The 1848 Silver Dollar has the lowest mintage of any of the dates from the 1840s, bar none. The same can be said of the surviving population tabulated by PCGS; the 1848 has the lowest population of any date from the 1840s. It does not have the lowest population of Mint State examples, but it is not that far behind. On the high end, the 1848 is the only date found in MS66, where a single example has been certified by PCGS. Combined with the PCGS MS67 1849, these are the only two silver dollars higher than MS65 from that decade.
Most 1848 Silver Dollars show weakness on the 8th star and slight weakness on the 7th and the 9th through the 13th stars. On the reverse, the eagle usually shows strong details.
Q. David Bowers:
The following narrative, with minor editing, is from my "Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia" (Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1993).
Production small: The Philadelphia Mint produced only 15,000 silver dollars, the lowest production of the 1840-1850 decade.
Writing in The History of Currency 1252-1896, Second Edition, 1896, p. 259, W.A. Shaw told of the immediate benefits experienced by the Act of July 31, 1834, whereby gold coins began to circulate freely, but also noted this:
The panacea thus magnificently lauded soon proved itself worse than inefficient. The ratio was too high, and the silver dollars could not be maintained. They were unduly exported, especially between the years 1848 and 1851.
Whether or not silver dollars were exported in quantity during this period has not been ascertained with finality. If, indeed, dollars were exported in quantity during the period 1848-1851, it is not hard to envision a scenario in which undistributed dollars minted a few years earlier in 1841 were obtained from the Treasury and sent overseas to be melted, thus accounting for their rarity. Actually, the year 1848 given by Shaw is probably too early, for California gold was not plentiful on world markets until 1849, at which time an excess of the metal began to accumulate, precipitating a rise in the price of silver. Although gold was discovered on the American River in California in 1848, news was slow in spreading, and the following year, 1849, saw a rush to the gold fields.
Circulated grades: Because of its low mintage of just 15,000 pieces-the lowest of the 1840s the 1848 silver dollar has always been in strong demand. Coins figuratively walk out of dealers' catalogues. Circulated grades, while quite scarce, exist in sufficient quantities that they are usually easily available for a price.
Mint State grades: The 1848 is scarce but is not in the top echelon of rarity for the decade. The low mintage of the date has placed a premium on coins of all grades, and a Mint State 1848 will attract a lot of attention in a dealer's display or auction catalogue. Coins MS-64 or better are extreme rarities.
1. Normal Date: Breen-5439. Larger numerals than in other dates 1840-1850. On early impressions horizontal die polish lines are seen in the crook of Miss Liberty's elbow. No variations have been described for circulation strikes of this year.
Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown
Circulation strike mintage: 15,000; Delivery figures by month: December: 15,000.
Estimated quantity melted: Unknown
Characteristics of striking: Usually well struck.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: None
The 1848, with a very low mintage of 15,000 circulation strikes, has always been one of the most popular issues of its era with numismatists.