The 1904 Morgan Dollar presents a real challenge for the collector because of the general poor quality of the coins from this year. This defect has been known for decades (for example, in 1992, Dollar expert Dean Howe wrote: "...the 1904-P is among the worst coins produced at the Philadelphia Mint. Most 1904-P dollars have a subdued gray luster that is often dull and unattractive..."). Certainly, there are plenty of Mint State examples to go around. However, the real challenge is to find a nice-looking one.
Because of the poor quality of coins from this year, it should come as no surprise that Prooflike 1904 Dollars are very scarce. Even more rare are the Deep Mirror Prooflike versions, all of which are tremendous condition rarities.
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: Quantities of 1904 dollars dribbled onto the market in the 1941-1942 years, in the 1950s, and again in the early 1960s, but, apparently, there was no major release at any specific time. Quantity offerings by dealers were few and far between. The issue fell between the cracks, so to speak, and little attention was paid to it.
A very mediocre bag of 1904 dollars entered the market early in 1979; Wayne Miller examined nearly 300 pieces from the lot, found no gems, and noted this:
The dealer-owner pushed bid levels from less than $500 up to $2,000 but sold only a few coins at ever-larger discounts from bid. The bulk of the lot was finally disposed of at $250 per coin at the June 1980 Long Beach coin show to a large New England coin company.
Circulated grades: In worn grades the 1904 is relatively common, not among the most common Morgan dollars, however.
Mint State grades: In lower levels of Mint State the 1904 is plentiful. In MS-64 it is scarce, and at the MS-65 level it is rare. Estimates follow: MS-60 to 62, 60,000 to 120,000 coins; MS-63, 15,000 to 30,000; MS-64, 4,000 to 8,000; and MS-65, only 350 to 700.
The typically encountered 1904 dollar will win no awards for quality. Many have indifferent lustre, and the striking is apt to be average (even after allowing for the normal feathers on the C-4 reverse). The majority of pieces are in lower grade levels such as MS-60, 61, and 62.
There are, however, exceptions, and in the 1980s Bowers and Merena Galleries handled a group of several dozen beautifully toned MS-65 coins, well struck and lustrous, that had probably been obtained by application to the Mint in the time of issue. So far as I know, these have not been certified since. In full MS-65, sharply struck, the 1904 is among the most elusive dollars in the Morgan series.
Prooflike coins: The 1904 is very rare PL and extremely rare DMPL, but the contrast is poor, and many have dull gray surfaces. Because of this, the demand is not great. Most are in lower grades.
NEW REVERSE HUB: WIDE NECK/WING
SPACE, LARGE STARS VAM C-4 REVERSE
1. Breen-5700. Most Uncirculateds are dull and nicked; gems are few, prooflikes very few, DMPLs extremely rare. Varieties of circulation strikes are not notable. VAM-1A has a tiny area of die pitting at D of DOLLAR on the reverse. VAMÂ·5 has a slightly doubled profile to Miss Liberty.
Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown.
Circulation strike mintage: 2,788,000; Delivery figures by month: January: 2,200,000; February: 66,000; March-May: none; June: 522,000; July-December: none.
Estimated quantity melted: Probably about 2,500,000, with possibly half under the 1918 Pittman Act and the others, including worn coins, as part of later melts.
Availability of prooflike coins: Prooflike coins are very rare, but most have low contrast and are not attractive. DMPL coins are exceedingly rare. Most are in low grades.
Characteristics of striking: Poor to average strikes are the norm, but better strikes exist and are rare.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Several bags were released by the Treasury in the 1950s and in 1962-1964; a bag of low-quality pieces was distributed from a private holding in 1979.
Mint Report Notes
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1904, noted the following:
"The exhaustion of the stock of silver bullion purchased under the Act of July 14, 1890, and the consequent discontinuance of silver dollar coinage, has necessitated a large reduction of the force of the New Orleans Mint, which was chiefly employed upon silver. The number of employees in that institution was 219 in February 1904, but in June had been reduced to 97, and has been still further reduced since."
Coinage figures of Morgan dollars under various acts were given, as of June 30, 1904:
Feb. 28,1878 (Bland-Allison Act) $378,166,793; from July 14, 1890, to repeal of the purchasing clause of the Sherman Act, Oct. 31, 1893, $36,087,285; from Nov. 1, 1893, to June 12,1898 $42,139,872; Coined under the War-Revenue Bill approved June 12, 1898, $108,799,878; total under Act of July 14,1890, $187,027,035; Mar. 3,1891 (recoinage of trade dollars) $5,078,472; Total $570,272,300.
At the end of fiscal year that ended June 30, 1904, 570,272,300 silver dollars had been coined since 1878. Of these, 461,138,698 were being held by the Treasury against silver certificates, 35,343,055 were being held by the Treasury in excess of the silver certificate requirements, and 73,790,547 were in circulation.
Distribution of Dollars
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1904, told of the distribution of dollars: Philadelphia: In the mint June 30, 1903, $102,413,954; transferred from subtreasuries to mints for storage, 2,100,000; coinage, fiscal year 1904, 2,986,650; total, 107,500,604; transferred from mint to subtreasuries, 80,000; in mint June 30, 1904, 107,115,954; total, 107,195,954; distributed from mint during the year, 304,650.