US Coins

MS-64 1896-O Morgan dollar's ends well above estimate

The extreme rarity of MS-65 1896-O Morgan dollars places pressure on MS-64 examples like this one with a green CAC sticker that sold for $68,750 on May 21.

Original images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s May 21 Historic Coins and Medals auction featuring Morgan dollars from the Ralph and Lois Stone Collection was noteworthy for a number of reasons.

The auction, which totaled $5,094,629 in prices realized, was formed during the first decade of third-party grading, and the coins were sold in their original holders; many have additionally received a sticker from Certified Acceptance Corp. recognizing the coin’s quality.

Among the lots were three unusually well-preserved New Orleans Mint dollars from the mid-1890s that surpassed expectations, one of which is highlighted here. Read about the first profiled coin, an 1897-O Morgan dollar, here

The Lot:

1896-O Morgan dollar, Mint State 64, green CAC Sticker

The Price:


The Story:

The 1896-O Morgan dollar enjoyed a large mintage of nearly 5 million pieces. Almost all were poorly produced, and most entered circulation. The issue is often called the rarest of all Morgan dollars in Mint State 65 and finer condition. Like the 1895-O, the average Uncirculated example grades a low-end MS-61, with dull luster, a weak strike and lots of contact marks. 

Professional Coin Grading Service has graded just one in MS-65 and two in MS-66, placing pressure on the 30 recorded as graded MS-64 (which likely includes coins that have been submitted multiple times with hopes of achieving a higher grade). 

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Of this example, Sotheby’s wrote, “the lustre, while muted, is glossy and catches the light well; there are few surface abrasions but none are distracting,” before concluding that the Stones’ dollar is “a remarkable example which is noticeably finer and with greater eye appeal than the few MS 64 examples that have recently appeared at auction.” Bidders agreed about this MS-64 dollar, which also has a Certified Acceptance Corp. green sticker; it sold for $68,750 against an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.

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