How to Value Morgan Silver Dollars

By Johnny Kampis
The eagle on the reverse of the Morgan silver dollar clutches arrow and olive branches.

The Morgan silver dollar was in general circulation from 1878 to 1921. George T. Morgan designed the coin, which featured a profile of Lady Liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. The coin comprised 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper and was struck at U.S. Mint locations in Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans and Carson City. Collectors value the Morgan silver dollar based largely on its condition and scarcity.

Examine the coin for imperfections. If the silver dollar has few contact marks--which are caused by contact with other objects--retains a nice, shiny luster and has no wear on its features, it can grade as high as gem uncirculated (MS-65). Most Morgan silver dollars in this grade can fetch a few hundred dollars, but coins in this condition are hard to find.

Inspect the hair on Lady Liberty's head and the feathers on the eagle's breast and wings. If there is only a slight trace of wear on these features, the coin can grade as high as about uncirculated (AU-50). Coin in this grade are worth about a quarter the value of a coin in MS-65 condition.

Grade the coin as extremely fine (EF-40) if there is a fair amount of wear on the breast and wing tips of the eagle. The hair lines of Lady Liberty must be bold and easily discernible. Coins in EF-40 shape are worth about 50 to 75 percent of the value of Morgan silver dollars in AU-50 grade.

Consider the grade of the Morgan dollar as very fine (VF-20) if some of Lady Liberty's hair lines are worn and the feathers on the eagle's breast are well worn. Coin in this condition are worth about 50 to 75 percent of the value of examples in EF-40 shape. Few Morgan dollar coins are found in worse condition than VF-20 and only have nominal value.

Tip

Protect your valuable Morgan silver dollars with holders. Buy cardboard sleeves that staple over the coins or plastic holders that snap shut around the coins. These can be found in coin shops and many major bookstores.

About the Author

A veteran of the newspaper industry, Johnny Kampis has worked as a freelance writer since 2005. His articles have appeared in various publications including "The New York Times," "Atlanta-Journal Constitution" and the "San Francisco Chronicle." He currently serves as an editor of poker-based "Rounder" magazine and writer for the Alabama football publication "Crimson" magazine.