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)
Hoard coins: many bags of 1893 dollars were released by the Treasury in the mid-1950s and very early 1960s. John Jay Ford, Jr. handled at least one bag in 1952, dribbling out the contents for years; circa 1959, John Love reported handling one bag, at least one bag was sold by LaVere Redfield prior to his death, and multiple bags were bought by Superior Stamp & Coin Co. from Redfield's widow prior to the sale at auction of Redfield silver dollars in January 1976, by which time the holding had been reduced to two to four bags. Few bags were in the 1962-1964 Treasury release.
Circulated grades: The 1893 is readily available in worn grades, but among Philadelphia Mint Morgan dollars the 1893 is one of the more elusive dates.
Most circulation strike 1893 dollars are decent strikes but have somewhat "greasy" lustre, not a deep frosty surface. Others are lightly struck at the Mint State grades: After 1901 and 1894 (and not counting the non-existent 1895), the 1893 is the rarest circulation strike Philadelphia Mint Morgan silver dollar. However, the 1901 (in particular) and 1894 are far rarer.
Most circulation strike 1893 dollars are decent strikes but have somewhat "greasy" lustre, not a deep frosty surface. Others are lightly struck at the centers and often have dull lustre. Once again, cherrypicking for quality is advised. Lower range coins are apt to have smaller (less heavy or damaging) bagmarks than seen on many other Morgan dollars. Higher grade coins with minimum bagmarks are often found as well.
Most coins known today are in lower ranges such as MS-60 to 62, of which probably 30,000 to 60,000 exist. MS-63 coins, with an estimated population of 10,000 to 20,000, are more elusive. Rarer still are MS-64s, of which possibly 4,000 to 8,000 survive. Rarest of all are MS-65 or better pieces, which exist to the extent of only 400 to 800 coins.
Many 1,000-coin bags were once in numismatic channels, as noted earlier.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike coins are very rare, and DMPL pieces are exceedingly rare.
Wayne Miller reported that prooflike coins usually have unsatisfactory surfaces and contrast, and for this reason they are usually less desired than high-grade Mint State coins with frosty surfaces. Semi-prooflike coins were often sold as fully prooflike in the years before certified grading. Now, with certified grading, the situation is not particularly clearer, due to erosion of the standards as to what constitutes a prooflike (PL), deep prooflike (DPL), etc. coin (see my introduction to the Morgan dollar section for more details).
1. Normal date: Breen-5630. It is uncertain if open and closed 3 are different logotypes. That this low mintage for circulation actually used at least five obverses out of seven pairs of dies furnished means that the dies did not last long: average 77,800 impressions, about a third of normal. Surprisingly, no coins have been reported with die breaks or other failures. One obverse shows top of 3 repunched. Strongly doubled obverse stars are a feature of VAM-4, which is scarce, but which is occasionally seen prooflike.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 7; Reverse: 7
Circulation strike mintage: 378,000 (or 389,000, per Guide Book); Delivery figures by month: January: 200,000; February: 150,000; March: none; April: 28,000; May-December: none. Coinage of circulation strikes was suspended June 1.
Estimated quantity melted: Relatively few, except worn coins as part of various melts; most were probably released into circulation at or near the time of striking.
Availability of prooflike coins: True prooflike coins are rare, and DMPL coins are exceedingly rare. Only a few exist.
Characteristics of striking: Most are above average in striking quality. However, flat strikes exist.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Many bags were released by the Treasury Department from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. However, quantities were lower than for Philadelphia Mint dollars dated 1891 and 1892.
The 1893 is the third rarest Philadelphia Mint dollar (not including 1895) in Mint State. However, it is much more readily available than the two issues of significantly higher rarity: the 1894 and 1901.
