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Initially, the Morgan dollars were not required for everyday circulation. Their purpose was to subsidize the American silver mining industry, ending up with millions of coins stuck in Federal Reserve banks or Treasury Department vaults.
Collectors discovered these beautiful coins in the late 1950s and bought numerous bags of mint state specimens by 1964. Consider that numerous uncirculated coin supplies still exist when looking for the best way of how to grade Morgan silver dollar in your collection and estimate their price range.
Newcomers often have a problem understanding all aspects of coin evaluation despite using the Sheldon grading scale. It is necessary to follow a few crucial steps. Start determining your coin condition roughly by placing it in one of three groups.
The first group includes circulated coins, including non-collectible and collectible pieces in lower ranks. The second group is for About Uncirculated coinage, while the last contains specimens in the mint state.
The scale grades coins from 1 to 70, but the widest part is for circulated specimens. You can place your used silver dollar anywhere between P 1 and EF 49. The first three ranks (Poor, Fair, and About Good) describe heavily worn-out, non-collectible coins.
Even though pieces in Good grades and better condition are collectible, most numismatists prefer collecting those in at least AU 50 grade. Uncirculated specimens that never spent a moment in circulation are in the Mint State group. Their rank is from MS 60 to MS 70, depending on the perfection of their appearance.
Understanding Grades for Morgan Silver Dollar
Sizable, heavy, old silver coins like Morgan dollars require careful grading and evaluation. Even though these pieces are popular and incredibly collectible, making even lower-ranked specimens desirable, you should be aware of their downsides.
These coins contain 90% soft and malleable silver, making it challenging to get the complete design during minting. Added copper makes the metal alloy harder, allowing dollars to circulate longer.
Morgan silver dollar
|Face value||One dollar ($1)|
|Coin weight||0.859 troy ounces (26.73 g)|
|Coin diameter||1.5 inches (38.10 mm)|
|Coin thickness||0.094 inches (2.40 mm)|
You should pay particular attention to each piece’s strike quality. For instance, Liberty’s hair covering her ear is sometimes only partially struck. So, it is incomplete even in uncirculated Morgan dollars, confusing less experienced collectors.
In such a situation, the presence or absence of signs of wear can tell you whether it is a used coin or a piece in the mint state. That is an excellent example of the limitation of even the best guidelines for coinage grading and the importance of professional assessment.
How to Grade Morgan Silver Dollar?
Like every other coinage, Morgan silver dollars have a few high points that wear first. Therefore, you should start evaluation from these parts and only then keep checking further details.
1. About Good (AG 3)
The silver Morgan dollars in this condition are heavily worn with barely readable inscriptions. The date on the obverse is always clearly visible and complete. It can be tricky to see any details and clear outlines.
Lady Liberty has an outlined head, while the design is almost invisible, flat, and without details. Stars and inscriptions are flat and partially blend with the rim, while the date is worn out but always legible.
You can recognize the outlined eagle without feathers and body details. Worn-out letterings are merged with the coin rim.
2. Good (G and G 4)
These heavily worn coins have a barely recognizable design with faint legends and lettering. The date is always complete, with present faintness in some areas.
The rim is partially preserved, but you can see numerous scratches on the surface. Despite these coins’ poor looks, they are collectible thanks to their beautiful gray silver.
In this grade, letterings are full and never blend with the almost completed rim. You can notice a few main details in Liberty’s cap, but the hairline is still barely visible, and hair strands above the forehead are merged. Her ear, eye, lips, and the cotton blossoms are visible. Despite being flat, stars and inscriptions are distinct.
The eagle’s body is well-defined but flat without most details except feathers in the wing’s lower half, which contains several remaining horizontal and vertical lines. You can recognize visible arrows and all letterings. Even though design elements are smooth, they are effortlessly recognizable and visible.
3. Very Good (VG, VG 8, and VG 10)
These coins show a lovely design with defined elements despite noticeable wear and tear. However, they are flat, poorly separated, and lacking fine detail. The coin rim is full in this grade and wholly separated from the obverse and the reverse fields.
