US Coins

Silver dollar hoard from 1960s government sale

A hoard of 16,000 Morgan dollars stored in canvas bags in a New York City bank vault since their purchase in 1964 from the Treasury Department stockpile will be placed on the market after all are graded and slabbed by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

Jeff Garrett, founder and president of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries in Lexington, Kentucky, will be offering the coins in the hoard. 

He values the hoard of dollars at between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Garrett said the estimated value of the hoard will be determined by the certified grade each coin receives. Garrett is working on commission, on behalf of heirs who more than a decade ago inherited the silver dollars from their parents.

Garrett said the son and daughter of the man who originally purchased the coins more than 50 years ago no longer wanted to continue paying the $800 annual rental fee for the roughly 3-foot by 3-foot by 4-foot safe-deposit box that houses the silver dollars.

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Garrett said the heirs do not want to be identified but just want to dispose of the hoard.

Garrett said the heirs’ father worked in the financial district in lower Manhattan, and the coins were stored in a bank vault on Wall Street.

The coins in the hoard were contained in 16 canvas bags of 1,000 coins each, with each bag comprising coins of a specific date and Mint production facility. Garrett said the hoard has no bags containing mixed dates.

The bags were wire sealed with string and lead clamps and also bore tags from Brooklyn dealer Edward’s Associate, a numismatic firm specializing in silver dollars.

“The family purchased them from this broker when the Treasury distributed the bags in 1964,” Garrett said. “That’s when the box was opened at the bank. The coins have been there since.”

Some of the bags were imprinted with the designation for U.S. Mint and Treasury Department and others with the designation for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

The coins were struck at the Philadelphia, San Francisco and New Orleans Mints. None of the coins are from the Carson City Mint, Garrett said.

Once graded, the hoard coins will affect the NGC certified populations for the dates and Mint marks represented in the bags.

The hoard contains 1878-S, 1880-S, 1881-S, 1883, 1884, 1884-O, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888 and 1889 Morgan dollars. Garrett said several hundred of the coins exhibit toning from their storage in the canvas bags.

Coin handling

Garrett said he, his son Ben, and Mark Salzberg, chairman of Certified Collectibles Group (NGC’s parent company), spent May 28, 29 and part of May 30 handling each of the 16,000 coins.

The bags were removed carefully from the safe-deposit box to minimize creation of more marks than they may originally have. Garrett said the coins were removed slowly from each bag, with the best pieces set aside, placed into 2-inch by 2-inch coin flips. The remaining coins were individually placed into coin tubes, to be shipped by Brink’s from the New York bank to Florida, for grading and encapsulation at NGC’s facility in Sarasota.

Government hoard

The 16,000 silver dollars stored in the Wall Street bank vault were among the more than 200 million Morgan dollars sitting in Treasury vaults when the government decided in the early 1960s to allow an exchange of other currency for silver dollars, at face value.

Interested parties could line up to acquire up to 50,000 silver dollars from the Treasury Department’s main building, in Washington, D.C., where the coins were stored in vaults. Some enterprising individuals made some early money by selling their places in the line of those waiting to purchase the coins.

Treasury Secretary Douglas C. Dillon halted the exchange March 26, 1964, leaving some 2.9 million silver dollars, mostly Carson City Mint pieces, in 1,000-coin bags remaining at the bottom of the vaults.

Those silver dollars were auctioned in a series of five sales starting in October 1972, after Congress in 1970 authorized their sale by the General Services Administration.

The coins sold from these auctions were known as the GSA hoard. By 1979, that remaining silver dollar supply was exhausted.

Millions of coins

The government stockpile of silver dollars traces its genesis to the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, which authorized the four Mint production facilities to begin striking millions of dollar coins using silver from the Comstock Lode.

Within 15 years, the American people’s preference for the convenience of carrying paper currency was obvious, but Morgan dollars were minted through 1904 when the supply of silver from the Comstock Lode was depleted.

To replenish the government’s silver bullion supply, Congress legislated melting the silver dollars, under the Pittman Act of 1918.

More than 270 million silver dollars were melted under that legislation, an amount totaling nearly the half the combined production from 1878 through 1904.

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The silver dollars melted under the Pittman Act significantly reduced the surviving populations of coins dated 1900 through 1904. 

However, the Pittman Act required the government to purchase more silver on the open market to replace the coins melted, resulting in resumption of silver dollar production in 1921, first with the Morgan designs and then the Peace dollar designs.

Between 1958 and 1960, nearly 58 million silver dollars stored in government vaults were released.

In 1963 alone, 31 million silver dollars were released, and another 25 million in just the first three months of 1964, before the distribution was ended. 

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