400 Esplanade Coin Album
The mint had been closed in 1861 after being claimed by Louisiana, then the Confederacy, and finally reclaimed by the U.S. In it's first year of operation since the Civil War, the mint managed to produced 2 quite famous coins numismatically, the Morgan Silver Dollar and the extraordinarily rare 1879-o $20 gold coin with a mintage of 2235. Over the next 30 years many political struggles ensued as operations of the New Orleans Mint were considered superfluous and its operation continued only for the political clout of LA politicans in that era. This first year New Olreans Morgan is all white with an above average strike and a very clean reverse.
The 1882-o is relatively common in lower grades of mint state thanks to massive treasury releases of 1962 and 1963. However, true Gems are scarce and prior to 1996 there were few, if any MS 66 and MS 67 examples certified by the two major grading services. In 1990, a small hoard of exquisitely preserved 1882-o dollars surfaced at Heritage Rare Coin Galleries in Dallas. A family heirloom in the form of an old book had been prepared in 1882 for the 50th wedding anniversary of a New Orleans couple. Twenty new 1882-o Morgan dollars had been purchased from the New Orleans mint and were included with the book. The book and the coins remained together in the family until the day that Heritage purchased the coins. Most of the MS66 coins and one MS67 in the NGC and PCGS population reports originated from this source. There is one MS68 coin, ex. Jack Lee 1&2. This coin is all white and unusually clean in an older generation holder and perhaps an upgrade candidate.
The New Orleans Mint produced 8.7 million Silver Dollars in 1883, a significant total for any era. Since many of these coins were preserved in federal vaults, this issue is among the most common Morgan Dollars in Mint State. Nevertheless, the certified population of the 83-o drops off rapidly above the MS66 grade level, and both major grading services have seen slightly more than 50 coins in MS67 and none finer. This example is meticulously struck with fully deep mirrored fields. Trivial light marks over the cheek limit this conservatively graded beauty. Affixed with the CAC hologram.
The mintage of 9.7 million, the release of huge quantities from storage in the Washington, D.C. Treasury Building in the 1930 and 1950s, and from the Philadelphia Mint in the early 1960s, along with a hoard owned by the Continental-Illinois Bank, all combine to assure the ready availability of this issue in Mint State. Housed in an old green holder, this New Orleans gem is 100% white with an impeccable strike for similar coins of this year.
Older generation holder, possible upgrade candidate and one of the cleanest 66s I've seen. The 2 trivial grazes behind Liberty's head are only visible at certain angles, and of course the scan picks them both up. The rest of the coin is immaculate and nicely struck. This year is known for well-struck, well-preserved specimens as the population figures indicate. There are a surprising number of PL and DM coins also.
The 1886-o is one of the true condition rarities of the Morgan dollar series. The PCGS and NGC population for MS64 is a mere 300 and only 4 coins have achieved gem status. Most of the 10 million coins likely succumbed to melting as a result of the Pittman Act of 1918. In fact, it has been estimated that 6 to 8 million were lost in this manner. Additionally few were saved as evidenced by the ready availability of circulated coins and lack of uncirculated ones. This coin is certainly an exception with a nearly full strike and lovely white surfaces. From the Jack Lee Estate.
In his Silver Dollar Encyclopedia, Dave Bowers notes: "The typical Mint State coin is heavily bagmarked, has dull luster, and is poorly struck. As if that were not enough, it is apt to be in lower grade levels." Quantities of this issue were released from Treasury vaults over a period of years throughout the middle 20th century, with the latest coins being dispersed in 1964, among the last coins paid out. Nearly all of these coins from the Treasury were in the lowest Mint State grades. In fact, one silver dollar specialist stated that he actually found XF and AU grade coins in mint-sewn bags of these dollars. Aside from being all white, this has a very typical strike for New Orleans Morgans with a flat ear and poorly defined breast feathers.
This high mintage issue (11.8 million) was both widely distributed at the time of issue and also paid out in bag quantities beginning as early as 1938. The 1889-O is not known for its availability, but rather its poor striking quality. The result of this lack of details has the same effect as a lack of availability, i.e., very few pieces qualify at the Gem level. This piece is all white, but not quite fully struck.
The 1892-o Morgan is somewhat of an enigma to collectors. The mintage of more than 2 million suggests ready availability in all grades. However, because of the New Orleans Mint's failure to produce coins of high quality, finding well-preserved gem and near gem pieces can be difficult, costly, and time consuming. Strikes are usually poor and luster unimpressive. Expect to pay a premium when a well struck coin with vibrant luster surfaces. It is presumed by some including Wayne Miller that many of the better quality coins of this issue came from a mint bag that surfaced in 1977. This frosty, all-white near-gem has a much better than average strike including the central devices that are typically very flat.
The 1895-o is certainly the key to the New Orleans Morgan dollar series. In addition, 1895 continues to be the most notable year of the entire Morgan series. Much of this notariety is due to the mystery surrounding silver dollar production at the Philadelphia Mint in 1895. The New Orleans Mint production was limited to 450,000 pieces, a low mintage by the standards of any late 19th and 20th century silver series. The distribution of this issue is not unlike that of other O-mint issues from this era. A small number of coins, probably 100,000 pieces, were released into circulation in the South. The remainder of this mintage went into storage as did many other issues at the other branch mints. The Pittman Act of 1918 must have taken an unusual toll on the 1895-o, as few examples emerged from Treasury holdings in the early 60s. Due to the limited original mintage, it is likely that most of the 1895-O dollars went to the melting pot under the terms of this act. Circulated examples are scarce on today's market, and Mint State representatives are deservedly rare. For the BU purist a circulated example would never do. However, this coin is more than a hole filler. The soft gray patina over the vast surfaces of this silver beauty are as eye-appealing as the frosty surfaces of a mint gem. The few Mint State survivors of this issue include a large percentage of poorly struck, lackluster, and/or heavily abraded coins.
With a mintage of 4 million coins, the 1897-o dollar at first glance might be considered a common date. However, it is believed that more than 1 million were melted under the 1918 Pittman Act, with the vast majority entering into circulation. A small number of bags were released by the Treasury in the mid-1900s and those coins were said to be of poor quality. The usual 1897-o dollar typically displays poor luster and an incomplete strike. As a result, near-gem or better examples are scarce or, more accurately stated, rare. Only a dozen are known in Gem or better through MS67 at PCGS. This example is well struck especially centrally, and is actually far brighter than my scans show. Hard to believe it's only a 61.
This is one of three Morgan Silver Dollar issues, along with 03-o and 04-o, that had been considered rare prior to release of the Treasury Hoard of the 1960s. Of the 4.44 million 98-o dollars, a substantial percentage was set aside and eventually distributed through the Federal Reserve System in late 1962. Few, however, show the well preserved surfaces seen on this piece. This coin is all white and only has light grazes that show up amazing well on these high resolution scans.