US Coins

Novice randomly discovers $53,000 Morgan dollar

Professional Coin Grading Service’s Meet the Expert sessions at the 2016 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money sure ended with a bang.

On Aug. 13, the final day of the show, a show attendee presented PCGS CoinFacts President Ron Guth with an impressive rarity, an ungraded 1893-S Morgan dollar, the rarest date in the popular Morgan series.

The coin’s owner, a Los Angeles resident who wishes to remain anonymous, discovered the coins tucked away in a wooden box in the home of his recently deceased father. The two coins in the box were a $20 gold piece (which, of course, he thought would be the most valuable) and the 1893-S Morgan dollar.

He saw a TV ad for the ANA show, and decided to take both coins to the coin show for appraisal and possible selling. Once at the show, he approached a dealer’s table and asked what the dealer thought of both coins. The dealer, immediately recognizing the Morgan dollar’s significance, directed the man to the PCGS booth.

“I walked up to the PCGS booth and said, ‘Hey Ron, I have this coin, I was told it was a pretty nice coin,’ ” the owner said. “Ron inspected the coin and said, ‘This is a very nice coin you have; this is the real McCoy. These rarely come by in this condition.’ ”

Soon after, the coin was authenticated by PCGS and got a grade of AU-58 and a valuation of $53,000.

“When he said the coin is worth around $40,000, my jaw just hit the floor like a cartoon character,” the owner said. “In my head, I had a coin worth anywhere from $1,300 to $3,000.”

Why so rare?

Although 100,000 1893-S Morgan Dollars were minted, this particular date is considered the most valuable due to its rarity; only an estimated 10,000 survive in all grades today. However, the real value of the coin lies in its high grade, AU-58 [About Uncirculated]. Before the man had his Morgan dollar assessed and graded, there were only 12 known PCGS AU-58 examples of 1893-S $1 Morgans. This treasure find brings the total to 13 PCGS AU58 1893-S examples.

PCGS regularly holds Meet the Expert sessions at coin shows throughout the year. In these sessions, renowned numismatic experts assess coins presented to them by the public, on a walk-up basis. Guth was conducting his final Meet the Expert session of the coin show, when one of those “rare and surreal moments” occurred.

“He [the owner of the 1893-S] thought the large gold piece was the more valuable of the two coins,” Guth said. “When I explained that the gold coin was only worth its melt value of around $1,300, but the 1893-S $1 was a nice AU-55, possibly AU-58, worth $40,000-plus, he was taken aback.

“He immediately submitted the coin, which came back PCGS AU-58. Discoveries as significant as this are rare, but this is why we hold these events. One never knows what treasures are out there waiting to be uncovered.”

The owner has decided to sell rather than keep the coin. The man, who previously “did not even know what AU meant," said the coin will be better off in the possession of a collector.

“Someone else will appreciate the coin, way more than I would,” he said. “Whoever buys the coin, I think both of us will be happy.”

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