Sherman Silver Purchase Act Repealed
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, told of the repeal of the most recent piece of silver-purchase legislation:
"On November 1,1893 the silver purchasing clause of the Act of July 14,1890 was repealed, so since then the purchase of silver has been restricted to the silver contained in gold deposits, the amount received in payment of charges of silver deposits, surplus silver bullion returned by the operative officers of the coinage mints on the annual settlement of their accounts at the close of each fiscal year, and uncurrent and mutilated domestic silver coin purchased for the subsidiary silver coinage under the provisions of Section 3526, Revised Statutes of the United States."
Storing Silver Dollars
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint; 1893, brought readers up to date on the perennial problem of silver dollar storage:
"Needed improvements to the building and machinery of the Philadelphia Mint were made during the last fiscal year. Two large steel vaults for the storage of silver bars have been constructed in the basement, having an average capacity of upwards of 30 million ounces of silver.
"These vaults flank the large silver coin vault in the center of the basement throughout its entire length, and thus act as a protection to it. The third story addition upon the west side has been extended across the south slope of the inner roof, affording additional facilities for the operations of the assayer and melter and refiner, giving each well-appointed laboratories for experimental purposes. It gives also rooms for the clerks in charge of the storage of silver bars, and accommodations for the receiver and keeper of supplies. A fire-proof vault has also been constructed on the same floor for the safekeeping of the books and records of silver bars stored. Skylights were constructed in the roof of the cabinet that will render artificial lighting unnecessary, and will add much to its attractiveness.
Review of the Silver Market
The following review of the market in silver from 1843 through 1893 and the causes of its depreciation since 1872 is from the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1893:
"During the calendar year 1848 the average price of silver in the London market was 59 3/4d. per ounce for silver 0.925 fine (British standard), equivalent in United States money to $1.3098 per ounce 1,000 fine. The price from this time gradually advanced until 1859, when it reached an average for the year of 62 1/16d.
"The advance in the price between 1850 and 1859 was due to the very large increase in the production of gold to California and Australia, which added to the world's supply of that metal without any material increase in the supply of silver. The advance in the price was also greatly stimulated by the large loans made in silver to India for public improvements and for expenses incidental to the suppression of the Sepoy mutiny of 1857.
"Between 1860 and 1866 a decline took place, the yearly average price ranging from 61-11/16d to 61-1/8d. The latter figure was maintained until after the close of the Civil War in the United States, by reason of the limited supply of, and the increased demand for, silver. Cotton was at this time cultivated very extensively in India, because of the small quantity of it obtainable from the United States, and large amounts of silver were required for shipment to that country to pay for it."
"The variation in the average yearly price, from 1867 to 1872, was only 4/16d. The average price of silver in 1873 was 59-1/ 4d., equal to $1.29883. Since that time the yearly average decline has been steady, with only four exceptions. The average price for the month of October 1893, was 33.608d., equal to $0.73672, a decline, over a period of a little over twenty years, of $0.56211 per ounce."
"The causes of this great decline, stated briefly, are as follows:
"First, Germany, in 1871 and 1873, enacted laws demonetizing silver, making gold the sole standard of value, and calling in all silver coins previously issued and circulated in the several states of the German Empire. To procure the gold necessary for the purposes of coinage, Germany sold, between 1873 and 1879, large amounts of silver from her store of melted silver coins, including the amount received from France in payment of the indemnity imposed upon her at the close of the Franco-Prussian war. The effect of this legislation was to create a demand for gold in Germany and to increase the supply of silver bullion, or melted coins, in other countries, and to cause a depreciation in the price of the white metal.
"Second. In 1872, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark entered into a monetary treaty demonetizing silver, which was formally ratified by Sweden and Denmark in 1873 and by Norway in 1875. By this treaty they adopted the single gold standard and made silver a subsidiary metal, to be coined on government account only, for change purposes.
"Third. Holland, which had been on a silver basis since 1847, practically followed the example of Germany in 1875, for although in that year it nominally adopted the double standard at the ratio of 1 to 15-5/11, it, as a matter of fact, prohibited the coinage of silver, thus becoming, like Germany, gold monometallic.
