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)
Record mintage: The 1890-CC was minted in larger quantities than any other Carson City silver dollar. Many were released into circulation in the nineteenth century.
Hoard coins: After the Carson City Mint closed down its coinage facilities, quantities of undistributed dollars remained there. Later, many bags were shipped to the San Francisco Mint and to the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., for storage.
In 1942-1943 many bags of 1890-CC dollars were paid out at face value by the San Francisco Mint. Probably two or three bags went to dealers and collectors at the time, and the rest went into circulation in the West, particularly in Nevada.
The Treasury Building, directly across the street from the White House, was the repository for millions of Carson City dollars in the early twentieth century. In the early 1930s, several bags of these came out, and from these, hundreds of coins were snapped up by dealers and collectors. In 1941-1942, additional bags were released, after which the payouts slowed for the rest of the decade. In the early and mid-1950s many bags of Uncirculated 1890-CC dollars were released at face value to dealers with connections; a familiar story by now. Steve Ruddel, who was one of the most active dealers in Morgan dollars in quantity, stated that about 50 bags (50,000 coins) were released from the Treasury Building in 1955, and this was only part of the story.
Some of these were also given out in the 1950s from storage in the San Francisco Mint-in effect, a distribution on both coasts. By 1956-1957 they were becoming scarce, but Harry J. Forman handled at least 10 bags during this time. The Treasury stock dwindled, and in the late 1950s an order was given to stop paying them out.
During the 1962-1964 Treasury release of dollars, it is unlikely that many 1890-CCs were involved. In 1964, the Treasury took stock of its remaining holdings, by which time only 3,949 1890-CC dollars remained. These were sold in the 1970s by the General Services Administration. The Redfield hoard is said to have contained about two bags, including many mirror like coins.
Circulated grades: In the context of Carson City dollars, the 1890-CC is common in worn grades. Many tens of thousands survive from coins that were placed into circulation in or near the time of striking.
Mint State grades: Mint State coins are scarce, though readily available, in grades from MS-60 through 62, at which levels an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 remain, thanks more to Treasury releases of the 1950s than to G.S.A. sales. In the MS-63 category I suggest that 10,000 to 20,000 survive, above which level the 1890-CC becomes quite scarce. Only about 3,000 to 5,000 MS-64 coins are known, and in MS-65 or better preservation, only 1,000 to 2,000.
Many Mint State coins show prooflike surfaces (see below). The striking quality varies from average to quite sharp. On balance, the 1890-CC dollars were well made. As a date, the 1890-CC is far rarer than the typical Carson City dollar of the early 1880s.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike coins may constitute about 20% of Mint State coins. Most have deep mirror surfaces with excellent contrast. The vast majority seen are in lower grade levels. Wayne Miller reported that Steve Ivy dispersed nearly 1,000 DMPL coins in 1978, possibly from the Redfield holdings. Certification service reports indicate that only 2% to 3% of extant DMPL coins are MS-65 or better. The "Proof' advertised by B.M. Douglas in The Numismatist 12/51 was probably a DMPL.
1. Normal date: Breen-5617. R.W. Julian notes that 16 reverse dies were made. There is no information on the number of obverse dies. At least two obverses are known with partly repunched date. Two reverses are known with repunched CC.
2. "Tail Bar." Breen-5618, VAM-4, F&S $1-007. This variety has a prominent ridge, strip, or "bar" extending from the eagle's tail downward to the left, to the olive leaves; the result of a deep die scratch or cut. Usually in low grades. Bowers and Ruddy Galleries sold several hundred Mint State coins from a small Montana hoard in the 1970s. Today, these are scattered to the four winds, but enough others remain on the market that the issue is readily available. The 1890-CC Tail Bar variety is usually (always?) seen well struck.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 15 or more (?); Reverse: 16.
Circulation strike mintage: 2,309,041 (2,053,041 under the Act of February 28, 1878 and 256,000 under the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act); Delivery figures by month: January: 150,000; February: 188,000; March: 200,000; April: 200,000; May: 150,000; June: 200,000; July: 200,000; August: 200,000; September: 200,000; October: 200,000; November:(Coinage January-October under the 1878 Bland-Allison Act as are the first figures for November and December. Second figures for November and December are for coins struck under the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act. These cannot be distinguished.)96,000 + 80,000; December: 69,041 + 176,000.
Specimens sent to the Assay Commission: 1,155
Estimated quantity melted: Probably over 1,000,000 under the 1918 Pittman Act.
Availability of prooflike coins: A high percentage of Mint State coins are prooflike, usually DMPL, but nearly all are in lower grades, with bagmarks . Only 2% to 3% of DMPL specimens are MS-65 or finer.
Characteristics of striking: Usually seen well struck. Known hoards of Mint State coins: Many bags were released (from storage in the Treasury Building, Washington) from the 1930s through the 1950s, and some were paid out in the 1950s from storage in the San Francisco Mint. In addition, 3,949 were held back from the 1962-1964 Treasury release and subsequently sold by the General Services Administration.
The 1890-CC is somewhat scarce in Mint State, in comparison to the typical Carson City dollar of the early 1880s.
Silver Dollar Distribution
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1890, gave the following information concerning distribution of silver dollars in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1890 in the Carson City
Mint: July 1, 1889, 2,764, coined during the fiscal year 1,438,000, total available for distribution 1,440,764. In the Carson City Mint June 30, 1890, 1,270,233, distributed 170,531.
The 1890-CC is a semi-scarce issue as far as Carson City Dollars go. The population is about on par with the 1880-CC, lower then the 1892-CC and about double that of the 1893-CC. PL examples represent approximately 3% of the certified population and DMPLs represent approximately 6%. Gem examples are plentiful, but MS66 examples are quite rare. PCGS has not yet certified an MS67 1890-CC in any format.