Lady Liberty has obvious and partially completed details in her hair, particularly the part behind her neck. Approximately two-thirds of her hairline is visible and decently defined, but cotton bolls are still only outlined and flat. You can spot a clearly defined ear and the visible word LIBERTY.
In this rank, the eagle has about half to two-thirds noticeable feathers and basic details in the wreath leaves. However, at least one-half of the bird’s right wing, part of the left wing, and the highest points on leaves are smooth.
4. Fine (F, F 12, and F 15)
Such graded silver dollar shows moderate wear on the coin surface with bold major design parts. All legends, the date, and the mint mark are clear and legible, while the surface and the complete rim have a solid gray metal color.
You can notice well-detailed Lady Liberty’s profile on this silver dollar obverse. A cap is distinct, while the hairline and flowing hair are good-looking. Cotton bolls show at least two lines, while leaves are flat but separated.
Three-quarters of the details in the eagle’s wings are visible, but its neck, head, breast, and tail feathers are still flat without delicate parts. On the other hand, you can recognize more details on leaves in the wreath. The bird’s legs are flattened with barely visible roundness on both sides.
5. Very Fine (VF, VF 20, VF 25, VF 30, and VF 35)
These coins show slight to moderate wear on the highest design points, but their overall condition is attractive. Stars and lettering are lightly worn out, and the surface is without desirable mint luster.
You can see evident hair details on coins in this rank, but the highest points are flat. Wheat grains and cotton bolls and leaves are clearly defined but flattened. Many of Lady Liberty’s hair strands above her ear and behind her neck are more or less separated.
The eagle has almost all wing feathers distinct, although they are still worn out. Wing tips are weak but with recognizable lines. Feathers on the breast are flattened with visible details on the bird’s head. Even though the leaves in the wreath are well-defined, they are still smooth.
6. Extra Fine (EF 40 and EF 45)
These Morgan dollars are highly collectible thanks to sharp design details with only slight wear on the highest points. You can admire well-defined design elements and recognize traces of mint luster except on Liberty’s cheek.
These silver dollars have traces of wear on Lady Liberty’s ear, hair, and forehead. The remaining fine details are sharp and detailed, providing an elegant look to these collectible coins. Cotton flowers and leaves are recognizable, and hair strands are mostly separated, but her cheek is still lightly worn out.
You can recognize fine details on well-defined eagle wing feathers, but they are smooth at the neck, breast, and claws. Most leaves in the wreath show delicate details except the flattened highest spots.
7. About Uncirculated (AU 50, AU 55, and AU 58)
These Morgan dollars are beautiful with minimal signs of wear since they spent only a short period in circulation. Changes are visible only on the highest points, while most details and mint luster are mostly preserved.
These beautiful coins show slight wear on Lady Liberty’s forehead, cheek, ear, eye, and curls. Besides, similar changes are visible on cotton leaves, blossoms, and Phrygian cap’s upper fold. Mint luster is present except on her cheek.
Feathers on the eagle’s breasts are detailed, and minimal wear and tear are present only on the eagle’s head and claws. You can spot all the finer wreath details visible and completed. The mint luster is recognizable on most parts of both surfaces, but you can also notice bag marks and abrasions.
8. Mint State (from MS 60 to MS 70)
Silver Morgan dollars in the mint state are more or less perfect. These coins were never in circulation but can show bag marks or traces of contact on the surface after a long time spent in coin bags.
These coins never show wear and tear, but their luster is intact. Liberty’s hair above her eye and along her forehead are primary things to check on such coins. If there are no traces of wear, you surely have a perfect uncirculated specimen.
The US Mint never released most silver Morgan dollars in circulation, and you should be aware of the significant accumulations of coins in the mint state. That significantly affects their prices, besides each piece’s quality, rarity, and preservation.
Thanks to these coins, the ANA insisted on subtle distinctions in ranking and prompted numerical grades from MS 60 to MS 70 adoption in the 1970s.