|Bowers & Merena||Auction||The March 2010 Baltimore Auction||Feb-2010||1879-O Morgan Silver Dollar. Proof-64 (PCGS). OGH--First Generation. Easily the rarest and also among the most popular Morgan Dollars with advanced collectors are the branch mint proofs--coins that are so rare, in fact, that many numismatists have never even seen one of these specimens, let alone been confronted with the opportunity to add one to their holdings. Writing in the 1982 book The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook, Wayne Miller enumerates five classes of branch Mint proof Morgan Dollars. The claim that an individual issue has to branch mint status decreases as the class # increases; the Class V pieces, in fact, being described by Miller as, ""coins rumored to be branch mint proofs which the author has seen and which are definitely not proofs.""
On the other end of the scale are the Class I branch mint proofs, which Wayne Miller describes as, ""authorized, definite branch mint proofs. These are the...dates for which proofs were authorized and subsequently issued [emphasis author's]."" Only four branch mint proof Morgan Dollars qualify as Class I: 1879-O; 1883-O; 1893-CC; and 1921-S.
The 1879-O is perhaps the best known Class I branch mint proof Morgan Dollar, and it is also among the most instantly recognizable of all branch mint proof coins regardless of type or issue. Considerable documentation exists for the creation of these coins, according to which a mere 12 specimens were struck on February 20, 1879 to commemorate the reopening of the New Orleans Mint (the facility had ceased production in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War). Of the original 12 coins struck, only four specimens are known to exist.
Pages 219-220 of the aforementioned book The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook contains author Wayne Miller's detailed analysis of the specific proof 1879-O Morgan Dollar that we are offering in this sale:
I first saw this piece while it was owned by Alan Brotman