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: The 1898 was released in large quantities by the Treasury Department through the Federal Reserve, so that by the mid-1950s Mint State coins were very common in eastern banks. However, before that time Uncirculated coins were scarce, or even rare. Additional large quantities were released in the late 1950s and early 1960s. By the mid-1970s, most such quantities had been widely dispersed, with the result that the Redfield estate holding, estimated to have been about 16 to 18 bags, was a novelty at the time. Most of these Redfield coins went to John Kamin, publisher of The Forecaster newsletter.
Circulated grades: In worn grades the 1898 dollar is very common. Many are in higher circulated grades from VF to AU.
Mint State grades: The 1898 is quite common in Mint State. Most are in the range of MS-60 to MS-63. MS-64 coins abound, but at the MS-65 level the issue becomes slightly scarce (relatively speaking). To be more specific: MS-60 to 62, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 survive; MS-63, 60,000 to 100,000; MS-64, 30,000 to 60,000; and MS-65 or better, 8,000 to 15,000.
Most 1898 Morgan dollars are sharply struck and have from average to excellent lustre.
Prooflike coins: One-sided prooflike coins are common. Two-sided prooflike coins are scarce. Most prooflike coins have somewhat subdued mirrorlike surfaces. In 1982, Wayne Miller reported that DMPL coins are about twice as elusive as regular prooflikes, and that most prooflike coins are below the MS-65 grade level. This observation was prescient, for grading service data (compiled beginning in 1986) reveals that as of September 1992, NGC and PCGS graded 441 PL and 266 DMPL pieces, and that of the DMPLs, only about 10% were better than MS-64. The Redfield estate is said to include several thousand prooflikes.
1. Normal date: Breen-5653. Most of the 30 pairs of dies were probably used. Varieties are positional and/ or with repunching on one date numeral. It is uncertain if open and closed 9's are from the same logotype.
Circulation strike mintage: 5,884,000; Delivery figures by month: January: 650,000; February: 582,000; March: 600,000; April: 184,000; May: 520,000; June: 172,000; July: 100,000; August: 948,000; September: 800,000; October: 450,000; November: 572,000; December: 306,000.
Estimated quantity melted: Many over a long period of years, including worn pieces as part of the private silver melts of the late 1970s.
Availability of prooflike coins: Many exist, including one-sided prooflikes. DMPL coins are about twice as scarce as prooflikes.
Characteristics of striking: Usually sharply struck. Known hoards of Mint State coins: Large quantities were released by the Treasury in the 1950s and early 1960s.
The 1898 Morgan dollar is readily available in various Mint State levels.
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1898, gave the following information:
As of November 1, 1898 Morgan silver dollars had been coined in the amount of 466,836,587 pieces at the various mints, of which 398,753,504 coins were held against silver certificates, leaving a surplus of 4,645,838 in Treasury Department hands available for circulation. In actual circulation in the channels of commerce were 63,437,255 pieces.
A shortage was discovered in the accounts at Philadelphia.
A quantity amounting to 733 silver dollars disappeared during the 18908 when they were being stored. Presumably, these disappeared somewhere between 1893 and 1898.
Distribution of silver dollars, per The Annual Report of the Director at the Mint, 1898, page 26: Philadelphia. In mint July 1, 1897,61,943,104; transferred from the Treasury for storage, 286,850; coinage, fiscal year, 1898, 4,158,780; total, 66,388,734; in mint July 1, 1898, 66,269,954; total, 66,269,954; distributed from mint, 118,780.
The Year 1898 in History
The Spanish-American War was ignited by the sinking of the battleship Maine in an explosion in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, on February 15, killing 260 aboard. Although the cause of the explosion was never determined, America had an anti-Spain bias and sided with Cubans desiring independence from that country. The New York Journal, owned by William Randolph Hearst, printed a letter stolen from the mail in Havana, from the minister of Spain to the United States, calling President McKinley a spineless politician. Hearst stirred up American anger against Spain, and more than any other single individual was responsible for a conflict which probably could have been settled by negotiations. Hearst urged his readers to "Remember the Maine!" He sent artist Frederic Remington to Cuba to paint war scenes, but Remington sent a cable stating that all was quiet there and there would be no war, to which Hearst riposted, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."
On April 22, the Spanish vessel Buena Ventura was captured by the American gunboat Nashville, becoming the first prize of the conflict. (Several years later, the Nashville tied up at the Chicago docks and was a local attraction, prompting numismatist Virgil M. Brand to underwrite an issue of silver medals depicting the ship, for the Chicago Numismatic Society.) Spain declared war on the 24th, and the United States on the 25th. The hero of the 112-days-long war was Commodore George Dewey, whose flagship, the Olympia, led the victors in the Battle of Manila Bay. This naval encounter began at 5:40 a.m. on May 1st, when Dewey said to the captain of his ship, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley." Before long, 10 Spanish ships had been destroyed. Subsequently, Dewey's portrait and/or that of his ship appeared on many consumer products, including cigars, music boxes (the Olympia), and slot machines (the Mills Novelty Co. Dewey). Else-where in the war, in Cuba the Battle of San Juan Hill brought much fame to Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.
Victor Herbert's musical, The Fortune Teller, opened on Broadway. One of the featured melodies was the long-remembered Gypsy Love Song. H.G. Wells' book, The War of the Worlds, was published.
The director of the Mint was Robert E. Preston who served from November 1893 through February 1898. From February 1898 through July 1907 the director was George E. Roberts.
Dr. William H. Sheldon, controversial constitutional psychologist and large cent specialist, was born October 30. He gave psychology the classification of human bodies into endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs, with parallels in temperament; he gave numismatics Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy, using what later became familiar as the Sheldon rarity scale and numerical grading.