Morgan dollars…back in the day

Posted on July 19, 2010 by

A few of you have asked me to write about the old days of dollars, dollars everywhere…and tell some roll and bag stories…so here goes.

First thing I remember was when I had a friend in 8th grade who’s father was a silver dollar collector. This was in the early 60s when Morgan and Peace dollars were still in circulation and they were in every teller’s tray at the banks. My friend’s father would cash his weekly paycheck at the bank and take the whole thing in silver dollars. He’d take the dollars home and go through them every Friday night, keeping the few he might find that he needed for his collection and then using the rest for what they were at the time…money.

About 1966 or so, I was hanging coins on the local coin shop bid boards. I’d buy Morgans by the roll and pick out the cherries for the bid boards. I had to pay $28 a roll ($1.40 a coin) for the P and O Mints, but the S Mints cost $30 ($1.50 a coin) because they came with a lot more Gemmy coins. I once pickedout a virtually flawless 1880-S (or at least it looked flawless at the time) and I stapled it in a 2×2 and wrote “I am a perfect silver dollar” on the 2×2. I hung it on one of the bid boards and a couple of collectors bid it up to $8 or $9, an unheard of price for a common date Morgan dollar at the time. I thought I had really scored!

A little later I started hanging signs in laundromats that said, “Will pay $1.10 for any silver dollar.” Dollars were worth like $1.15 at the time, so when I’d buy a group I’d make a nickel a coin plus the extra on any better date that I bought. I keep doing that for a three or four years. I even paid Walt Ankerman (he was just out of high school at the time) to run around Orange County hanging the buy cards up in as many laundromats as possible, the price of course was a little higher, but not much.

In 1972, I starting traveling to national coin shows and buying and selling more expensive coins, but I always did a lot of dollar business. In 1977, I used to run a full page ad in Numismatic News (I think I had the inside front cover) and about a quarter of the ad was a special I ran with about 16 or 17 different dates of Morgan and Peace dollars in “Gem MS65″ condition…”Pick any date or all dates…$10 per coin.” At the time uncircualted rolls were like $140 or $150 ($7.00 to $7.50 a coin). A few of the local dealers thought I was a big fish because I’d pay extra…like $8 instead of $7.00 or $7.50…to pick select coins out of original rolls and bags.

I’ve bought and sold so many 1000 coin bags of dollars it’s amazing. Here are three bag stories.

First, for you toner fans. When fresh, original $1000 (1000 coin) bags were available, there were usually some great toners in the bags, and occasionally some really wild ones. When frosty Choice Uncs were $10 retail, I used to retail the insane coins for $20 to $25, and if I got something absolutely beyond wild Wayne Miller would give me $25 or $30 for it. Sure wish I would have kept 20 of the wildest. Here’s the catch. I probably personally bought and sold several million common date uncirculated dollars, and I’ve probably seen 10 million uncirculated dollars. The toners weren’t that easy to find back in the day when they were $8 or 10 a coin. If I would have saved every coin I saw, I bet it wouldn’t have been much more than 100 or 200 coins out of the 10 million. That’s why I’m very suspicious of some of today’s toners. And many of the toners of today just aren’t the same colors that were seen in the 1970s and 1980s. So unless you believe global warming is changing the color of Morgan dollars, there’s something fishy about some of today’s toners.

Story number two…the world record price. About 1984 or 1985…about two years before PCGS…common date dollars were really bid for a huge price, but the had to be really, really nice. Ed Milas of RARCOA had the Continental Illinois Bank deal, which included an enormous amount of silver dollars. Ed invited me in the cherry pick 1000 1881-S dollars. I went through several bags and picked out 1000 cherries. The price was $500 a coin…$500,000 for the 1000 coin bag. To this day I believe it’s the most anyone has ever paid for a bag of common date Morgan dollars. I sold them retail for $550, but they most likely weren’t a good deal as they’d probably grade “only” MS66 today, maybe some would grade MS67. But that was the height of common date dollar mania…1984-1986.

