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: A steady stream of Uncirculated 1899-S dollars-singly, in groups, and by the bag was paid out by the San Francisco Mint during the period from 1942 through the mid-1950s. By the time of the great Treasury release of 1962-1964, only a few bags were left. It is said that the Redfield hoard had a bag of high quality coins (per Wayne Miller) or less than a full bag, in MS-60 to 63 (per John Highfill), probably from the San Francisco Mint in the 1950s via casino shipments to Nevada.
Circulated grades: In worn grades the 1899-S is scarce, a situation not reflected by market values as Mint State coins are not rare-and keep the price of circulated grades down. A number of AU coins, once popularly called "sliders," are known, many of which were taken from Treasury bags.
Mint State grades: Mint State coins are slightly on the scarce side and compare with 1898-S in this regard. Despite their somewhat elusive nature, enough 1899-S dollars remain that examples can be obtained with little difficulty.
As per the distribution curve of most other Morgans, most 1899-S dollars are found at the lower condition levels, MS-60 to 62, which contain about 15,000 to 25,000 coins-equal to fully half of the known pieces. MS-63 coins number about 6,000 to 10,000, above which are 3,500 to 6,000 at the MS-64 stage. MS-65 and finer coins exist to the extent of about 1,000 to 2,000.
The typical 1899-S dollar is very well struck and has excellent lustre. Bagmarks, when present, are usually minimal. Apparently, most coins were not tossed around during storage for many years at the San Francisco Mint.
Prooflike coins: PL coins are plentiful, and probably at least a couple thousand or more exist. DMPL coins are, perhaps, three times scarcer, or so the NGC and PCGS data indicate.
Most PL and DMPL pieces are brilliant and have relatively few bagmarks. Most DMPL coins are not cameos.
1. Open 99, medium S, Breen-5661, VAM-1, 3-7, 10, others; Open 99, large wide S, Breen-5662, VAM-2, 8, unlisted (repunched S). Often seen in Mint State. Most of the Treasury hoard coins are of the Open 99 style.
2. Closed 99, large wide S, Breen-5663, VAM-9. Usually in low grades. Note: Probably not all 20 pairs of dies were used.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 20; Reverse: 20
Business strike mintage: 2,562,000; Delivery figures by month: January: 336,000; February: 336,000; March: 550,000; April: 284,000; May: 500,000; June: 510,000; July: 46,000; August: none; September: none; October: none; November: none; December: none.
Estimated quantity melted: Probably over 1,000,000 under various acts; more in later private melts.
Availability of prooflike coins: Prooflike coins are plentiful; so much so, that in the early 1980s they did not command a premium over regular Mint State coins. DMPL coins are several times scarcer than prooflikes. Cameo coins are great rarities.
Characteristics of striking: Usually well struck with excellent details and lustre.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Bags were released in the 1940s and 1950s; a few bags were released 1962-1964; the Redfield hoard is said to have contained up to a bag.
Most Mint State 1899-S dollars are well struck and very attractive.
Distribution of Dollars
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1899, told of distribution of silver dollars during the fiscal year: San Francisco. In mint July 1, 1898,48,324,220; coinage, fiscal year 1899, 4,248,000; total 52,572,220; In mint July 1, 1899, 51,962,686; total, 51,962,686; distributed from mint, 609,534.