The Morgan Dollar silver ranks among America’s most popular coins. First minted in 1878, has fine silver and is a piece you’d find in every numismatics’ collection. But, is the 1878 Morgan silver worth anything?
The face value of the 1878 Morgan silver is $1, but it goes for at least $35 at the pawnshop. The melt value for the silver is $17.50 for the 26.73 grams of fine silver; while the most expensive is the certified mint state coin which goes for up to $12,000!
The 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar is among the seven coins in the US designed by sculptor George Morgan. It was named the “cartwheel” because of its enormous size and weight.
Read on to discover how much value the silver dollar holds, its unique design features, and frequently asked questions. You’ll also learn how to grade your Morgan silver dollar before trading for cash.
About the 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar
The 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar is one of the US dollar coins minted between 1878-1904. In 2021, it became a non-circulating coin in America. It is worth one dollar at face value.
History of the 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar
The history of the Morgan Silver dates back to 1878 when the main mint at Philadelphia produced the first specimen. After that, the Philadelphia mint ceased producing other coins and concentrated on making the Morgan Silver in compliance with the Bland-Allison quota.
During production, the reverse design of the Morgan Silver proved difficult at the beginning. While initial designs of the flying eagle coins have seven tail feathers, Morgan’s first specimen came out having eight. As a result, a great controversy prompted the return of the Morgan silver dollars for correction.
The new designs came out of the mint, having seven tail feathers of the flying eagle. Besides the seven tail feathers, each new design had either a set of parallel or slanted arrows.
Which US Mints Struck the 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar?
Production of the 1878 silver dollar took place at three different US mints, namely Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City. The main mint in Philadelphia produced a record 10,500,000 dollars, while San Francisco and Carson City produced 9,774,000 and 2,212,000 silver pieces, respectively.
Reason for Minting
The Morgan silver marked a bold return to the use of silver coins as a legal tender. Previously in 1873, The Coinage Act advocated for gold in coin mintage as opposed to silver. In addition, the act specified an exact amount of silver coins allowed for future minting, specifying the actual weight.
The result was an oversupply of silver and a sharp reduction in silver prices which negatively affected the country’s economy.
Five years later, the enactment of the Bland-Allison Act brought relief to silver traders by reintroducing it as a legal tender. The act further required the treasury to purchase a minimum of $2,000,000 worth of silver every month and mint it into dollar coins. Thus, the Bland-Allison act paved the way for the manufacture of the 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar.
Features of the 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar
What sets Morgan silver apart from other silver coins? First, the currency has subtle, unique features that will quickly get the attention of every coin collector.
The portrait on the coin is the profile burst of symbolic Miss Liberty. A Philadelphian teacher Anna Williams was the official model for the Liberty portrait.
The obverse features the portrait of Miss Liberty facing left. She wears a hair band with the inscription “LIBERTY” above her head. The curls forming her hair strands extend downwards to overlap her collar.
Above Liberty’s head is an inscription “E PLURIBUS UNUM” written along the upper rim of the coin. Two conspicuous dots separate the three words.
Slightly below Liberty’s neck is the coin’s year of mintage written as “1878” along the lower rim.
The 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar also depicts 13 stars on its obverse face.
The reverse side features an eagle at the center of the coin with her wings widely spread. The eagle perches on some arrows and an olive branch. A flower wreath surrounds the perched eagle on both sides of its wings.
Slightly above the perched eagle is an inscription “In God we trust” written in calligraphy.
The words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” appear along the upper rim in a curved format.
Slightly below the wreath and along the lower rim is the coin’s denominational value written in block letters as “ONE DOLLAR.”
The 1878 Morgan silver also features two identical stars on the reverse face.
The silver dollar has three main slogans on both faces. They include:
E PLURIBUS UNUM
A Latin name for ‘Out of many, one.’ The slogan appears in many US coins to denote how multiple states joined together to form a unitary state.
IN GOD WE TRUST
A slogan used by the people of America to express deep religious sentiments, especially during the historical civil wars
A common slogan and founding principle used to denote the Liberty of the citizens
The mint mark is a distinct identification feature that shows a coin’s origin. For example, the Morgan silver dollar, no doubt, has two mint marks. They include “S” (San Francisco) and “CC” (Carson City). Traditionally, all Morgan silver coins produced at the main mint do not bear any mark.
