Just as with other coins, there are many factors that go into determining a silver dollar's value. But simplifying everything down, what makes one silver dollar worth more than another? The answer is mintage. The number of coins produced in a year determines each date's relative rarity. For example, most Morgan silver dollars have mintages in the low millions of coins. The few dates and mintmark combinations that have mintages in the hundreds of thousands are relatively more scarce and therefore more valuable. In this blogpost, I'll examine the last two series of U.S. silver dollars—Morgan and Peace dollars. I'll sort the coins into keydates, semi-keys and more common coins, and show you where to find each coin's mintmark.
Mintmarks are small letters added to the coin's design that indicate where the coin was minted. The U.S. has operated a wide variety of mints over the years, each with its own letter. Mintmarks play a large role in determining a coin's value. For instance, an 1885 Morgan dollar with an O mintmark (for New Orleans) has a mintage of 17 million coins and a low value. But an 1885 Morgan with a CC mintmark (for Carson City) has a mintage of only 228,000 coins and a much higher value because of its rarity. Another important thing to note is that if your coin appears to be missing a mintmark, that means it was struck by the Philadelphia mint. Philadelphia was the only mint to not make use of a mintmark, as it was the first U.S. minting facility founded.
Keydates are the rarest date/mintmark combinations of a given series of coins. These are the coins that will often sell for ten or even one hundred times as much as a more common coin within the series.
Semi-keys are the more uncommon date/mintmark combinations within a given series. These coins might be worth several times the value of a typical common coin within the series.
Morgan Silver Dollars (1878-1921)
As you can see in the picture at right, the Morgan Dollar's mintmark is located just above and between the letters "D" and "O" in "DOLLAR", on the reverse of the coin. The following mints struck Morgan silver dollars: Philadelphia (no mintmark), New Orleans (O mintmark), Carson City (CC mintmark), and San Francisco (S mintmark). Of those four, coins with S and CC mintmarks tend to be the most valuable as a very general rule, though there are several exceptions.
Rather than going through and pricing the entire series, I'm going to point out the key and semi-key dates. If a coin isn't included in either list, it's a common date, and you can find its approximate value by looking on eBay—expect a bare minimum of $30. Values provided here are for coins in "Good" circulated condition
(about as low as you can get), so coins in better condition will be worth more.
Morgan Dollar semi-keys (values range from $100-300): 1878-CC, 1879-CC, 1880-CC, 1882-CC, 1883-CC, 1884-CC, 1888-S, 1890-CC, 1891-CC, 1892-CC, 1893-(P), 1893-CC, 1893-O, 1895-O, 1899-(P), 1903-S.
Morgan Dollar Key-dates ($300+): 1881-CC, 1885-CC, 1889-CC, 1894-(P), 1895-S, 1903-O.
Key of the series: 1893-S ($2000).
Peace Silver Dollars (1921-1935)
As indicated in the picture at right, the Peace dollar's mintmark is located below the "O" in "ONE" on the coin's reverse side. Peace dollars were produced at the following mints: Philadelphia (no mintmark), San Francisco (S mintmark), and Denver (D mintmark). Compared to the Morgan dollar series, there are hardly any keys and semi-keys and most of the coins count as common dates (worth $30-50). Again, values quoted are for the poorest circulated condition "Good
" (4 on a 70 point scale). Coins in better condition will be worth more.
Peace dollar semi-keys: 1921-(P), $60; 1934-S* (*While affordable in lower grades, this coin's price rises exponentially for higher grades).
Key of the series: 1928-(P), $300
If you have a key-date, it might be worth your while to submit it to a third-party grading service (NGC
, and ICG
are the most reputable) for grading and authentication. Graded, or "slabbed," keydates tend to command a higher price on the market. And if you have any questions, please comment below and I'll do my best to answer them.
Written by Max Breitenbach
Max Breitenbach has been collecting US, foreign, and ancient coins for over a decade, and has been writing about them for nearly as long! Max is a regular guest blogger on CoinWeek.com. He is currently working on a collection of European silver crowns and is planning on finishing his US type set sometime within the next century. You can find him on Google+