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)
A new hub: In 1900 a new reverse hub was introduced (called C-4 by Van Allen and Mallis), replacing the old style (C-3). For 1900, both types of hubs were used. Although when coins from the two hubs are examined side by side, the difference is obvious, in practice only dedicated VAM collectors have pursued the varieties. Most numismatists are content with just a single 1900 Philadelphia Mint dollar, never mind which variety it may be.
On C-3 the junction of the wing and neck forms a narrow V, and the stars are slightly smaller.
On C-4, the junction of the wing and neck forms a wider U and stars are larger. The eagle's breast feathers are somewhat indistinct in comparison to C-3.
Doubled reverse dies show impressions from both hubs (a situation akin to the 18788 over other tail feathers, which was also made from two hubs), and have a double olive.
Hoard coins: Bags of 1900 dollars were released on the East Coast in the 1950s, and the issue came to be recognized as a common date. By the time of the massive Treasury release of 1962-1964, extending to March 1964, most had been paid out; few bags were distributed at this time. In terms of Treasury dispersals and of surviving coins, certain parallels can be drawn between Philadelphia Mint 1900 dollars and those dated 1896. Further, both were issued in years in which "free silver" was a ringing political cry, and silver dollar designs and emblems were featured in the presidential campaigns.
Circulated grades: The 1900 dollar is readily available in worn grades and sells for a "type" price, although specimens are not as plentiful as might be expected from a circulation strike mintage of nearly nine million coins. Probably, millions went to the melting pot under the 1918 Pittman Act. Many EF and AU coins remain.
Mint State grades: 1900 dollars are among the most common of Morgan dollars. As noted, relatively few were in the 1962-1964 Treasury release, and many of the bags issued before then had been assimilated into the hands of collectors by that time. Thus, although the issue is common, more are held by the public than by numismatists. The same is true of most other issues of various dates distributed in quantity before the massive 1962-1964 dispersals. As recently as 1980, groups of Mint State 1900 dollars were scarce in dealers' stocks. Most specimens are in lower grade ranges such as MS-60 through 62 or 63.
My population estimates follow: MS-60 to 62, 400,000 to 800,000 coins-in other words,extremely common; MS-63, 80,000 to 150,000-sufficiently numerous that just about every serious collector can own one; MS-64, 30,000 to 60,000-still plentiful; and MS-65 or finer, 12,500 to 20,000-common in the context of other MS-65 coins in the Morgan series. Here, indeed, is a dollar of the people, a coin which just about anyone can afford.
The striking quality of 1900 dollars varies widely, as does the quality of lustre. Here is a variety for which cherrypicking will pay dividends.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike 1900 Morgan dollars exist in quantity, probably to the extent of several thousand pieces. When encountered,' they are apt to be one-sided and to have low contrast and be poorly struck. Some show rough die polish lines. In a phrase, prooflike 1900 dollars are not winners. DMPL coins, per certification data, are about 50 times harder to find, but when encountered have a good chance of being MS-65 or better.
OLD REVERSE HUB: NARROW WING/NECK SPACE, SMALL STARS. VAM C-3 REVERSE
1. 1900 Closed 9. Breen-5665, VAM-1, 4, 6, 7, positional varieties. VAM-8 has doubled 1.
2. Open 9, Breen-5664, VAM-5, 9,10, others. The doubled date, VAM-3, is hard to see. Common; released in quantity in Treasury bags.
3. Doubled Die reverse: VAM-11. Reverse with doubling on the bottom edge of the arrowheads. Somewhat scarce.
The 66 obverse and 61 reverse dies were probably not all used; the 61 reverses include those from C-3 and C-4 hubs.
The comparative rarity of C-3 and C-4 coins, circulation strikes and Proofs, has not been determined.
NEW OVER OLD HUB: DOUBLE OLIVE AT CLAW VAM C-4 OVER C-3 REVERSE Circulation strikes:
1. C-4 reverse hub over C-3, "2 Olive Reverse" (VAM nomenclature): Doubled Eagle reverse. Many features of eagle doubled, Breen-5668, VAM-11; only a few features of eagle doubled. VAM-16, 18, 19. Evidently these reverses were made in 1900 when both old and new hubs were in use. (Also see 1900-S, which occurs with C-4/C-3 hub.)
Dies prepared: Obverse: 66; Reverse: 61
Circulation strike mintage: 8,830,000; Delivery figures by month: January: none; February: 440,000; March: 1,600,000; April: 1,422,000; May: 56,000; June-August: none; September: 1,500,000; October: 2,002,000; November: 1,322,000; December: 488,000.
Estimated quantity melted: Probably 2,000,000 to 4,000,000 under various acts, many more in later private melts.
Availability of prooflike coins: PL coins are available, but are often one-sided and usually of poor finish and striking quality. DMPL coins are, perhaps, 50 times more elusive.
Characteristics of striking: Varies from poor to sharp but is usually average. Lustre ranges from dull to frosty.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Many bags were released by the Treasury in the 1950s, and a few more were released 1962-1964.
The striking quality and lustre vary dramatically; cherrypicking for quality is advised.
Distribution of Dollars
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1900, gave in-formation concerning the distribution of dollars: Philadelphia: In mint, July 1, 1899,69,610,954; transferred from Treasury for storage, 500,000; coinage, fiscal year 1900 3,558,984; total,73,669,938; in mint July 1, 1900, 73,243,954; total 73,243,954;distributed from mint, 425,984.
Dollar Edge Differences
The May 1900 issue of The Numismatist posed these questions and gave the answers:
"Did you ever try to pick out U.S. mintmarked dollars by examining the edge? Did you know that the dollars from the Philadelphia Mint are broader than those from New Orleans and San Francisco? They are, as can readily be determined by driving two pins and a board so a mintmarked dollar will pass easily between them, at the same time touching both; now try to pass a Philadelphia dollar between the pins and it will be found appreciably larger. Take a stack of dollars and note that some have an edge with rounded corners, the milling being plain in center of edge but not reaching to the corners; these are all Philadelphia coinage. The others, from branch mints, were struck with a slightly smaller collar, with the result that the milling shows across the whole edge, the corners being sharp. The distinction to the eye is destroyed, of course, on coins that have seen any considerable circulation."