"Fourth. The price having fallen to a point at which it becomes profitable for brokers to purchase silver in Germany and ship it to the states comprising the Latin Union for conversion into 5-franc pieces, the parties to that monetary treaty decided, in 1874, to limit the amount of 5-franc pieces to be coined by each. This, however, did not have the effect to steady the price, and in 1878 the mints of the Latin Union were closed to the coinage of full legal tender silver coins, and have remained so ever since.
"Fifth. In September 1876, Russia suspended the coinage of silver except as to such an amount as might be required for trade purposes with China. Notwithstanding the fact that the silver standard legally prevailed in Austria-Hungary until 1892, the free coinage of silver has been suspended in that country since 1879. In 1892 it formally adopted the single gold standard. By the Act of 1873 the coinage of full legal-tender silver was tacitly prohibited in the United States and gold made the sole standard of value, but as we were then on a proper basis, the price of silver cannot be said to have been appreciably affected by that act, especially as it provided for the receipt of silver from individuals for coinage into trade dollars, and the further fact that large purchases of silver were made for the subsidiary silver coinage under the acts of 1873 and 1875, to replace the fractional paper currency which had been used for change purposes since 1862. The Act of February 28, 1878, authorized the coinage of silver dollars of the weight of 412-1/2 grains, as provided for by the Act of January 18, 1837, and which were a full legal tender. Under the Act of 1837 the coinage was free to individuals, but the Act of 1878 provided for the coinage of full legal tender silver dollars on government account only. It also provided for the purchase for this coinage of not less than $2 million, nor more than $4 million worth of bullion each month, at the market price. But notwithstanding the magnitude of the purchase of silver required to be made under the Act of 1878 the decline in price continued. Further legislation by the United States, still more favorable to silver, was enacted by the Act of July 14, 1890, which provided for the purchase of 54 million ounces annually, the estimated production of our domestic mines. The effect of this act was to cause a temporary advance in the price of silver, but the high price could not be maintained owing to the largely increased output by the silver-producing countries of the world, and the price commenced to decline in September 1890, and continued to do so.
"Sixth. On the 26th of June 1893, the Legislative Council of India passed a bill closing her mints to silver coinage for individuals, and her action has been followed in the United States by the repeal of the purchasing clause of the Act of July 14, 1890. The present price of silver in the London market is 32-1/4d. for silver .925 fine, equivalent in United States money to $0.70-7/10 for silver 1,000 fine.
"Seventh. The great increase in the production of the metal. In 1873 the world's production of silver was estimated to be $81.8 million, and in 1892 at $196,605,000-an increase in the annual supply, in twenty years, of over 140%. Considering the enormously increased production of silver and the decreasing demand for it for coinage purposes, it would be a matter of surprise if the price had not very greatly declined. The increase of the production has had more to do with the depreciation of silver than has its demonetization by some countries and the suspension of its coinage by others."
Distribution of Silver Dollars
The distribution of silver dollars for fiscal year ended June 30, 1893 was detailed in the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1893:
In the mints July 1, 1892: Philadelphia, 50,083,000; San Francisco, 36,301,366; New Orleans, 9,701,300; Carson, 4,126,636.
Coinage of the fiscal year: Philadelphia, 1,356,715; San Francisco, 700,000; New Orleans, 1,920,000; Carson, 1,367,000.
In mints July 1, 1893: Philadelphia, 50,447,000; San Francisco, 35,813,683; New Orleans, 7,085,250; Carson, 5,398,455.
Distributed from mints: Philadelphia, 992,715; San Francisco, 1,187,683; New Orleans, 4,536,050; Carson, 95,181.
Silver $1 Legislation Summary
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1893, proved a summary of legislation directly affecting the Morgan silver dollar:
"The Act of February 28, 1878, provided for the coinage of the standard silver dollar and restored its full legal tender quality. Under the provisions of this act the secretary of the Treasury was authorized and directed to purchase from time to time silver bullion, at the market price thereof, not less than $2 million worth per month nor more than $4 million worth per month, and cause the same to be coined monthly, as fast as so purchased, into such dollars.
