The Truth about New Orleans mint Morgan Dollars

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by CamaroDMD, Jun 13, 2009.

  1. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD Insert Cool Title Supporter

    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.

    Well Struck
    1879-O
    1880-O
    1881-O
    1882-O
    1886-O
    1899-O
    1900-O
    1903-O

    Intermediately Struck
    1883-O
    1884-O
    1885-O
    1887-O
    1888-O
    1898-O
    1902-O
    1904-O

    Lower End Struck
    1889-O
    1890-O
    1891-O
    1892-O
    1893-O
    1894-O
    1895-O
    1896-O
    1897-O
    1901-O

    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
    [​IMG]

    1881-O NGC MS65
    [​IMG]

    1886-O PCGS MS65
    [​IMG]

    1903-O PCGS MS65
    [​IMG]
    Phoenix21 and Peter T Davis like this.
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  3. Leadfoot

    Leadfoot there is no spoon

    Great post! :)

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge of this series.
  4. Catbert

    Catbert Evil Cat

    Well done and informative post! :thumb:
  5. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder

    Very nicely done, and the photos are a big help!

    Here is a link to Halperin's page on his take on the strike quality of various years in the Morgan series: http://www.coingrading.com/strike1.html
  6. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD Insert Cool Title Supporter

    Thanks. Yes this is one of the resources I couldn't think of when I was writing this. I think that is one of the best websites about coin grading in general.
  7. coleguy

    coleguy Coin Collector

    Great info! I too can attest there are a lot of nicely struck NO minted Morgans. I think what people mis-interpret, is that Morgans struck there are no worse or weakly struck than anywhere else. The difference is that the NO mint used many reverse dies for three times or more longer than the Phily or SF mints, and many of those sat rusting due to the humid southern conditions. So, because they didn't change out dies as often, I'm assuming due to the difficulty in getting finished dies there, the strikes seem to be weaker. But, as a Morgan guy, I have all but one NO Morgan, and all have strikes equal to the best of the other mints.
    Guy~
  8. Cloudsweeper99

    Cloudsweeper99 Treasure Hunter

    Well done research, proving it pays to go beyond superficial observations.
  9. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder

    I don't think of myself as a Morgan collector, but what US coin collector doesn't have a few? (waiting for the copperheads to chime in, LOL) Most of the NO issues are available in decent MS at reasonable prices, so I have found it fun to hunt for the nicely struck ones. I think it's a nice series within the series, with just a few stoppers.
  10. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD Insert Cool Title Supporter

    That is exactly the point I was trying to make. It seems it is popular to look at the NO Morgan's as being consistently poorly stuck. Many collectors accept this and settle for the poor struck coins because they don't know nice one exist...and for many years are pretty common. With a little searching, one can find most NO mint coins with good strikes.
  11. PennyGuy

    PennyGuy US and CDN Copper

    Nice work Camero. Do you think there is a correlation between annual mintage and quality? I'm wondering if the staff and equipment were under extreme production pressure and quality fell off? Just curious.
  12. tpsadler

    tpsadler Numismatist

    Nice work CamaroDMD. The New Orleans mint has always been one of my favorites. They always seem to produce their share of varieties. My assumption has been they were under pressure to produce. My experience has been New Orleans did produce well struck Morgans but I had to look hard to find them.
  13. tmoneyeagles

    tmoneyeagles Indian Buffalo Gatherer

    Camaro,

    You can see a strike difference in my 83 and 84 O minted morgans...
    One is a little stronger than the other, that being the 84 O

    1883 O NGC MS63.jpg

    1884 O NGC MS63.jpg

    This was a great post, and you have taught me a great deal about morgans, in private conversations, and on the forums
    You are a great teacher, and this post only proves it ;)
    The "O" minted new orleans dollars, are not all weakly struck, but speaking for the majority, yes, they are a weakly struck coin, the CC and S minted coins, have stronger strikes, GENERALLY speaking, I'm not saying every CC will have better breast feathers than every O, but speaking generally, and looking at it, from a wider standpoint, yes the O is the weakest struck, and CC and S are strongest. But yes, there are some years, in which finding a well struck piece can be easier than others, just today, my last day of my trip in fredericksburg Texas, I found an 1882 O morgan I wanted, it was MS63 NGC, but I decided not to get it, not just because of the price ($58, with some toning, so not all that bad) but because the strike was fairly weak, and from one angle scratches look weird, almost like the coin had taken a bath in something! lol But my main point was on that coin, it looked soft, almost like wear, but no wear on the coin, and I agreed with NGC's grade, but it was not getting bang for my buck, that is for sure :)

    Great Post!
  14. bobbeth87

    bobbeth87 Coin Collector

    Nicely done.

    Man, I just love CoinTalk!!!
  15. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD Insert Cool Title Supporter

    See, I don't think this is necessarily true. I would say O mint Morgan's were more frequently weakly struck than the other mints.
  16. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    I personally think a weak strike with unique toning gives an "O" mint Morgan Dollar incredible character, and is very attractive. I have several, here is one.

    [​IMG]
  17. coinman0456

    coinman0456 Coin Collector

    Well Done! Thank you.
  18. tmoneyeagles

    tmoneyeagles Indian Buffalo Gatherer

    But if you got all of the morgan O minted dollars, ever minted (lets say none were ever melted, and you owned all the morgans ever) wouldn't you see that most are weakly struck? Yes you'd have a good number of however many million well struck examples, but I think you'd find more O's that are weakly struck.
  19. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD Insert Cool Title Supporter

    No, I don't think you would. You would find that some of the dates have the majority weakly struck...but not most of the total coins. This is the misconception I'm trying to point out. I'll agree that quality control at the New Orleans mint wasn't as good as the others (for various reasons) and as a result a higher percentage of the total minted coins are weakly struck than other mints. Like many things, the O mint has a bad stigma that makes them appear worse than they actually are. There are several years that are quite well struck.
  20. tmoneyeagles

    tmoneyeagles Indian Buffalo Gatherer

    But note, I'm not disagreeing with this either, YES, some dates are weakly struck, some are poorly struck, and some are intermediately struck
    Look at the pics I brought forth on page 1, 83 and 84 O are what you called intermediate. My 1883 O is weakly struck, and my 1884 O is a very good strike, so I have an example of a good strike, and a weak strike, in the intermediate years.
    If you look hard enough, you can find a well struck example of every year
  21. raider34

    raider34 WINS Member

    Great info Camaro! Thanks for posting:thumb:

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