The 1903 Morgan Dollar is a very common coin thanks to numerous bags that have appeared on the market over the years. PCGS alone has certified over 13,000 examples of this date, with most falling into the MS64 to MS65 grade range. Superb examples are very scarce, but can be found occasionally in auction sales and in dealers' inventories. MS67 appears to be the last accessible grade.
Prooflike 1903 Dollars are very scarce and Deep Cameo Prooflike 1903 Dollars are almost impossible to find.
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: Mint State specimens of 1903 remained elusive until 1955, when many bags were paid out in the East. I recall that these were available at face value in the northeastern section of Pennsylvania, where I lived at the time. Apparently, they were released in quantity elsewhere as well, as per the following letter from John J. Pittman, printed in the February 1956 issue of The Numismatist:
I thought you might be interested in knowing that during the months of October and November large quantities of brilliant Uncirculated 1903 Philadelphia Mint silver dollars were released through various banks in Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and western New York. It is my understanding that bags containing all Uncirculated 1903 silver dollars were available. Generally those paid out from the Federal Reserve in Buffalo were a mixture of 1902 and 1922 Philadelphia with the larger percentage being 1922 Philadelphia silver dollars. Most of the Uncirculated silver dollars that were released in western New York about a year ago are still available, especially in small town banks.
It might also be interesting to call to the attention of the subscribers of The Numismatist that large quantities of the 1893 Carson City silver dollars in Uncirculated condition were generally available as early as last August at the A.N.A. convention at a very reasonable price, less than $5.00 each Uncirculated.
In the 1960s, a dealer in Salinas, California made a specialty of 1903 Philadelphia Mint Morgan dollars and at one time accumulated a cache amounting to over 50 bags (50,000 coins). The Redfield estate (1976) is said to have had less than a bag of coins, grading MS-60 to 63.
Circulated grades: Worn examples are common. Many were melted in the 1970s.
Mint State grades: I quote Wayne Miller, who gave Mint State 1903 dollars high marks in his 1982 book:
In terms of overall quality the 1903 is definitely the best Morgan dollar struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Although all were struck with the C-4 reverse, most 1903 dollars exhibit excellent high point detail. The surfaces, though not frosty, are brilliant, smooth satin, and abrasions are few. Gems arc easily available. Although it is not common a few large hoards of 1903 dollars have appeared in recent years.
With that as a background, here are my population estimates: MS-60 to 62, 300,000 to 600,000 coins-obviously, a plentiful coin; MS-63, 40,000 to 75,000-still available enough that just about any silver dollar aficionado can easily own one; MS-64, 18,000 to 35,000-still plentiful; and MS-65 or better.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike 1903 Morgan dollars are scarce, and DMPL examples are scarcer still. The Redfield estate (1976) is said to have had a small quantity of prooflikes, but these had disfiguring die polishing scratches which made them look as if they were hairlined. Perhaps, 1,000 to 2,000 PL coins exist, and one-fifth that many DMPLs, few if any of which are high-contrast cameos.
NEW REVERSE HUB: WIDE NECK/WING SPACE, LARGE STARS
VAM REVERSE C-4
1. Breen-5695. Varieties, of which the VAM text describes five, are not notable. Probably not all the 46 obverses, 40 reverses were used.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 46; Reverse: 40
Circulation strike mintage: 4,652,000; Delivery figures by month: January: 500,000; February: 1,000,000; March: 526,000; April: 428,000; May: none; June: 2,000,000; July-October: none; November: 64,000; December: 134,000.
Estimated quantity melted: Probably some under the 1918 Pittman Act; more as worn coins in later melts, including the late 1970s.
Availability of prooflike coins: Scarce fully prooflike, although semi-prooflike specimens abound. DMPL coins are scarcer yet.
Characteristics of striking: Often seen sharp.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Many bags were released in the East by the Treasury Department in the mid-1950s; additional bags were released 1962-1964.
Proofs have a partially polished portrait, rather than cameo like or frosty; the same is true of 1902 and 1904 Proofs.
Silver Bullion Nearly Depleted
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1903, told the following:
"Silver Bullion Nearly Exhausted: The silver dollars were all coined from bullion purchased under the Act of July 14, 1890. Of the subsidiary silver, $2,509,000 was likewise coined from this bullion. Of this bullion there remained on hand June 30,1903,17,502,938.35 fine ounces. The entire amount will be used for coinage during the fiscal year 1904.
"The limitation of the coinage of subsidiary silver was in a measure removed by the Act of March 3,1903, which permitted the bullion purchased under the Act of 1890 to be used to supply this demand. When this bullion is exhausted, which will be before the first session of the Fifty-eighth Congress closes, no more subsidiary coins can be made without further legislation giving authority for the purchase of bullion."
Distribution of Silver Dollars
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1903, told of the distribution of silver dollars at the various mints: Philadelphia: In mint June 30, 1902, $94,352,954; transferred from Treasury for storage, 500,000; coinage, fiscal year 1903, 8,026,785; in mint June 30,1903,102,413,954; distributed from mint: 465,785.
San Francisco: In mint June 30, 1902, $55,804,122; coinage, fiscal year 1903, 2,030,000; in mint June 30, 1903, 56,937,453; distributed from mint: 896,669.