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A Collectors Guide to U.S. Philippine Coins Part II: Mint State Pesos

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Owner of monstercoinmart.com

Contributing Author: Mitchell Spivack

Welcome to Part II of the U.S. Philippine Coins Collector’s Guide. In this piece, you will learn the following:

  • Why America started minting dual national coins
  • Why these coins have extraordinarily low survival rates
  • The relative rarity of these coins compared with same-date Morgan dollars
  • Which are the key coins in the U.S. Philippine Mint State Peso series

Why America Started Minting Dual National Coins

Most Americans don’t realize that the Philippines were once part of the United States. This began when the USS Maine sailed into Spain’s Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898. While at anchor, there was a massive explosion and the Maine sank with considerable loss of life.

After increasingly hostile "diplomatic" exchanges on both sides, on April 24, 1898, Spain declared war on the United States. The next day, the United States declared war on Spain. One week later, the U.S. fleet steamed into Manila Bay and attacked the Spanish fleet. The Spanish fleet was destroyed without the loss of a single American life.

The war with Spain ended officially with the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. The Treaty ceded the Philippines to America, along with Guam and Puerto Rico. A three-year war then followed between America and Philippine insurgents, who claimed the Philippines were a sovereign state. It ended in 1901, with the capture of Emilio Aguinaldo, their leader, to this day a Philippine national hero.

The Only Dual-Nationality Coins in U.S. History

Standard U.S. coinage was not useful for the impoverished Philippines because the denominations were too high. Two years later, in 1903, a dual national coinage (U.S. and the Philippines) was released. These coins were the only coins ever minted that were legal tender in the U.S. and another country.

At first, the coins were minted in Philadelphia and San Francisco ("S" mint mark). Then Denver got into the act on lower-denomination U.S. Philippine coins. Finally, in 1920, the U.S. opened a Mint in Manila, the only U.S. mint ever established outside the U.S. Coins from the Manila Mint carry an "M" mint mark. No collection of U.S. mint marks is complete without this "M" mint mark unique to the U.S. Philippine series.

These coins were denominated in pesos and centavos, and were made to standards which were either identical to those of United States coins or microscopically smaller (0.002%). Yet, the silver dollar-sized peso, legally convertible to U.S. gold and silver coinage, was valued at only 50 cents USD. The 50 centavo was valued at 25 cents, and so forth.

Extraordinarily Low Survival Rate

There is a business strike U.S. Philippine Peso as rare in Mint State as the 1894-S Barber dime. It’s almost as rare as the famous 1913 Liberty Head nickel. This is the famous 1906-S with only 7 Mint State survivors at PCGS out of the 201,000 mintage. The pop top 1894-S dime recently sold for about $2,000,000. According to the PCGS Price Guide for the 1906-S Peso, I see a lower than expected price tag of $40,000 for the pop 3 MS61, which I’m told by a reliable source recently sold for between $50,000 and $60,000 by private treaty.

The MS62 has never been sold at auction but I believe a nice MS62 would go comfortably for $70,000 to $85,000, sight seen. The pop top MS63 1906-S Peso, which is a very nice coin, would go for a whole lot more. But currently no price is given in the PCGS Price Guide for the MS63.

Looking at the valuation for the 1906-S peso a second way might be to compare it to coins of the same size – the Morgan dollars. Morgan dollars are not my area of expertise, but I’m a numbers guy. And when I look at the Morgan Dollar series, I see one coin after another with multi-million coin mintages, far greater survival rates, and far higher prices.

For example, I see the 1901 Morgan, with a mintage of 6,962,000 and 670 Mint State survivors at PCGS. Or the 1884-S Morgan, with a mintage of 3,200,000 and 339 Mint State survivors at PCGS. And the pop top 1901 Morgan goes for $587,000; the pop top 1884-S Morgan goes for $675,000. Then I flip over to the PCGS Price Guide page for the much rarer 1906-S peso, and again see the notably undervalued prices given to that coin. Similar disparities can be found throughout this entire series. It certainly gets you thinking.

The Whole Mint State Peso Series is Rare

After more than 30 years of grading these coins at PCGS, only 915 U.S. Philippine Pesos, across all dates and mint-marks, have been graded Mint State. By contrast, the 1903 Philadelphia Morgan Silver Dollar has a modest mintage less than 5 million coins. However, 15,552 examples have survived in Mint State condition at PCGS. So, there are 17 times as many 1903-P Morgans in Mint State as there are in the entire Mint State Peso series combined! This makes collecting the U.S. Philippine coins a fascinating and difficult challenge.

