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: Examples of 1895-S filtered out of the San Francisco Mint over a long period of years in the normal course of business. Around the year 1900 there was a flurry of interest in 1894-O, 1894-S, 1895-O, and 1895-S silver dollars, and a few specimens were sold for several dollars each. The interest soon faded, and Uncirculated pieces could be obtained for less than $2 apiece. Pieces have always been available at a price.
A few bags of 1895-S dollars were released by the San Francisco Mint in 1942, much to the delight of Bay Area numismatists. From that time through the very early 1950s, more bags were paid out, but then the distribution stopped. By 1953-1955, 1895-S dollars were considered to be rare. John Skubis recalled that K.O. Cunningham, of Nevada, offered a bag for $5,000 to $6,000 around this time, but John did not buy it, for he was fearful that a lot more would be released at face value. Indeed, some additional coins were released, but most went to casinos or the public-rather than to dealers.
The Redfield estate had most or all of a mint bag, nearly all of which coins were severely bagmarked, and many of which had been damaged by a coin counting machine.
Circulated grades: Worn 1895-S dollars are available but are among the scarcer issues in the Morgan series. Probably, only about 5,000 to 10,000 survive.
Mint State grades: Most Mint State coins exist in lower levels such as MS-60 or MS-61 and are very heavily bagmarked. Nearly 1,000 of these were sold as "MS-65" in the 1970s and are from the Redfield estate. Many Mint State coins show die striations in the fields. I estimate that about 2,500 to 5,000 coins survive at this level. In MS-63, the population is in the range of 1,000 to 2,000, after which it drops sharply to just 400 to 800 at the MS-64 level. MS-65 or finer specimens are truly rare, and I estimate that only about 50 to 100 remain.
Illustrative of the elusiveness of top grade coins, Wayne Miller once examined a group of 140 Mint State coins and picked out just eight coins he liked, of which just three or four were gems.
Most Mint State coins are well struck and have excellent lustre. Many have semi-prooflike surfaces. An attractive 1895-S dollar with a minimum of bagmarks is an object of intense numismatic desire, and competition is strong whenever such a piece appears on the market.
Ask a silver dollar dealer this question: What two Morgan dollar issues usually are seen heavily bagmarked? The answer is apt to be: 1893-CC and 1895-S.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike coins are scarce, but among the few top grade Mint State 1895-S dollars, quite a few are prooflike. When seen, they usually are in lower grades, have low contrast, and are not particularly attractive. DMPL coins are about twice as scarce as PL. As of September 1992, NGC and PCGS certified 42 PL (all but one below MS-65) and 21 DMPL (none MS-65 or better). The alleged "Proof' in Mehl's C.W. Cowell sale (Nov. 11, 1911), at $2, was probably a DMPL. On the other hand, one or more of the following may have been the real McCoy: 1) John Zug, advertised in The Numismatist December 1934, at $5, was priced above the 1895 ($4.50) and all other Philadelphia Proofs. 2) William Cutler Atwater (Mehl,June 11,1946), $ 15.75-above all Philadelphia Proofs except 1878 8 Tailfeathers, 1895, and 1903. 3) Bolender's 183rd Sale (Feb. 23, 1952), "extremely rare," $90-above all Philadelphia Proofs except 1895. 4) "Anderson Dupont" (Stack's, Nov. 11-13, 1954), $32.50, exceeded only by 1891 and 1895.
1. Normal date: Breen-5639. Most likely not all the 10 obverses and six reverses were used, including those used to strike four varieties listed by VAM (uti-lizing two obverse dies and four reverses). Double punched S: Breen-5640; VAM-3: "largest shift of S mintmark known for Morgan dollars." (Other repunched mintmarks occur with great frequency throughout the Morgan series; this 1895-S is singled out here because it is the most egregious of the type.)
2. S Over Horizontal S: Breen-5641; VAM-4. With S mintmark punched over previous erroneous horizontal S. A triangle-shaped area of raised metal can be seen above and to the left of the S. Very rare. This variety was the subject for a cover story in the Fall-Winter 1991 issue of the Journal of the SSDG. In the article, Jeff Oxman suggested that this variety is worth a 25% premium over a regular 1895-S.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 10; Reverse: 6
Business strike mintage: 400,000; Delivery figures by month: January: none; February: 100,000; March:100,000; April: 100,000; May: 100,000; June-December: none.
Estimated quantity melted: Probably well over 100,000.
Availability of prooflike coins: Many Mint State coins are semi-prooflike or prooflike. DMPLs are twice as rare as PLs. Most are in lower grades. Such coins are not in great demand as they usually have low contrast and unappealing surfaces.
Characteristics of striking: Sharp
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Several bags were distributed from the San Francisco Mint in the 1950s. In the 1970s the Redfield estate contained an estimated 1,000 coins. Most coins are heavily bagmarked.
Mint State coins are usually heavily bagmarked.