Weight and Dimensions
Unlike other coins such as the Lincoln wheat penny, the 1884 Morgan dollar is a composite silver piece. It weighs 26.73 grams and has a 38.1 mm diameter.
Compositionally, the 1878 Morgan silver dollar consists of 90% Silver and 10% Copper.
Value of the 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar
The 1878 Morgan silver has value as a collectible coin, hence still a preference of coin collectors in uncirculated conditions.
Its value at the numismatic markets is as follows:
The Morgan is worth one dollar at face value. The denominational value appears on the reverse side of the coin.
The 1878 Morgan coin consists of 90% Silver and weighs 26.73 grams. Therefore, it has a melt value of $12.79 for the silver content.
How Much Is the 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar at the Pawn Shop?
At a pawn shop, the 1878 Morgan silver could fetch you a minimum of $23.76. in average condition, an eight-tail feathered coin is worth $53 and slightly above $1,677 in MS+ condition.
Comparison Table Showing the 1878 Morgan Silver Value
|Date and Grade||Coin Condition|
Factors that Influence the Value of the Coin
Since the first production in 1878, the Morgan silver dollar is about a century and a half old. Therefore, uncirculated, high-grade coins will fetch high value in the numismatic market.
Below are the main factors that determine the value of an 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar:
The value of Morgan silver heavily depends on its condition. A close inspection of its surface should reveal the amount of wear on essential features of the coin. However, old Morgan silver coins may be valuable if they retain considerable detail.
Below are grading conditions for the 1878 Morgan Silver
An uncirculated coin has exceptional value because it retains its original silver luster and has no wear on its surface. If you hold and tilt the coin by its edges, it should have unbroken rims all over the edges. In addition, the images and inscriptions should be as they were during manufacture.
In this condition, the coin only has a little circulation time but slight wear on the surface. The hair detail on “Miss Liberty” has minimal flattening but is still well defined.
There’s also a slight smoothening on the chin and cheeks. Despite this, the coin should have a sharp image with a cute silver coloring.
In fine condition, all the lines that define Liberty’s hair aren’t visible, the cheek and neck also appear flat. Despite significant wear, the letterings and the rim should still appear intact and in good condition.
The lowest grade for the 1878 Morgan silver depicts excessive wear on its essential features. There are no visible hairlines above Liberty’s head, and the hairband isn’t visible. At this stage, your coin is closer to its melt value than its numismatic value.
Besides showing the mint location, the mint mark also plays an all-important role in determining the value of the Morgan silver. For instance, coins bearing the mint mark “S” are worth about $29 in the ‘good’ grade.
In contrast, coins bearing the mark “CC” have much value because the Carson City mint was dormant for a long time, hence having a lower mintage.
Therefore, an uncirculated MS-60 grade of Morgan silver-bearing “CC” is worth $311. At MS-65 quality, it could fetch a whopping $1,709 in cash price!
The 1878 Morgan silver dollars exist in four main varieties. They include seven tail feathers, eight tail feathers, seven feathers with parallel arrows, and seven feathers with slanted arrows.
In uncirculated MS-60 grade, Morgan silver with seven feathers (parallel arrows) is worth $84, while its counterpart with slanted arrows can fetch about $102. An eight-feathered silver dollar in the same grade is worth $161 at the market.
1. Is the 1878 Morgan Silver a Good Investment?
Yes. The high-grade Morgan series is scarce and pricey. Besides, their incredible old age makes them a good investment choice. The 1878 CC and proof Morgan silvers could fetch you very high prices in uncirculated conditions.
2. Is the 1878 Morgan Silver in Circulation?
The 1878 Morgan Silver is still regarded as a precious collectible. However, in 2021, it was designated as an official, non-circulating coin.
3. How Do I Know If My 1878 Morgan Silver is Uncirculated?
A professional coin grader will help you identify an uncirculated Morgan silver. In addition, two main factors determine if 1878 silver is uncirculated. These include a distinctive mint luster and missing traces of wear on the coin’s prominent features.
Winding Up: Is the 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar Worth Collecting?
Yes, the silver Morgans have fine silver metal content which fetches them a price that’s higher than their face values.
In the mid-1950s, banks traded silver dollars for paper dollars. At a local store, you’d use your silver dollars as a medium for exchange.
Currently, the 1878 Morgan is a valuable collectible in the market. So, if you have a few pennies in your box, be sure to grade them. You could earn hundreds or thousands worth of dollars from the old penny.
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