US Coins

Key Morgan dollar offered in Heritage February Long Beach sale

Some always-popular Morgan dollars are among the highlights at Heritage’s Feb. 24 to 27 Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction, set to be previewed Feb. 15 to 19 at the Long Beach Expo, with the auction taking place in Dallas.

Leading bidding will be a prime condition rarity in the series: an 1886-O Morgan silver dollar graded Mint State 65 by Professional Coin Grading Service, which is among the very finest known.

In most grades, this New Orleans Mint issue is not particularly challenging since the 1886-O Morgan dollar had a hearty mintage of 10,710,000 pieces. This mintage was sizable for the era, but it was a poorly produced issue, with Heritage writing, “The dies were often spaced too far apart, in order to reduce die wear during the enormous press runs, and many survivors are softly struck in consequence. Insipid mint luster and excessive surface marks also plague this issue.”

Less than half of the production entered circulation, and worn examples can be purchased for the price of a common date. Mint State examples, however, are scarce and those in top grades are nearly unheard of.

Much of the issue was held in Mint bags, unissued, and likely melted in the early 20th century. The date was not often found in the bags of dollars released by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the 1960s, and those that made it to the marketplace showed heavy contact marks, along with the poor strike and weak luster characteristic of the issue.

The development of third-party grading in the 1980s and subsequent population reports confirmed that this issue is a key in top Mint State grades, with PCGS grading only three in MS-65 or MS-65+ and Numismatic Guaranty Co. recording none finer than MS-64. The last offering of a comparably graded PCGS MS-65 example at auction, according to the PCGSCoinFacts database, took place in 2014 when one with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker sold for $152,750. An MS-65+ example sold for $235,000 at Legend the next year.

PCGS has recorded 231 submissions that were graded MS-64 and 30 in MS-64+, likely inflated numbers, as people resubmitted the same coins with the hopes of getting a “Gem” grade, and these sell for $10,000 to $20,000 when offered.

The subject dollar is an exception to the generally low visual quality of the issue. Heritage’s cataloger reports that the eye appeal is outstanding, adding, “This spectacular Gem displays sharply detailed design elements throughout, and the virtually flawless surfaces show no mentionable distractions. Vibrant mint luster radiates from both sides and the mostly brilliant surfaces show subtle hints of lavender in selected areas.”

Two Proof 1895 dollars

Contrasting with the 1886-O Morgan dollar, which is a condition rarity, but not an absolute rarity as an issue, a Proof 1895 Morgan dollar is desirable in all states of preservation. It seems that no circulation strike Philadelphia Mint 1895 dollars were released — many believe they were never produced — and collectors are left with only the 880 Proof dollars minted this year. Heritage will offer two at its auction.

The more affordable one is graded Proof 62 by PCGS. Heritage calls it a “Trophy Coin,” explaining, “The 1895 proof Morgan silver dollar falls under the category of ‘blue-chip rarity’ in American coinage. It has a long, established track record as one of the most recognizable and sought-after keys in United States numismatics, regardless of series.”

This one has light hairline scratches on both sides, with a bold strike as typical on these Proof pieces and a bit of contrast between the fields and devices.

More impressive — and expensive — is one graded Proof 67 by NGC that “showcases tremendous visual appeal, built on deeply reflective fields cast in old-time violet, gold, blue-green, and lilac toning, which forms concentric bands around each side.”

For pricing reference, Heritage auctioned a PCGS Proof 62 example for $44,400 at its April 2020 Central States Numismatic Society auctions and Kagin’s sold a beautifully toned NGC-graded Proof 67 example at its 2020 American Numismatic Association National Money Show auction on Feb. 27, 2020, for $120,000.

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