Some collectors got an early holiday present in 1962 as the
Philadelphia Mint released thousands of Mint State dollars. The result
completely shifted the understanding of rarity in the Morgan dollar series.
The release of thousands of Mint State 1898-O, 1902-O, 1903-O and
1904-O Morgan dollars sent prices of the coins plummeting to a
fraction of their catalog values.
For example, the 1903-O Morgan dollar, which had been listed at
$1,500 in Mint State prior to the release and was considered a key to
the series, quickly dropped to a range of $13 to $15.
As a front page article in the Dec. 14, 1962, issue of Coin
World noted, “Coin dealers across the nation who hastily adjusted
their prices in relation to the new supply expressed little surprise
at the break in the silver dollar market, and felt that release of the
rare date dollars was inevitable.”
According to the article, Mint Director Eva Adams said that it was
a Christmas supply of silver dollars. A Mint spokesman explained, “We
release silver dollars without regard to dates.” He added, “Although
we spot-check the bags, there is no pre-occupation with numismatic
valuation ... in fact, this is against Mint regulations.”
Today prices for the once rare 1903-O Morgan dollar have leveled
out and supplies are sufficient to meet collector demand in nearly all
Mint State grades. Choice Mint State examples are seemingly as readily
located as circulated survivors.
For example, while a Good 4 example sold for $235 in an Oct. 23
auction, a pleasant, bright MS-64 dollar realized a reasonable $411.25
at a Heritage auction just two days prior.
The great silver dollar release of the early 1960s provides a
useful lesson on the sometimes shifting nature of rarity. When this
coin was at the $1,500 level, it was rare and very hard to find
because no supplies existed in the market. Today the issue sits in the
middle of the pack in terms of rarity for Mint State Morgan dollars.
Those holding on to high-end Morgan dollars in the 1960s must not
have been comforted by this statement that appeared at the end of the
Coin World article: “We have over $100,000,000 on hand — we
are not likely to run out in the future!’ the Mint spokesman smiled.”
When one considers that a Mint State 1903-O Morgan was a $1,500 coin
50 years ago, is it a bargain today? ■