1895 Morgan Dollar
Low mintage: Just 12,000 business strike 1895 dollars are said to have been struck. I have never seen an authentic specimen. It is presumed that the entire mintage, if indeed it ever existed, consisting of only 12 mint bags, went to the melting pot under the provisions of the Pittman Act of 1918.
Were business strikes made? Almost immediately from the time of coinage the 1895 dollar was recognized as a Proof-only issue. In The Curio, December 1898, Lancaster (Pennsylvania) dealer Charles Steigerwalt noted this: "Dollars of 1895 from the Philadelphia Mint are only found in the Proof sets." Similarly, in his study, "Die Varieties of Current United States Standard Dollars," published in The Numismatist, June 1898, George W. Rice noted this: "In 1895, Proofs only, numbering less than 1,000, were struck"
It seems to me that it was prevailing knowledge as early as 1898, perhaps even before, that no business strikes of the 1895 dollar were made. Presumably, this information must have come from the Mint itself. The Mint was in constant contact with collectors and dealers and, of course, was actively marketing Proof sets at the time.
To be sure, the Philadelphia Mint reported a coinage of 12,000 business strikes, and five obverse and four reverse dies were prepared for this purpose. However, the prevailing contemporary knowledge and statements that only Proofs were made-statements that were never challenged in the literature at the time-leads me to at least seriously consider the possibility that the 12,000 "business strike" 1895 dollars consisted of a ledger entry for something else. The delivery date of the 12,000 business strikes was given as June 1895, which coincides with the end of the 1894-1895 fiscal year (July 1, 1894 to June 30,1895). Could it have been that 12,000 left-over 1894 business strikes were delivered in June 1895 to be sure that the fiscal year data were correct? The answer may never be known with certainty.'
Key issue: Over the years the 1895 dollar has been the key to the Morgan dollar set. While several other issues are rarer in higher grades (high Mint State grades for business strikes as compared to high Proof grades for the 1895), the 1895 has a lower total population overall. Probably, about 700 or so coins are known to remain today from the original Proof mintage of 880 coins.
Considering that many hundreds of thousands of people desire to collect Morgan dollars, it seems that the 1895 should be in even greater demand than it is. However, quite a few numismatists limit their interest to business strikes, and disqualify the Proof only 1895 from their sets. Even so, demand is intense, and whenever a Proof 1895 comes up for sale, there is usually a great deal of competition for it.
Circulated grades: A few dozen circulated authentic 1895 Philadelphia Mint dollars are known. These match the die varieties described below under Proofs, and represent Proofs that were spent. Most worn "1895" dollars have turned out to be alterations.
Mint State grades: No Mint State coin is positively known to exist, although Stuart Mosher (see article under Additional Information below) wrote in 1955 that he thought that a few might survive. The following coin, if confirmed, might be an exception to the view generally held by modern students of the series. John Jay Ford, Jr. told me this concerning it:!
At the ANA show in Denver in 1963, Harry J Forman brought to me an 1895 silver dollar in absolutely Mint State. It had no trace of Proof surface, it wasn't circulated; it wasn't an alteration, because I had access to a Bausch & Lomb binocular microscope-at the time I was into detecting counterfeits. In fact, it was at that show I found the whizzed 1918/7- D nickel which I showed to [Mint Director] Eva Adams, who took me down to the Denver Mint, and we proved there what whizzing was-how this thing had been improved with a brush very cleverly to appear as simulated mint lustre. I might not have taken the 1895 silver dollar down there, but I know I was convinced it was a Philadelphia Mint '95 absolutely Mint State, unaltered.
I didn't have the access to a Proof dollar to compare the dies. But I remember I wanted to buy the coin in the worstway, and the guy wouldn't sell it. This went on and on for about two days. The guy wouldn't budge, wouldn't sell it. I think at the time the '95 silver dollar in Proof was not selling for huge money. I really can't remember what it was selling for, $2,500 or something like that. ... This is not hearsay; I actually held the coin, I tried to buy it. And I offered the guy practically what a Proof was selling for. It was a strong offer in those days.
Proofs 1ike coins: None is known to exist.
Proofs: Proofs are known from at least four (!) different obverse dies (see below). Examples are nearly always well struck. Mint records show that five obverse and four reverse dies were made for Proofs. Why so many, I don't know. Thomas K. DeLorey reported that he has seen "two different 1895 Proofs with delicate file marks at the outer edges of the rims, as though someone at the Mint had carefully removed wire rims (or "finning") from the coins; they were otherwise unimpaired.?
Caveat emptor: Many "1895" dollars have been made by removing the mintmark from 1895-O or 1895-S dollars. Others have been made by altering the third digit in the date of 1885 Philadelphia Mint dollars, and still others were made in different ways. Authentication of any coin not clearly a Proof is mandatory.