BEWARE OF ALTERED COINS WITH REMOVED MINTMARKS
Obverse diagnostic for a genuine coin (circulation strikes only): large, slanted die polish mark in the right foot of the R in LIBERTY.
Reverse diagnostic for a genuine coin: short, horizontal dash inside the lower left part of the triangle next to the eagle's right leg.
Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Setting Standards" by Skip Fazzari, THE NUMISMATIST, March 2009, p. 99
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)
Once a rarity: From the time of mintage through the early decades of the twentieth century, the 1894 was a major rarity. Very few had been released into circulation. However, Proofs were available readily enough, and took care of the need to acquire the date. This situation was true of such other Philadelphia dates as 1892, 1897, and 1899, among others. Accordingly, the formidable rarity of circulation strikes of this date in earlier years was not even suspected.
The 1894 dollar has the lowest circulation strike mintage of any Morgan dollar except the 1893-S (not including the 1895). As such, they have always been popular with collectors. Although quantities of Mint State coins existed in the 1950s and early 1960s, nearly all have been dispersed by now.
Hoard coins: Several 1,000-coin bags of Uncirculated 1894 dollars were released in the 1950s and early 1960s. The nadir in pricing may have been around November 1958, when Harry Warner offered 20-coin rolls for sale for $24.00 ($1.20 per coin). That was about as good as it was ever going to get. After about that point, the value of the 1894 trended upward. A bag from Great Falls, Montana was sold by John B. Love around 1961 but did not cause even a ripple in the price structure, which was firming and building. In the early 1960s, a bag containing a mixture of Uncirculated 1893 and 1894 dollars was located in San Francisco. This date was not represented in significant quantities in the Treasury release of 1962-1964, so far as I know.
Circulated grades: In very worn grades the 1894 is very hard to find and is one of the rarest of all Morgan issues. In 1925, numismatist E.S. Thresher reported that despite searching since 1919, he had not been able to find an example in circulation; one of just eight coins absent from his Morgan dollar collection (the others were 1884-CC, 1885-CC, 1889- S, 1892, 1893-S, 1897, and 1899).
When seen, worn coins are apt to be in higher grades, VF and above. However, the general avail-ability of Uncirculated coins in lower Mint State ranges has dampened the price of circulated pieces, although the Uncirculated pieces are hardly cheap. I estimate that 5,000 to 10,000 worn 1894 dollars survive.
Mint State grades: Among Philadelphia Mint Morgan dollars, the 1894 is the second rarest (after 1901) in Mint State. Examples are offered for sale with regularity, but in the modern market it is seldom that even a small group is found. Most coins are in lower Mint State ranges. The demand for the latter is softened somewhat by the availability of high-grade Proofs.
The striking quality of Mint State 1894 Morgan dollars ranges from average to sharp. The lustre on most well-struck pieces is frosty and attractive. On the other hand, average to below average coins are apt to have weak breast feathers on the eagle, and have unsatisfactory lustre.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike coins are rare and usually have low contrast. DMPL coins are extremely rare. Wayne Miller knew of only two in the latter category.
Caveat emptor: 1894 dollars in high circulated and lower Mint State grades are sometimes fabricated by removing the mintmark from a branch mint coin such as 1894-O.
1. Normal date: Breen-5634. Possibly only one pair of dies sufficed for circulation strikes among the seven obverses and five reverses shipped.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 7; Reverse: 5
Circulation strike mintage: 110,000; Delivery figures by month: January: July: none; August: 48,000; September: 12,000; October: 50,000; November: none; December: none.
Estimated quantity melted: Probably very few in Mint State; worn pieces as part of various later melts.
Availability of prooflike coins: Extremely rare.
Characteristics of striking: Average to above average, usually with satisfactory lustre. However, weakly struck coins with poor lustre exist.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: A few bags were released in the 1950s and early 1960s. Quantities are virtually unheard of in the present market.
The 1894 Morgan dollar has the lowest circulation strike mintage of any Philadelphia Mint issue of the design, except 1895. Specimens are highly desired in all grades.
Distribution of Silver Dollars
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1894, told of the distribution of silver dollars at the various mints:
Philadelphia: In mint July 1, 1893, $50,447,000; coinage fiscal year 1894, 758; in mint July 1, 1894,50,255,370; distributed from mint: 192,388.
San Francisco: In mint July 1, 1893, $35,813,683; in mint July 1,1894,35,392,000; distributed from mint: 421,683.
New Orleans: In mint July 1,1893, $7,085,250; transferred from sub-treasury 500,000; in mint July 1, 1894, 7,524,000, distributed from mint: 421,683.
Carson City: In mint July 1, 1893, $5,398,455; in mint July 1, 1894,5,345,227; distributed from mint: 53,228.
Counting Dollars by Machine
The December 1894 issue of The Numismatist, p. 271, told of a new counting machine made at the Philadelphia Mint, and employed for the counting of silver dollars. Presumably, new 1894 dollars were counted as well as older dates in storage. "A cogwheel, the teeth of which resemble those of a circular saw," employed in the machine, undoubtedly wreaked havoc, from a numismatic viewpoint, on many of the coins which came into contact with it.
"The feat of counting 2,000 silver dollars per minute is now being performed at the Mint by a little machine invented by Sebastian Heines, the chief carpenter of the institution, and by its aid the work of counting the coin and weighing the silver bars can, it is thought, be completed soon. The slow process made in counting by hand led Mr. Heines to experiment, with the result, after the expenditure of much thought and time, of turning out a very successful machine.