"The Act of June 9, 1879, provided that the subsidiary silver coins of the United States should be legal tender in all sums not exceeding $10.
"The Act of July 14, 1890, authorized the secretary of the Treasury to purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver monthly, or so much thereof as might be offered, at the market price, not exceeding $1 for 371-1/4 grains of pure silver, and to issue in payment for such purchases of silver bullion, Treasury notes of the United States, redeemable on demand in coin, and to coin two million ounces of the silver bullion purchased under the provisions of that act into standard silver dollars until the 1st day of July, 1891, and after that time to coin as much as might be necessary to provide for the redemption of the Treasury notes issued in payment of silver purchased.
"In accordance with the provision of this act, authorizing the secretary of the Treasury, after July 1, 1891, to coin as much as might be necessary to provide for the redemption of Treasury notes, a limited amount of silver dollars was coined each year up to June 1, 1893, when, with the exception of 245 Proof coins, the coinage was suspended.
"The act approved November 1, 1893, repealed the purchasing clause of the Act of July 14, 1890. [See above]"
Morgan Dollars Recoined
Standard silver dollars coined since 1878 were melted from time to time. The amounts melted and recoined into other silver dollars came to the following, per the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1893:
1883 fiscal year $621, 1885 fiscal year $1,850; 1887 fiscal year $8,292; 1888 fiscal year $14,055; 1889 fiscal year
$31,042; 1890 fiscal year $11,977; 1891 fiscal year $10,800; 1892 fiscal year $42,881; 1893 fiscal year $10,500.
Total 1883 through 1893 fiscal year: $132,018.
Silver In The Treasury Vaults
The following appeared in Harper's Weekly in July 1893:
"A picture of the Treasury in which silver bullion is stored is an instructive object lesson. It is known vaguely that the United States are buying every month 4.5 million ounces of silver, and that this represents about the product of the silver mines of the United States. It is not known what an enormous bulk of silver the laws of Congress have compelled the government to purchase and keep.
"The government has been buying silver ever since 1878, when the law known as the Bland law went into effect. Until August 13, 1890, the Treasury purchased every month $2 million worth of bullion to be coined into standard dollars. It might have expended $4 million in that way, and the country ought to be thankful, perhaps, that the different secretaries restrained themselves from going to the utmost limit of the statute. Nevertheless, the government purchased under the law of 1878, 308,199,261.71 ounces, at a cost of $323,635,576.19-an average cost of $1.05 an ounce. There are in circulation about $380 million in silver, most of which is in silver certificates, the metal back of these notes being stored in the Treasury. Stated roughly, 300 million standard silver dollars would cover a space of nearly one-half a square mile.
"Since August 13, 1890, the government has been buying 4.5 million ounces of silver a month. On the silver purchased under the act of 1878 the government made a profit of about $70 million by stamping a lie on every 375 grains of fine silver. (Apparently, the "lie" was that the coin was worth ONE DOLLAR (per the inscription), even though it contained only about 80Â¢ (in 1890) to 60Â¢ (in 1893) worth of silver.) Â On the silver purchased under the act of 1890 the government has lost about $40 million by the depreciation of its stock of bullion on hand.
"The amount purchased under the Act of 1890, most of which is stored in the vaults of the Treasury, was about 157 million ounces on the 1st of July. The government owns, therefore, about 4,000 tons of silver, for which it is obliged to find storage room. Moreover, it must go on buying and storing more than 140 tons of silver a month, and is issuing against the metal paper money, which it is redeeming in gold and receiving for its dues, but which is not regarded as money or a valid representative of money in any other country in the world except Mexico and the South American republics, with whom we trade through London, and who, inconsistently perhaps, demand payment of our debts to them for hides, coffee, and other articles that we import in gold exchange.