Date Original Mintage How Many Survived
(in Mint State at PCGS)
1903 2,788,901 60
1903-S 11,361,000 125
1904 11,000 99
1904-S 6,600,000 122
1905-S
Curved Serif (22)
Straight Serif (6)
6,056,000 28
1906-S 201,000 7
1907-S 10,276,000 95
1908-S 20,955,000 161
1909-S 7,578,000 126
1910-S 3,154,000 53
1911-S 463,000 26
1912-S 680,000 12

Why the Extreme Rarity

One reason for the extraordinarily low survival rate of the U.S. Philippine Pesos is that the silver content and face value of the pesos had been pegged in 1903, with silver at the lowest level in more than two centuries. In 1904, the price of silver began to rise and by the end of 1905, the silver pesos had bullion content worth more than their face value. This wasn’t true of the Morgans which had twice the face value of the U.S. Philippine Pesos.

The 1906-S business strike pesos were almost all melted. Only about 200 are believed to have been released to the public, creating the rarest business strike peso in the series. After 1906, the purity of the silver was reduced from 90% fine to 80%. The diameter of the pesos was also reduced by 9%. Then, during WWII, when the Japanese invaded the Philippines, a heavy toll was taken on United States Philippine coinage. The U.S. military threw hundreds of tons of U.S. Philippine coinage into Manila Bay when they saw the Japanese were going to overrun their positions.

In addition, there was a guerrilla resistance led by the Filipinos on every significant island. Often two or three different resistance movements on the larger islands. The Japanese responded by executing Filipinos caught using United States Philippine money. Naturally, Filipinos buried their U.S. Philippine coins in safe hidey-holes, often in the ground. This, of course, killed the quality of the coins that were recovered. Moreover, the hot steamy weather in the Philippines is brutal to all (non-gold) coins. Thousands of already scarce U.S. Philippine silver Pesos were corroded and became virtually worthless to serious collectors.

In sum, a large percentage of U.S. Philippine Pesos have been melted, lost at sea or, due to weather, are no longer in collectible condition. So, a minuscule number of Mint State U.S. Philippine Pesos have survived.

The 1906-S and 1912-S, the King and Queen of the Mint State Peso Series

As I mentioned, there are currently only seven Mint State PCGS graded 1906-S U.S. Philippine Pesos. The pop top is MS63. I believe that no more than one 1906-S Mint State example currently exists in an NGC holder. Their pop report shows a total of four Mint State examples. I personally crossed two of them to PCGS (and did not turn in the tags to NGC). A U.S. Philippine scholar has also shared the information with me of a third crossover. There is a 1906-S MS61 example in an old ANACS holder. I believe that will cross to PCGS.

This extraordinarily low Mint State population is the result of two factors: a skinny mintage (201,000); and an almost total melt of the 1906-S Pesos, as the price of silver made the bullion more valuable than the half-dollar face value.

The other key dates in the series are the 1905-S Peso, the 1911-S Peso, and 1912-S Peso. The 1905-S comes in two major varieties: the "Curved Serif" with only 22 Mint State survivors; and the super rare "Straight Serif" with a scant six examples ever graded Mint State by PCGS! The 1911-S only has 26 Mint State survivors at PCGS, making it a very difficult coin to pursue in uncirculated condition as well. The final key coin of the Mint State Peso series is the 1912-S Peso. While the 1912-S has about a 50% greater mintage than the 1911-S, fewer than half as many Mint State examples have been graded by PCGS – only 12 coins. This puts the 1912-S Peso right behind the 1906-S in terms of rarity in uncirculated condition.

An amusing story about how difficult these coins are to value:

"Justhavingfun", as I noted in A Collector’s Guide to U.S. Philippine Coins Part I Proof Pesos (link old article), was a fanatical collector of the U.S. Philippine series and won many awards for his world-class collections. But, he lacked the 1912-S Peso in gem condition. He saw the coin coming to auction in PCGS MS65. It cataloged for $2,000 at the time. He wanted to be sure he won the coin, so he bid 20 times catalog. Normally, when you bid 20 times catalog, you'd expect to win hands down. He lost.

In addition to the key coins listed above, there are also two semi-key coins. These include the 1903 (with 60 Mint State survivors at PCGS) and the 1910-S (with 52 survivors).

To sum up, there is:

(All of these coins with 60 or fewer Mint State survivors at PCGS!)

Altogether, all dates, all mint marks in the series, there are only 915 Mint State survivors at PCGS in the U.S. Philippine Peso series. There are only a quarter as many survivors in the Mint State Peso series as the famous 1909-S VDB penny (in MS-63 RED or better). That makes the U.S. Philippine Pesos one of the rarest, most challenging, and fun series to collect of 20th Century, U.S. coinage. And at the rate the series is gaining steam, it should only prove more challenging as time goes on!

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