Q. David Bowers: The following narrative, with minor editing, is from my "Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia" (Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1993)
Low mintage: The 1893-O dollar posted the lowest mintage figure for any New Orleans Mint silver dollar of the Morgan design.
Hoard coins: A few bags of 1893-O dollars were paid out at face value from the Cash Room of the Treasury Building from about 1948 to 1955. These may have been released a few coins at a time, rather than in intact 1,000-coin bags. These furnished the source for dealers' stocks. Single-coin prices went as low as $5.50 to $7.50 during the 1950s, until about 1958-1959, when it was realized that even rolls were scarce. I have no record of bags of 1893-O being included in the 1962-1964 Treasury releases.
Circulated grades: In worn grades the 1893-O is fairly scarce, due to its low mintage.
Mint State grades: The 1893-O dollar is scarce in all Mint State grades and is rare in higher levels. Probably 1,500 to 3,000 MS-60 to 62 coins remain; about 600 to 1,200 MS-63 pieces; only 200 to 300 MS-64s; and a paltry 10 to 20 MS-65 or better examples.
Most 1893-O dollars are lightly struck and have fair to average lustre. Some coins are lightly struck on the obverse center but are sharp on the reverse. Many are heavily bagmarked, especially on the obverse. Sharply struck coins exist and are rare in higher grades. Sharply struck MS-65 coins are among the rarest of all Morgan dollars.
Once again, the connoisseur is advised to cherrypick for quality. "Investors should avoid this date," wrote Wayne Miller in 1982, apparently referring to the difficulty of finding quality pieces.
Prooflike coins: Semi-prooflike 1893-O Morgan dollars are sometimes sold as prooflikes and, according to Wayne Miller, are often more attractive than full prooflikes. Prooflike coins are sometimes one-sided and have a mirror surface on the reverse only. Full prooflike coins are extremely rare. DMPL coins seem to be about two or three times rarer than PL, per the certification services. The "Proofs" in the Nygren and Andrus sales (1914, 1915), considering the prices ($1.90, $3.10) were probably DMPLs. That in the "Anderson Dupont" sale (1954), at $26, exceeded the price of most Philadelphia Proofs in that auction; was it something better? The coin is not now traced.
1. Normal date: Breen-5631. The five VAM varieties (from three obverses and two reverses out of 10 pairs of dies furnished) may well be the only ones; the other seven obverses furnished may well never have been used; the reverses were probably left over for later years.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 10; Reverse: No new dies shipped; those used were left over from earlier years' use.
Circulation strike mintage: 300,000; Delivery figures by month: January: 300,000; February-December: none. Coinage was suspended June 1.
Estimated quantity melted: Relatively few Mint State coins.
Availability of proof like coins: True prooflike coins are very rare; DMPL coins are rarer still.
Characteristics of striking: Usually seen lightly struck at the centers.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Several bags were released in the 1950s and/or 1960s and, apparently, have all been distributed.
The 1893-O dollar is the lowest mintage New Orleans Morgan dollar. Specimens are somewhat scarce in all grades and very rare in high Mint State levels.