Many times I have logged on here and elsewhere to find people talking about New Orleans or “O” mint Morgan Dollars. Invariably, the discussion turns to strike quality and the consensus is that they are poorly stuck coins. While it is true that New Orleans has turned out its share of poorly struck coins, this is not always the case and I feel that "O" has gotten a bad rep. I thought I would post a couple examples as well as a little data I have collected from some research on the topic.
Based on my own experience and collecting information from various sources…this is what I have learned. First, let me point out that I have read many texts about the Morgan series and my views have been influenced by many of those books. I must give credit to the Comprehensive Guide and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars as well as Whitman’s A Guidebook of Morgan Silver Dollars as well as several other books I am forgetting. These are two books that I highly recommend for someone who is interested in the Morgan Dollar, especially the comprehensive guide which is commonly called the “VAM Book.” It is an excellent resource.
So, what I have learned is the O mint Morgan’s have a very wide variety of strike quality…more so than most mints. Due to this, the common belief is they produced poorly struck coins. But, one must get to know each year to know if it is really a bad strike date. For example, there are several years where a full strike is considered normal or common…if one was to buy into the poor strike stigma they might end up paying a undeserving premium for one of those dates without realizing it.
Based on my experience, I have come up with 3 categories for O mint Morgans. The first I call Well Struck. These years tend to be full or pretty fully struck most of the time. Like any date, there are examples across the strike spectrum but typically these tend to be full or nearly so. The second group is Intermediately Struck. These tend to be years where there is a very wide strike quality out there. You can find examples of these coins with full strikes and completely flat. These are dates I would be looking for nicer struck coins because they are out there with a little searching. Finally, there are several years that fall into the Lower End Struck group. These dates tend to be more on the flat struck side typically. Again, fuller struck examples are out there but they can be much harder to find and command substantial premiums in some cases.
So, here are those groups.
Lower End Struck
As can be clearly seen, the strike quality began fairly high early in the series and began to drop after several years. Typically, the worst struck years are in the 1890s. Then, the quality seems to improve towards the end of the series.
For the extremes, I would say the best struck years are 1879-O and 1880-O while the worst is 1892-O.
But, the truth about this mint is there are well struck examples from every year out there. Several of the years even have fuller struck coins as the norm. A handful of the years in the middle of the series (1890s) are typically poorly struck and one must search hard to find a nice example but IMHO this mint doesn’t deserve the all the “hate” it gets. Search hard and find nice examples and don’t buy into the stigma that all O mint coins are poorly struck.
Now, what would a post like this be without a few pictures? I grabbed a couple examples of nicely struck O mint Morgan’s off of Heritage. It didn’t take long to find them.
1879-O NGC MS62
1881-O NGC MS65
1886-O PCGS MS65
1903-O PCGS MS65