Last story…the incredible bag deal. When Superior of Beverly Hills was Larry and Ira Goldberg, Larry and Ira had a huge BU dollar deal out of Las Vegas that they sold out of for years. They handled some really incredible coins and some really incredible bag deals. One day in I think 1979, Larry called me and said he had a phenomenal quality deal for me. He said he wanted a premium per coin, but I could pick…it was my kind of deal. It was something like 2 bags of 1878-S, 6 bags of 1879-S, 12 bags of 1880-S, 5 bags of 1881-S, 2 bags of 1900-O and a DMPL bag (I’m not kidding) of 1898-O. Gordon Wrubel was living in Kansas City at the time. I called Gordy up and asked him to fly out and help me look at the deal. It took us two days to go through the coins. Understand that all of the coins were very Gemmy. Nonetheless we picked about half and left some pretty nice “rejects.” Dollars were worth about $10/$11 a coin at the time I think, but Larry wanted $12.50 for the S Mints, $15 for the 1878-S and $15 for the DMPL 1898-O, a significant premium at the time. I bought 3000 1879-S, 6000 1880-S, 2000 1881-S, 1000 1900-O, 500 absolutely incredible 1878-S and 500 DMPL 1898-O dollars. The coins were simply amazing. I sold the 20 best 1878-S dollars to Fred Sweeney and Bruce Amspacher for $50 a coin, an enormous price at the time, but they’d all be MS67 today and I think one of the coins ended up in a PCGS MS68 holder. It took me a year or so to sell all 500 1898-O DMPLs, but I got $20/$25 a coin. To this day, I think a lot of the 1898-O DMPLs come from that deal. The really humorous part of the deal had to do with the rejects…and they were very nice. A few days after I bought the deal from Larry Goldberg, Bob Hughes called me up and said he had just bought the most amazing deal of dollars….bags and bags of ultra Gems…right up my alley he said. I asked him if it was 1878-S, 1879-S, 1880-S, 1881-S, 1900-O, and 1898-O PLs. All he could say was , How did you know? Did you already pass this deal?” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I he had bought my rejects so I just said I bought as much as I could afford. No knock on Bob…the coins he bought were really nice. It was just a totally amazing deal of dollars.

That’s the Sunday night blog on common dollars. We could talk about rare dates…in 1975 Dave Bowers, Jim Ruddy, Joel Rettew, and I were the underbidders at $7.3 million on the Redfield dollar deal (484,000 BU dollars, mostly better date S Mints)…A-Mark (Steve Markoff, Hugh Sconyers, and Steve Deeds) bought it in a Reno courtroom, outbidding us at $7.4 million. I’ll blog about that…the big one that got away…another time. Or there’s the 1896-S and 1884-S ultra Gems story…you can read those stories on CoinFacts. It’s getting late. Hope you enjoyed the stories. It sure brought back memories for me. Bottom line…there are a lot of silver dollars out there…and there are also a lot of people that like them and want them. Morgan and Peace dollars have been a huge part of the coin market for over 45 years and today they are one of the mostly widely collected U.S. coins. They are great coins and they’ve certainly been fun for me.

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Comments (6)


  1. Tim L. Shuck says:

    Great story, particularly for those of us who were around at the time but oblivious to numismatics goings-on.

  2. […] new entry for the PCGS Blog by David Hall, which recounts some stories the old days of Morgan Dollars. Really an incredible […]

  3. Morgans have such a beautiful history! I love the fact that your friends father would cash his weekly paycheck into silver dollars. I wonder what his collection is like today… Did he find everyone he was looking for? Thanks for sharing!

    Sounds like you have enjoyed the world of coin collecting all your life!

  4. What a great story. I remeber these good old days as well. My father owned a old gas station and we would go through all the silver dollar that would come it to the store and pull them for our collection.

  5. geoff rosman says:

    Where do you find original mint bags in today’s market?
    My fasciinaction is bag toned coins. How many can I expect per bag?

  6. Paul Brannon says:

    Thanks for sharing your great coin memories. Very enjoyable to read!

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