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: Bags of 1894-S dollars were distributed in San Francisco in the 1950s. Several bags were released in Deer Lodge, Montana in. the early 1950s, one of which contained 20 1893-S dollars mixed in with 980 1894-S pieces. John Skubis reported buying a bag of 1894-S dollars for face value from the San Francisco Mint in the 1950s.
Apparently, most quantities of 1894-S dollars were released well in advance of the Treasury dispersal of 1962-1964. This is one date that did not get a "play" during the fast and furious trading times of the early 1960s. Probably for this reason, the Redfield estate had none.
In 1982, Wayne Miller wrote that many hoards containing up to 100 coins had appeared on the market in recent years. By now in the early 1990s, most such quantities have been widely dispersed. Indeed, few caches remained intact after the great investment bull market of the late 1970s.
Market note: Around the year 1900 there was a flurry of interest in 1894-O, 1894-S, 1895-O, and 1895-S silver dollars, and a few specimens were sold for several dollars each. The interest soon faded, and Uncirculated pieces could be obtained for less than $2 apiece.
Circulated grades: Although it is not one of the most common Morgan dollar dates, in worn grades the 1894-S is readily available.
Mint State grades: The 1894-S is the most available Mint State issue of the year. Specimens are readily available, although the 1894-S is hardly among the least expensive dollars from this mint. As is true of most Morgan dollars, more exist in grades of MS-60 through 62 than in higher grades; possibly 7,000 to 12,000 survive thus. In MS-63 the numbers decline to 3,000 to 5,000, and fall off further to just 1,500 to 2,500 for MS-64s. MS-65 pieces are rare; only about 250 to 500 are known.
Most Mint State 1894-S dollars are sharply struck and have excellent mint lustre, often with die polishing marks in the form of microscopic swirls on the reverse.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike 1894-S Morgan dollars are scarce but obtainable. These are usually well struck and have cameo contrast. As they are so attractive in comparison to the typical prooflike dollar dated in the 1890s, they always sell readily and for good prices. Some prooflike and DMPL coins have die polish marks (visible as microscopic raised die lines or swirls; in contrast to hairlines caused by cleaning, which are depressed into the surface).
PL coins are seen about eight to 10 times more often than DMPL, per NGC and PCGS data. As of September 1992, 91 PL coins and 11 DMPL pieces had been certified. Of the DMPLs, none was MS-65 or higher.
The "Proofs" offered by the Pukalls in The Numismatist, 1/7 and 10/53 were probably DMPLs.
1. Normal date: Breen-5636. Varieties are positional. Out of 18 obverses and 13 reverses shipped, the VAM text describes three obverses and four reverses. The relatively low mintage of 1894-S suggests that some dies remained unused, the reverses being saved for a later year.
Dies prepared: Obverse: 18; Reverse: 13
Circulation strike mintage: 1,260,000; Delivery figures by month: January: June: none; July: 160,000; August: 300,000; September: 300,000; October: 250,000; November: 150,000; December: 100,000.
Estimated quantity melted: Hundreds of thousands, but probably more worn coins than Mint State examples.
Availability of prooflike coins: Prooflike coins are scarce. DMPL coins are about eight to 10 times rarer than proof1ikes. Usually seen well struck with cameo contrast.
Characteristics of striking: Usually seen well struck and with excellent lustre.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Multiple bags were released by the Treasury in the early 1950s.
The 1894-S dollars, Mint State specimens of which are usually well struck and attractive, have always been popular. In this grade, the 1894-S is the most readily available issue of the 1894-1895 years.