Carson City Mint coins today are wildly popular, including Morgan
dollars, first struck in 1878. Coins of this design were first struck
at the Philadelphia Mint on March 11.
The Carson City Mint had made preparations. By March 20, it had
600,000 planchets ready for stamping the coin there. However, the
Philadelphia Mint was in the midst of making changes to the design,
and coinage dies were not shipped to the Carson City facility by the
expected time. Finally, on April 16, a shipment of 10 die pairs and
six collars arrived. The Carson City Mint was now ready for coinage,
which occurred shortly afterward.
By that time, 632,325 planchets were on hand. An “Ajax” coining
press, made in Philadelphia by Morgan & Orr and delivered in May
1876 for the coinage of Trade dollars, could turn out a cascade of
30,000 silver dollars per day according to one account. More
realistically, the press could strike about 90 coins a minute, or
slightly over 50,000 in a 10-hour day.
The original Morgan & Orr press delivered for Trade dollar
coinage in 1873 also stood ready, as did another press received in
1875. By the end of 1878, the presses had minted 2,212,000 Morgan dollars.
Having collected hundreds of different newspaper and magazine
accounts relating to new coin designs — dating from the first Flowing
Hair, Chain, AMERI. cents of March 1793 and continuing through the
20th century, I note that nearly every coin launch has resulted in
unfavorable reviews. Indeed, until the 1907 Saint-Gaudens, Roman
Numerals $20 gold double eagles were released in December of 1907, I
have found not a single new design that was widely acclaimed. We may
dearly love Flowing Hair, Draped Bust, Capped Bust, Seated Liberty,
Barber, and other coins today, but when they were in use each of these
was nearly uniformly disparaged in print, and even numismatic mentions
were not kind.
And so it was with our dear 1878-CC Morgan dollar. The Carson
City Morning Appeal, April 17, 1878, stated that “great disgust
was expressed” with the appearance of the coins. Further:
“All that has been said as to the wretched workmanship of the
Philadelphia dollar will be equally true of the Carson dollar, and it
can’t be helped. The die represents the same wide, flat, pelican-bat
of the wilderness, and will show up all the defects of the coin. The
C.C. in the die is very indistinct, and looks as if it would turn out
two periods. We wish it may, and that the inartistic appearance of the
coin will lead the government to employ a new designer and give us a
new die, dollar, and deal. The United States ought to be ashamed to
issue such a piece of workmanship, and at least should allow a small
discount on the face of the thing.”
There was absolutely no need in commerce for 2 million plus silver
dollars at the time. They were struck under the Bland-Allison Act of
Feb. 28 of that year, in which Western mining interests persuaded
Uncle Sam to buy 2 million to 4 million ounces of silver each month to
prop up the falling market price.
Nearly all of the 1878-CC Morgan dollars were put into storage
vaults. After the Carson City Mint closed they were shipped to the
Treasury Building in Washington. Probably 100,000 or more of these
were paid out at face value to interested numismatists in the 1950s. I
recall handling multiple 1,000-coin bags when the wholesale price was
about $2 per coin. When the Treasury stopped paying out coins in March
1964, 60,993 1878-CC dollars remained in Treasury inventory.
These were sold by the General Services Administration some years
later. I estimate that 200,000 or so Mint State coins exist today —
making them very affordable.
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