Morgan Silver Dollars
The year 1878 saw many things occur in the United States of America: the phonograph was first patented by Thomas Edison, the American bicycle craze had just begun, and the American gilded age was in full swing. However for numismatic enthusiasts worldwide, or coin collectors as we like to call them, 1878 was a year of great importance because it was then, that George T. Morgan, assistant engraver in the U.S. mint, came out with his design of the Morgan Dollar. The Morgan Silver Dollar is now perhaps one of the most well-known coins in the world, with a total mintage of 22,486,000 coins in the year of 1878 alone. The Morgan Dollar was produced from 1878 to 1904, and then resumed production for a few short months in 1921 before being replaced by the equally stunning Peace Dollar.
The 1878 Morgan Silver Dollar saw production in only three mints: Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City. The Philadelphia 1878 Morgan was minted with two main varieties; one with eight tail feathers on the eagle reverse and another variety with only seven. The most commonly accepted explanation behind this strange occurrence is that the initial Morgan Dollar design had eight tail feathers on the eagle, which is the centerpiece on the reverse of the coin. The mint began producing these “Eight Feather” dollars until a few mint employees noticed that they had made quite an embarrassing mistake. When compared to an actual Bald Eagle, the bird off of which the design was based, it was realized that the “Eight Feather” eagle was supposed to only have seven feathers! Luckily, this accident was quickly corrected and the error was not noticed by the general public until much later. This is why only a few (less than a million) of the 1878 Philadelphia Morgan Dollars have seven, instead of eight, feathers on the reverse. The Philadelphia dollar also differs from the other mints by being the only one lacking a mintmark. During this year, the Philadelphia mint saw a mintage of about 10,500,000 Morgan Dollars, making it the most common mint mark for the year.
In 1878 the Morgan Dollar was also produced in the newly opened San Francisco mint, which began producing coins only four years prior, in 1874. The San Francisco mint also minted quite a sizeable amount of silver dollars in 1878, coming in second place for total mintage of that year with nearly 9,800,000 coins produced. This is why the 1878 San Francisco Morgan Dollar is a good option for people who would like an early Morgan Dollar with an interesting mint mark but are not willing to pay the hundreds of dollars required to purchase a Carson City issue.
Last but not least, the fabled Carson City mint of Carson City, Nevada was one of the three mints to produce Morgan Dollars during their first year of production. The Carson City mint is well known among amateur and professional coin collectors alike as the “rare and expensive mint”. This goes without saying as the Carson City mint produced very few coins throughout its short period of existence, minting only 2,212,000 Morgan Dollars during 1878, nearly 8,000,000 coins less than each of the other two mints operating with Morgan Dollars in that year. This is the reason for the huge price jump between the $20-$40 of the 1878 Philadelphia and San Francisco Dollars and the $200-$300 cost of the 1878 Carson City Dollar.
An 1878 Morgan Dollar would make a great addition to anyone’s collection, be you a complete novice to collecting or an experienced coin dealer because Morgan Dollars are wonderful coins which never cease to amaze with their abundance of history, beauty, and one of the most affordable prices in the entire Morgan Dollar series.