Pre-21 Morgan

Pre-21 Morgan

The term “Pre-21 Morgan” refers to US silver dollars, designed by George T. Morgan, minted between 1878 and 1904. After 1904, Morgans were discontinued until 1921, so the designation “pre-21” indicates only the 1878-1904 coins. In spite of identical silver content, there is typically less demand among collectors for the 1921 coins, hence the distinction between 1921 and pre-1921.

The Morgan silver dollar has a composition of 90% and 10% copper, weighs 26.73 grams and contains just over ¾ of a troy ounce of pure silver (0.77344 oz). The first coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint in March of 1878. The Philadelphia coins bear no mint mark, while subsequent coins featured mint marks of CC (Carson City), S (San Francisco), O (New Orleans), D (Denver). In general terms, Carson City coins had lower mintage figures and carry a higher premium value among collectors.

Pre-21 Morgans are typically sold in either “raw” form, with a grading system that ranges from cull (coins can be gouged, painted, scuffed, poorly cleaned… leaving them with no numismatic value), to AG (about good), G (good), VG (very good), XF (extra fine), AU (almost uncirculated), BU (brilliant uncirculated), or in MS (mint state). MS coins are graded by third party services such as PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) and encased in plastic slabs with individual serial numbers.

The 1893-S is the most valuable pre-21 Morgan. Between the two premier grading companies, only 62 1893-S Morgans have ever been graded at MS60 or better. In October of 2014, an MS65 93-S fetched $646,250 at auction! PCGS has graded only one 93-S as high as MS67 and their price guide values the coin at a cool one million dollars!


US Mint Director Henry Linderman commissioned Chief Engraver William Barber and one of his assistants, George T. Morgan, a young British engraver, to prepare pattern dollars in November of 1877. The best design was to be used on the new silver dollar being proposed by the Bland-Allison Act, which ultimately passed into law in February of 1878.

Linderman had hired Morgan in 1876, entrusting him with new coin designs as a response to his dissatisfaction with Barber and his son, Charles. At that time, no US Silver Dollars had been minted since 1873 and no new coins were in planning stages. With the Bland-Allison Act making a new dollar appear inevitable, Linderman ordered that a head of Liberty would replace the full-figure depiction of the previous silver dollar, the Seated Liberty.

Morgan’s obverse features a left-facing portrait of Miss Liberty, modeled after Philadelphia school teacher Anna Willess Williams, with Liberty emblazoned across her crown, the words E PLURIBUS UNUM across the top of the coin, the date at the bottom. The obverse also features 13 stars and Morgans initial M at the truncation of the neck.

The reverse depicts an eagle clasping arrows and an olive branch, with the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – ONE DOLLAR around the rim and the words In God We Trust above the eagle’s head. Morgan’s initial M also appears on the reverse, on the ribbon’s left loop. Mintmarks are found below the wreath on the reverse.

Pre-21 Morgan Silver Dollar
Years: 1878-1904
Mint Marks: none (Philadelphia), CC (Carson City), S (San Francisco), O (New Orleans), D (Denver)
Denomination: $1
Manufacturer: U.S. Mint
Silver Content:  .7734 troy oz
Purity:   .900
Grading Service: none
Grade:  VG (very good)
Thickness: 3.1 mm
Diameter: 38.1 mm
Edge: reeded

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Pre-21 Morgan dollar – further reading:
The Morgan 90% Silver Dollar has been a favorite among collectors and investors for over well 100 years. For more detailed information on the classic Pre-21 Morgan Silver Dollars, please refer to this informative article from Wikipedia.

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