Featured 1903-O: King the Morgan's...Wait, What?

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by CamaroDMD, May 31, 2020.

  1. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title]

    The tale of the 1903-O Morgan is one of my favorite in all of numismatics. With a mintage of 4.45 million, the coin should never have been rare. Yet, at one time...they were nowhere to be found. When they did turn up, they were almost always circulated. Prices for MS grade coins were astronomical...if you could find one. Trouble was, nobody could.

    According to the Red Book, published in 1960, these are the values of the "key" date Morgan's in UNC grade (Red Book did not break it down further at this time, the highest was UNC).

    1889-CC: $95.00

    1893-S: $500.00

    1895 (Proof): $625.00

    1903-O: $500.00

    In 1960, the 1903-O was right on par with the 1893-S and just a bit below the legendary 1895 Proof! How could this be?

    This trend continued and by 1963, here is the Red Book prices for the same coins:

    1889-CC: $275.00

    1893-S: $1200.00

    1895 (Proof): $1500.00

    1903-O: $1500.00

    Although all the prices had jumped, the 1903-O had climbed to the top of the ladder for business strike coins and was right with the 1895 Proof.

    Why wasn't there more 1903-O Morgan Dollars...so many had been minted. Yet very few were available and nearly no MS examples. Perhaps they were all caught up in the melting of hundreds of millions of silver dollars due to the Pittman Act of 1918. Nobody knew for sure.

    Many bags of silver dollars were put into storage and were released at various times due to demand. However, no 1903-O's were seen. Then, in October of 1962, a treasury vault in Philadelphia was opened for the first time since the late 1920s to release stored silver dollars to meet the holiday demand. A rumor began to spread that the vault housed some MS 1903-O Morgan Dollars and suddenly a trickle appeared on the market. In a short time, that trickle became a flood as bags containing hundreds of thousands 1903-O Morgan's were found...fresh as the day they were minted.

    The just released 1963 Red Book reported the 1903-O value in UNC as $1500...but that was about to change. With the market flooding with 1903-O Morgan Dollars, their value plummeted. The king had been deposed.

    In the 1964 Red Book, this readjustment was all too apparent:

    1889-CC: $350.00

    1893-S: $1500.00

    1895 (Proof): $2500.00

    1903-O: $30.00

    Today, the 1903-O Morgan still holds some value, but it is no longer considered a key in the series. Although not a true "common date," anyone can own an MS grade 1903-O Morgan Dollar and in doing so...hold the dream coin of many numismatists of the previous generation.

    The 1903-O Morgan is not alone in its story. The 1898-O, 1899-O, and 1904-O Morgan's were also once considered scarce only to be released in mass quantities from the treasury in the early 1960s. But, none were as rare or as valuable as the fallen king...the 1903-O.


    A special thanks to @johnmilton and @PennyGuy for help with the Red Book information used here. Images used were taken from Heritage Auctions.
    gronnh20, johnmatt, CVcoin and 19 others like this.
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  3. Inspector43

    Inspector43 72 Year Collector

    I remember collecting in the 50's we all hoped to find a 1903-O.
  4. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title]

    It would have been interesting to have been a collector when this all happened. Based on what I have read, it was quite the story...unless you already owned one of course.
    Inspector43 likes this.
  5. bradgator2

    bradgator2 Supporter! Supporter

    Love the history of this one. Here’s mine:

  6. PennyGuy

    PennyGuy US and CDN Copper

    I remember when the 1903-O was unobtainable for a teenager. And when the price dropped I was able to fill that hole in my Capital holder for New Orleans dollars.
    Inspector43 likes this.
  7. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    The bags of uncirculated seated dollars that came out of the vaults at that time were quite a shock as well.
  8. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title]

    I've read about that...but I don't know if there were specific dates that hit the market in mass or if they were just a "mixed bag" (pun sorta intended) of dates.
  9. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    There were at least three, possibly four, bags of unc 1859 O and 1860 O dollars that were released. There were probably some other mixed bags that contained some seated dollars in varying grades but not full bags. There was one seated dollar, 1864, in the GSA sales. It went out in the mixed circulated category for $3.
    GenX Enthusiast likes this.
  10. CamaroDMD

    CamaroDMD [Insert Clever Title]

    Oh wow...that would be an amazing find. I'm not a huge Seated Coinage fan...but I do love Silver Dollars.
    Inspector43 likes this.
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