been graded by the NGC.

New Orleans minted the fewest coins, with only 4,900,000 struck. Suffering the same fate as the San Francisco coins, 1896-O silver dollars are exceedingly scarce in higher Uncirculated grades.

From a design standpoint, 1896 silver dollars are standard for the Morgan series. Compositionally, too, they are typical: 90% silver and 10% copper, with a mass of 26.73g and a diameter of 38.1mm.

Valuing the 1896 Morgan Silver Dollar

As with any coin that contains a significant quantity of precious metal, the minimum value for an 1896 Morgan silver dollar is often its melt value, how much it’s worth to a precious metals dealer.

Based on the current price of silver, the current estimated melt value of this coin is $12.60. However, 1896 Morgan silver dollars of any condition are usually worth more as collector’s items than as silver.

The value of your coin is to a certain extent affected by the place in which it was produced. The mint mark for this coin can be found under the base of the wreath on the reverse face.

No mint mark signifies Philadelphia, an “O” signifies New Orleans, and an “S” signifies San Francisco.

For coins minted in Philadelphia, Good-4 to Fine-12 grades are worth between $20 and $30. This is the range where the average 1896 Morgan silver dollar will fall.

Continuing up the scale, Very Fine-20 grades are worth $36, Extremely Fine-40 grades are worth $39, and About Uncirculated-50 grades are worth $41.

Uncirculated (MS-60) coins are valued at $50, and this jumps to $259 in Uncirculated (MS-65). Proof mintages may bring as much as $2,905.

New Orleans mintages are worth about three dollars more than Philadelphia mintages below the About Uncirculated-50 grade. The value rises steeply above this level.

About Uncirculated-50 grades are worth $161. This increases to $1,548 in Uncirculated (MS-60) and a staggering $177,926 in Uncirculated (MS-65)!

San Francisco issues are worth the most in low and mid grades. Good-4 to Fine-12 grades are worth between $50 and $64. The value increases to $71 in Very Fine-20, $219 in Extremely Fine-40, and $794 in About Uncirculated-50.

Uncirculated (MS-60) examples are valued at $2,166, and Uncirculated (MS-65) may be worth as much as $18,543. A specimen graded at MS-69 (almost the highest grade possible) sold in 2005 for $402,500!

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