MORGAN SILVER DOLLAR
The United States Mints began the production of this popular silver dollar in 1878. It was produced in Carson City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans and in 1921 only Denver. It is 90% silver. It weighs 412.5 grains and is 38.1mm in diameter. It was designed by and named after George T. Morgan and features his portrait of "Liberty" on the obverse. In most years this popular coin was minted by the millions. You can take a look at the list below to see years when production was low and thus values are higher. This was the first US coin to include the national phrase, "E. Pluribus Unum" on the reverse. That means loosely, "One from many." In 1904 the US mints faced a shortage of silver for production, so the silver dollar was discontinued until 1921 when it resumed in huge quantities for the last year.
Like all coins it is graded using a standardized system so the collector can know in what condition the coin is in. This is vital on Ebay as you need to know how to recognize the condition of the coin because it makes up a big part of the coins value. Ebay provides seperate guides just on this topic, but here is a summary of the American Numismatic Association grading standards as they pertain to the MORGAN DOLLAR. The wise buyer will look at the coin's photos as well as the seller's description to judge for yourself the condition of the coin. Grades can be given a number value from 1-70. The number 1 is a seriously damaged coin and 70 is a perfect coin in all ways. I have included the most common abbreviations so you can become familiar with them as they are used on Ebay. Some sellers are inexperienced or feel pressure to grade their coins too high hoping for a better price, so use your own opinion to make a fair evaluation. Judging wear based on specific parts of the coin will help you grade accurately.
About Good-(AG-3) Liberty's head is outlined and many details are worn away. Date must still be readable. Words may be merging into the rim around the edge. Eagle and words partially worn away but still recognizable.
Good (G-4) Heavy wear, little detail. Hair is well worn and there isn't much detail left. Rim, letters, date are clearly outlined. The eagle is worn down so that it is nearly flat. Legend is visible, rim is full.
Very Good (VG-8) Well worn, design still clear, but flat and lacking detail. Liberty's hair is worn smooth. All the letters and numbers are clear. The edge of her cap in her hair is worn and merging with hair. The eagles feathers on the right wing and up to 1/3 of left wing are smooth. The wreath around the eagle is smooth. Rim is complete.
Fine (F-12) Moderate to heavy, but even wear with a clear design, bold. Hair around the face is clearly defined, but the two lower cotton blossoms of the caps edge are smooth, but distinct from cap. Some wheat grains are merging, but the two lines are still clear. The feathers of the eagle's right wing and edge of left wing are smooth. Head, neck and breast are smooth and merged. The tail feathers are slightly worn. The top leaves in the surrounding wreath show heavy wear.
Very Fine (VF-20) Light to moderate even wear. All features should be sharp. Smooth spots visible along hairline from forehead to ear. There will be worn smooth areas on cotton leaves and on the cotton blossoms. Wheat grains are worn. The eagle's feathers on breast and head are smooth. The tips of the wings are weak, but the lines are complete.
Very Fine (VF-30) This is a slightly better grade with wear showing on high pints of the hair from forehead to ear. Some strands of hair should be visible above the ear. Cotton leaves are still somewhat smooth. Wear present on wreath around eagle and tips of the wings. A few feathers are visible on breast and head.
Extremely Fine (EF-40) Very light wear on the highest points. Wear on the hair just above the date, forehead and ear. Lines should be clear in the rest of the hair. Flat spots present on edges of cotton leaves and the cheek shows light wear. Feathers on the eagle's breast are gone. Wear shows on wing tips, legs, and head. The talons (feet) are flat. There should be some partial mint luster remaining.
Choice Extremely Fine (EF-45) Slight wear on hair above the date, forehead and ear. The hair lines are sharp and detailed. Only slight flat spots on the edges of the cotton leaves. Minor signs of wear on cheek. The feathers on the eagle's breast are lightly worn. The right wing tip and the tops of the wear. The talons are slightly flat. Some mint luster is present.
About Uncirculated (AU-50) Small traces of wear are visible on the highest points. Traces of wear on the hair above the eye and ear, edges of cotton leaves and the upper fold of the cap. Some detail remains clear on the tops of the cotton blossoms. Luster is gone from the cheek. The eagle's breast, wing tips, talons and the tops of the legs have traces of wear. Bag marks and surface abrasions are present and 3/4 of mint luster remains.
About Uncirculated (AU-55) Only a slight trace of wear present on hair above the ear and eye, as well as the edges of the cotton leaves and upper fold of the cap. Some luster may be fading from the cheek. Slight trace wear also present on eagle's breast, leg tops, and talons. While most of the mint luster is present, there are still bag marks and abrasions.
Uncirculated, Mint State (MS-60) Strictly uncirculated with no trace of any wear. May have bag marks and other abrasions resulting from mixing with new coins while in the mint bags. This coin should have full mint luster but may lack some brilliance. May contain some spots or toning. Absolutely no wear above the eye, ear or on cotton blossoms and leaves. The eagle's feathers show no wear. Weak mint strike spots should be distinguished from wear.
Uncirculated, Mint State (MS-65) No trace of any wear. There may be a few minute bag marks and other abrasions. This coin will have full mint luster but may be unevenly toned.
Perfect Uncirculated Mint State (MS-70) This is a flawless, perfect coin that looks just as it did in the mint. there will be no wear, no abrasions or bag marks. It will have full mint luster and brilliance.
RARE YEARS FOR MORGAN DOLLARS
The best and only sensible way to keep track of the value of different years and mints is to have a good reliable book listing each year and each mint with a detailed breakdown of the grades and what an individual coin is worth, but as a general rule coins with a mintage below 1 million are worth considerable more than those over 1 million. Most Morgans, in circulated condition, such as Fine, are worth $35 to $40 each. Silver is currently (April 2011) worth about $42 per ounce and that keeps a floor on prices. The years below tend to go for several hundred dollars each in Extra Fine or better shape so keep an eye out, but this is only a broad guide to seperate the most common from the more rare. These are the rare dates.
1878CC thru 1892CC (Carson City) are all rarer and in demand, 1886S, 1888S, 1892S, 1893, 1893O, 1893S*, 1894*, 1895**, 1895O, 1895S, 1896S, 1903O, 1903S, 1904S.
Now keep in mind that even the remaining common dates can be worth several thousand dollars in uncirculated condition, especially in MS-65 or MS-70. A year that is common, such as the 1879O, can be worth only $35 in Fine grade will find itself bringing in $5000 in MS-65 just because there are very few uncirculated coins in that year from New Orleans. The 1901 from Philadelphia goes for $40 in Fine and $21,500 in MS-65. Such differences in value based solely on the condition serves as a reminder why grading correctly is so important.
When buying on Ebay make sure if you are buying one of the more expensive dates that the seller is reputable and offers a return policy in case you get the coin and disagree over the grade. Any honest dealer will accept returns up front and without a hassle. Paying via PayPal offers other assurances that if the coin is not as described, you can get your money back. Dealers who don't take PayPal or don't offer refunds may be questionable. Use your common sense in such cases and avoid sellers who seem doubtful.
If you are looking at Silver Dollars just a silver investment you can't go wrong. They are always recognized and readily exchanged for thier inherent silver value. With prices for silver going up, up and up they are great investments. Unless you think the government is about to balance the budget and behave like adults, you are sure to make money with silver. Now go out and have fun!