1883-S Morgan Dollar

1883-S Morgan Dollar

Coinage Context

At the mint: The San Francisco Mint limited its silver coin production to the dollar denomination this year. However, during the 1879-1883 span of silver dollar exclusivity in the silver series, the same mint turned out prodigious quantities of $20 gold pieces and notable (although less valuable in terms of total face value) numbers of $5 and $10 gold issues as well. At the time the San Francisco Mint opened for business in its new facility in 1874, it was the most modern coining institution in the United States.

Numismatic Information

Commentary; hoard coins: The 1883-S dollar in Mint State is one of the more curious Morgan dollars from a rarity and price history viewpoint. Decades ago it was considered to be a common San Francisco issue. From the nineteenth century onward, specimens were readily available. Single coins, rolls, and bags dribbled out from storage in the San Francisco Mint for many years. In 1950, a few bags were released, and the price dropped from about $5.00 per coin to the point at which Norman Shultz was charging $2.50 apiece. During the 1950s, values for Mint State coins were bouncing like a ping-pong ball, as a glance at the historical prices in the introduction to Morgan dollars in this work will reveal. For example, in 1955 there was no standard price. One vendor might charge $2.50 and another $5.00. Complicating the price structure was the factthat some "Uncirculated" 1883-S dollars were in reality what would be called AU coins today.

In the 1950s, John Skubis had at least one bag of 1883-S, possibly more. Bags were broken up, and virtually every dealer in Morgan dollars had a good supply, often roll quantities, during that decade. For example, in November 1958, Harry Warner was charging $45 for a roll of 20 coins ($2.25 per coin). Quantities remained on the market, although when it was learned that 1883-S was not among the issues released in large quantities by the Treasury in 1962-1964 (I have found no record of any bags coming out at that time), the price rose.

In 1962, Niel Hildebrand offered rolls for $220 each ($11 per coin), and in May 1964, Daniel J. Morafka was charging $290 per roll ($14.50 per coin). By the mid-1960s, most quantities of 1883-8 dollars in dealers' stocks had been distributed, but singles abounded on the market. One by one, most singles found homes, and by the late 1960s and con-tinuing through the 1970s, many collectors in the market, and many dealers as well-most of whom had not been active until after the 1962-1964 Treasury releases-came to view the 1883-S as rare.

However, silver dollar hoarder LaVere Redfield had at least part of another bag. These coins were retailed by Paramount after the Redfield coins were auctioned in 1976. Today, most of the Redfield coins would grade in the MS-60 to MS-63 range.

Until a few years ago, such [Uncirculated] specimens were very rare. However an enormous jump in the price of the 1883-S in 1973-it moved from $75 to $275 in less than SLX months-brought many specimens into the market. Over 100 Uncirculated pieces were available at the summer 1973 Long Beach coin show. The Redfield hoard contained a quantity of high-quality 1883-S dollars. Most were well struck with good lustre. As usual, surface abrasions prevented most from being considered in the gem category. The 1883-S is still a difficult date to obtain in strictly BU condition. It is readily available in AU condition; several bags oflightly circulated pieces have surfaced in the past 10 years. BU specimens are usually well struck with good lustre and are readily discernible from sliders. Bagmarks tend to be plentiful.

Now in the 1990s, the 1883-S is considered to be scarce and among the more elusive San Francisco issues. Without doubt, and having no close challengers, the 1883-S is far rarer in Mint State than any other S-Mint Morgan dollar from 1878 to 1883.

Writing in The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook in 1982, Wayne Miller recognized the formerly rare status of the 1883-S:

Until a few years ago, such [Uncirculated] specimens were very rare. However an enormous jump in the price of the 1883-S in 1973-it moved from $75 to $275 in less than SLX months-brought many specimens into the market. Over 100 Uncirculated pieces were available at the summer 1973 Long Beach coin show. The Redfield hoard contained a quantity of high-quality 1883-S dollars. Most were well struck with good lustre. As usual, surface abrasions prevented most from being considered in the gem category. The 1883-S is still a difficult date to obtain in strictly BU condition. It is readily available in AU condition; several bags oflightly circulated pieces have surfaced in the past 10 years. BU specimens are usually well struck with good lustre and are readily discernible from sliders. Bagmarks tend to be plentiful.

Now in the 1990s, the 1883-S is considered tobe scarce and among the more elusive San Francisco issues. Without doubt, and having no close challeng-ers, the 1883-S is far rarer in Mint State than any other S-Mint Morgan dollar from 1878 to 1883.

Grade vs. price: In lower grades the 1883-S dollar is plentiful, but at higher levels it is both elusive and expensive. The Coin Dealer Newsletter illustrates the wide spread of prices: (Issue of September 18, 1992, but any other issue would do just as well, to illustrate the concept. Prices given are wholesale levels for average quality coins within the grades named.)

VG $8.50, Fine $10, VF $12, EF $17,AU $85, MS- 60 $300, MS-63 $1,125, MS-64 $3,100, MS-65 $30,000 (estimated; no recent transaction record), MS-67 $50,000+, and the following DMPL prices: