• Gerry Tebben

    Five Facts

    Gerald Tebben goes behind the scenes and explores many offbeat trails in bringing to the forefront the long-lost information that makes coins so special in "Coin Lore."

    View one of our blogs:
  • Red Book 70th anniversary: The 1903-O Morgan silver dollar

    R.S. Yeoman's venerable “Red Book,” in its 70th edition this year, gets better over the years. Some changes serve as markers for collectors of the books.

    Red Book 70th anniversary: The 1903-O Morgan silver dollar

    The 1903-O is an incredibly important coin in the history of Morgan dollar collecting. From its minting to the early 1960s, it was the star of the series. Q. David Bowers estimates, in his Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia, that fewer than 10 uncirculated pieces were known before October 1962, when the Treasury Department released bags and bags of them.

    Bowers estimates 200,000 or more uncirculated 1903-O dollars exist today. Before the Treasury release, the coin cataloged for $1,500, more than any other Morgan. The price fell off a cliff in 1963, dropping as low as a reported $7. Today the coin lists in Coin World’s Coin Values at $450 in MS-63. The value and the demand for the coin are in no small part based on its fabled history.

    The coin also serves as a way to distinguish the rare first print run of the first edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins from the more common second printing.

    In November 1946, 9,000 copies of the 1947-dated Red Book were printed. A paragraph below the Morgan dollar listing ambiguously reads, “270,232,722 silver dollars were melted under the Pittman Act of April, 1918, 259,121,554 for export to India, and 11,111,168 for domestic subsidiary coins, which probably accounts for the scarcity of this date.”

    In February 1947, an additional 22,000 copies were printed to meet unexpectedly strong demand for the title. The Morgan dollar paragraph was altered to eliminate the ambiguity. The ending phrase “scarcity of this date” was changed to “scarcity of 1903 O.”

    The Red Book’s “Valuation Guide for Past Editions of the Red Book” lists the first printing at $1,700 in new condition and the second printing at $1,600.

    The first edition lists the 1903-O dollar at $110 in Uncirculated. That was $10 more than the next most valuable coin, the 1893-S. The 1895 Proof is listed at $35. (The edition also lists the 1895 in Uncirculated at $6, though none exists.)

    About 10 years ago, Whitman Publishing Co. reissued the first printing of the first edition. It lists at $17.95 and is still available from the publisher and supply houses.