1878 8 Tails Feathers Morgan Dollar
Coinage begins: On February 22, 1878, Mint Director Henry Linderman, whose office was in Washington, was at the Philadelphia Mint and stated that within two weeks after the Bland-Allison Act became law, the Mint "can coin 240 silver dollars a minute.:(Willem, The United States Trade Dollar, p. 114.) On the 24th Linderman stated that it would only take a week's time to get production up to the point which the various mints could turn out silver dollars at the total rate of three million a month.
The first business strikes for general circulation were made on the afternoon of March 11, 1878, on Press No.4, after 10 initial acceptable business strikes, made from the same dies but on polished planchets, were reserved for presentation, including the first for President Rutherford B. Hayes, with the next two going to Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman and Director of the Mint Henry Richard Linderman. (The Hayes coin is presently in the Rutherford B. Hayes Museum in Fremont, Ohio. The piece, variety VAM-9, has been polished many times over the years.)
The first delivery of coins in quantity for circulation occurred on March 13, 1878 to the extent of 40,000 pieces. By March 18th Mint Director Henry Linderman had expressed dissatisfaction with vari-ous aspects of the designs and had requested several changes. A few revisions were subsequently made, so that the standard by June 1878 became that of seven tail feathers, and with the breast rounded. Earlier issues had eight tail feathers, and had the breast flat.
Mintage figures: It is believed that 10,510,300 business strike dollars were made of all 1878 Philadelphia Mint varieties in total. The Mint did not keep separate records of the 8 tail feathers, 7/ other tail feathers, and 7 tail feathers varieties. Any figures seen in print today are estimates based on studying the monthly and daily mintage figures of 1878 and making a guess as to when dies of one kind were replaced with dies of another.
We know when new types were introduced but cannot exclude continued use of some old dies. Apparently, the Mint did not endeavor to use up the supply of older dies first.
Wayne Miller estimated that 750,000 of the 8 tail feathers variety were made, the Guide Book states forthrightly (in regular type; whereas estimates are usually in italics in that publication; see the 1858 Proof dollar, for example) that 750,000 were indeed made. Walter H. Breen estimates that 699,300+ were made, and this is the figure used here (rounded off to 700,000). However, the true figure may have been 702,435; 743,299, or any other such number; one guess may be as good as another. At this point in the state of the art of Morgan dollar research, all 1878 Philadelphia Mint production figures as applied to individual varieties are guesses. For an excellent and extensive discussion of 1878 varieties, mintage techniques, and other information the 3rd edition of the Van Allen-Mallis text is highly recommended and is without peer.