"But we are now concerning ourselves with the load of silver bullion which the government is storing. It is difficult to foresee what will be done with this amount of material. Even if the Sherman law is repealed, there it is, and if the government undertakes to sell it, the silver market will go even lower than it did the other day, when the silver miners of Colorado threatened to close their mines because India was about to stop the free coinage of silver. In other words, the silver miners insist that the government shall buy and maintain the price of their product, although the Treasury vaults now hold 4,900 tons of it which it cannot sell, on which it has lost millions of the money of the taxpayers, and which is threatening the credit of the government. If the silver miners have the right to demand this, why is it absurd for the farmers to demand that the government store their crops and loan them money on them." (How prescient this article was! In the twentieth century the government went into the agricultural subsidy business in a large way. Perhaps the most irrational policy was the government's paying subsidies to tobacco farmers while at the same time the Surgeon General of the United States was waging a war against smoking.)
Silver Producers, Unite! (1893)
The following is a broadside published in Butte, Montana on June 28, 1893:
"To the Friends of Silver:
"The undersigned take the liberty of calling your attention to the critical situation of the market for silver bullion.
"We also wish you to note the fact that the coming Congress will be the theatre of the greatest battle that has ever been waged between the advocates of the gold and the bimetallic standards, representing the interests of the European usurers and their American agents on the one hand, and those of the great producing classes of the nation on the other.
"We invite your most serious consideration to a fact not creditable to the silver miners of Montana, i.e., that while the representatives of every interest of the United States are preparing for this great conflict, the producers of silver are inactive, irresolute and idle, waiting in dumb dismay for something to turn up, instead of proceeding themselves to playa part in determining results clearly within their reach.
"In view of this situation, we take the liberty of asking all mine owners, proprietors of reduction works and all others interested in the production of silver, to meet in convention at the Broadwater Hotel, near the city of Helena, on the 6th day of July, where it is hoped that a perfect organization will be perfected, so that silver producers will do their own fair share of the burden of the battle that is now on.
"We feel that we have the right to demand your personal attendance, or that you be represented by a person with full authority to act for you and your company.
"This is a serious crisis and a failure at this time to respond to the call of duty and self interest, and will betoken an indifference which can only result in serious criticism of our motives and the justice of our cause.
"Marcus Daly, Samuel T. Hauser, Anton M. Holter, James A. Murray, Wm. E. Hall, C.H. Palmer, T. Couch, Henry Williams, Jos. K. Clark, JE. Gaylord, AJ. Seligman, F.A. Heinze, Charles Molsen, W. Thos. Hart, R.T. Bayliss, B.F. White, Samuel Ward.
"All who desire to attend the conference should notify Mr. James B. Lehigh, chairman of the Silver Committee of the Trans-Mississippi Congress.
"Congressman Richard P. Bland, the great silver advocate, is here. Reviewing the silver situation as affected by the action of the Indian government, he said: 'Heroic measures will be required on the part of this government for remonetizing silver. Most emphatically I do not think it is a knock out for silver in this country. On the contrary, I think if Congress does not adopt some measure looking to a bi-metallic standard, it will make the battle of standards the coming issue in this country. This battle will disrupt political parties and cause a contest between the commercial centers and the agricultural districts in this country. The free coinage of silver is demanded by the laboring classes, and this is what the free silver men will now demand in Congress. The demonetization of silver is a conspiracy between the banking institutions of England, and the eastern portion of the United States, and the suspension of silver coinage in India is a part of this conspiracy to bulldoze the Congress of the United States to the adoption of a single gold standard.
"I do not believe they will succeed. If the Democratic Congress stands true to its pledges this conspiracy will not succeed. The low price of silver is due to the fact that this and other governments are discriminating against it, and that the money interests of this and other countries have fought it. No important commercial country has recently had a mint for the free exchange of gold and silver. An effort has been made to dam up silver and prevent its free exchange to the commerce of the nations. That the United States, by free coinage, can restore silver to its original value was practically admitted by the British Royal Commission of 1888, consisting of twelve members, six of them uncompromising gold-monometallists. They admitted that France alone could maintain a parity of the two metals at a ratio of 15-1/2 to 1. This country is stronger in material wealth, developed and undeveloped, than France and England combined.' Washington Telegram, June 28th, 1893."