"Mr. Morgan, of Mint Director Preston's office, was greatly interested in the experiments, and, upon witnessing the final successful test of the invention, he granted permission for its use in counting the great mass of silver dollars. The machine when worked to its limit easily disposes of two bags of coins, containing $2,000, in a minute. The machine consists of a hopper, into which the coins are dropped. A cogwheel, the teeth of which resemble those of a circular saw, carries the coins to the tubes, and from there they are forced out upon a little table, containing 20 grooves, each holding just fifty coins. A turn of the crank counts one thousand coins, which are immediately put into a bag, and a second thousand follows before the expiration of the minute.-Philadelphia Record. "
More About Counting Dollars
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1894, told of counting dollars at the Philadelphia Mint and some problems at that institution:
"Col. O.C. Bosbyshell having resigned as superintendent of the Mint, was succeeded by Dr. Eugene Townsend, who entered on duty April 1, 1894. The bullion, coin, and other moneys necessary to be taken into account in the transfer incident to the change of superintendents amount to $187,301,854.20, classified as follows: Gold bullion, $24,266,094.04; gold coin, $3,824,217.50; silver bullion, $107,902,611.40; silver dollars, $50,275,000; subsidiary silver coin, $666,924.63, and minor coin, $344,195.81. The balance, $22,810.82, represents the value of the gold bullion embezzled by the late weigh clerk, which amount, it is believed, will be recovered from his bondsmen and those of the late superintendent.
"Of the above amount, $161,696,313.41 were in the hands of the superintendent and $25,582,729.97 in the hands of the operative officers. No verification of the latter amount was made at this time, as the bullion was legally in the hands of the operative officers.
"Of the silver bullion purchased under the Act of July 14, 1890, there were on hand 111,150 bars, containing 118,992,256 ounces of fine silver, costing $107,702,840.90. An account of this bullion was taken by weight, and found to correspond with the amount charged. The weighing of the bullion occupied some four months, and was completed at the end of July 1894.
"Upon opening the vault containing the silver dollars, which had been stored in 1890, under the joint seal of a representative of the Mint Bureau and the superintendent of the mint, it was found that nearly all the bags, by reason of the dampness of the vault, had so rotted as to be little else than a mass of shreds. It was impracticable to verify the number of dollars by weight, as is usual in the case of new coins, on account of their weight and slimy condition, thus rendering it necessary to count them on a counting machine, a slow and tedious work. The count of these dollars is still in progress, under a representative of the Mint Bureau and representatives of the retiring and present superintendent, and will in all probability be completed by the end of December.
"There is not only a lack of vault room in the Philadelphia Mint, but some of the vaults are so located that they are difficult of access, inconvenient, and ill-adapted for the storage of coin. The fact of their being situated below the level of the street renders them damp, so much so, that if coin be stored in them for any length of time the result will be mildewed and rotten bags, thus entailing much time and expense to count the coin whenever it becomes necessary to do so .... "
Much Said, Little Known
A letter of Mr. George Sealy, published in the Galveston Daily News, October 22, 1894, reflected on the "silver question," the burning political issue of the day;'
"You can stand on the corner of any street on the Strand and ask the first 100 men of all grades of intelligence who pass to explain what 'free silver' means, and 90 will tell you honestly that they know nothing about it. Yet the words 'free silver' sound welL A few of them say they are not opposed to accepting some of it if offered to them for nothing." (Also see below.)
The Year 1894 in History
The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act went into effect on August 27 and reduced import duties by about 20%, and levied a 2% tax on personal incomes in excess of $4,000 annually, a rarefied level which only a few Americans attained in an era when many factory workers made $10 to $20 a week, many even less. The financial slump of 1893 continued, and unemployment and business failures were rife.
On January 8, a conflagration destroyed many of the abandoned buildings on the Chicago site of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The so-called "Chinese problem" or "yellow peril" persisted, and on August 17, the U.S. Senate ratified another Chinese Exclusion Treaty. Prejudice was endemic in many American cities, with recent immigrants from various nations being targeted.
The decade of the 1890s saw many strikes by labor unions. During 1895, an estimated 750,000 workers walked off their jobs in a quest for higher wages, shorter hours, or both. Coxey's Army, a rag-tag group of unemployed laborers, traveled from Ohio to Washington, D.C. to present a petition to Congress, but were unsuccessful in doing so. Coxey and his followers received much publicity and earned themselves a place in history books. On June 18, 1894, Congress passed an act establishing the first Monday of every September as Labor Day.
Milton S. Hershey marketed his Hershey Bar, launching a family fortune that would make Hershey, Pennsylvania known as "Chocolate Town, U.S.A.," and, among other things, finance in the twentieth century a medical school for the Pennsylvania State University. Bavarian physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the x-ray, leading to a revolution in medical treatment, although at first the power and danger of x-rays were not fully known.
Popular songs and melodies of the day included Humoresque, Sidewalks of New York, and I've Been Working on the Railroad (first called the Levee Song). Englishman Rudyard Kipling, who for the time being was in residence in Brattleboro, Vermont (during a four-year stint), Vermont, saw his Jungle Book published. William Sydney Porter (who later used the nom de plume O. Henry) published The Iconoclast, changing its name to The Rolling Stone with the April 28 issue.
William Hope Harvey's book, Coin's Financial School, achieved sales of 300,000 copies and was one of many treatises advocating the free coinage of silver as the savior of the American economic system. In June, the Democratic Silver Convention was held in Omaha, Nebraska, with 1,000 attendees, who listened to William Jennings Bryan extol the virtues of unlimited government purchases of silver and the adoption of a 16-to-1 ratio of silver to gold value. Throughout the United States, the "silver question" was the burning political issue of the day, although very few understood its intricacies. Bryan ran for the Senate in November, but lost. He kept busy, however, in his new post as editor of the Omaha World-Herald and as a popular speaker on the Chautauqua circuit.