Hoard coins: Bags of 1889-O dollars were released over a period of time in later years, beginning at least as early as 1938 and continuing in small numbers to the mid-1950s. These pieces, coming from vaults in the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., attracted little attention. The 1962-1964 Treasury release of specimens stored in a sealed vault in the Philadelphia Mint included 1889-O dollars, but it was not one of the more plentiful dates.
Harry J. Forman had at least one Treasury bag in 1962. Reminiscing in The Comprehensive Silver Dollar Encyclopedia, Dean Tavenner said that he obtained one bag of 1888-O dollars in April 1964just at the time his bank in Deer Lodge, Montana was running out of silver dollars to pass out at face value. John Highfill reported having bags of this date and finding that 80% to 90% of the coins were flatly struck. Maurice Rosen reported handling bags of this coin, mostly consisting of MS-60 to MS-62 coins, lightly struck. A bag of 1,000 pieces came on the market from Pennsylvania in 1979. John Love once had a bag of 1889-O dollars, mostly prooflike, in the same decade.
Circulated grades: In worn grades the 1889-O is very common. Millions of coins were probably distributed in or near the year of mintage.
Mint State grades: The 1889-O is very plentiful, indeed common, in low Mint State ranges such as MS-60, MS-61, and even MS-62. In these categories an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 exist which, by way of comparison, is more than one coin for every paid subscriber to Numismatic News. In MS-63 the issue becomes scarce, and probably only 10,000 to 15,000 survive. In MS-64 the 1889-O is scarcer yet, with about 2,500 to 5,000 extant. Finally, in MS-65 and better grades it is rare; I believe that only about 400 to 800 exist.
Most 1889-O Morgan dollars are poorly struck, with dull or unsatisfactory lustre, and have many bagmarks.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike coins are scarce, especially in higher grades with a low number of bagmarks. When seen, prooflike coins usually are well struck and have deep mirrorlike fields and frosty devices. 70 coins were certified as DMPL by NGC and PCGS as of September 1992 but, as usual, most were below MS-65. The "Proof' offered by Harry Budd (The Numismatist 8/53) was probably a DMPL.
Die rotation: At the New Orleans Mint in 1889, one or more pressmen must have been preoccupied, for at least three varieties exist with rotated dies. VAM-1 is known with the reverse rotated 60Â° to 105Â° clockwise from normal, VAM-3 exists with rotation of 36Â° to 72Â° clockwise from normal, and VAM-9 is known with rotational misalignment of 25Â° to 46Â° from normal. All three varieties have been found only in circulated grades, the Van Allen-Mallis reference notes.
1. Normal date: High 9. Oval O (slit opening), Breen-5606, VAM-2; very underrated; found mostly in very low circulated grades. Round O (wide opening), Breen-5607, many varieties. The Wide Date (Breen-5608, VAM-10, 11) has remained elusive; 9 far from 8 and not high. Does this indicate a single-digit punch was used to complete the 188 date? Six repunched dates have been attributed by VAM, the most important being VAM-6. The most sought after 1889-O is VAM-1A with E on reverse, from die clashing; the finest known is AD. Probably over 50 pairs of dies were used.