1893-S Morgan Silver Dollar, MS67
1893-S $1 MS67 NGC. Ex: Norweb-Jack Lee II. The historical
background that explains the low mintage of the 1893-S dollar was
given in our April 2007 Dallas Auction, where we offered a
lower-Mint State grade coin in lot 80:
The Finest NGC-Certified Specimen
From the Norweb and Jack Lee Collections
"The year 1893 brought several events that ultimately influenced this and related issues. The silver purchase clause of the Act of July 14, 1890, was repealed on November 1, 1893, resulting in a drastically reduced need for silver to be converted into coinage. For the next few years, mintages of silver dollars were substantially smaller than in previous years. The World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, brought an issue of commemorative quarters and half dollars that did much to increase the popularity of coin collecting at that time. Finally, in 1893 Augustus Heaton published a little book simply titled Mint Marks. Prior to this publication, little attention was paid to the small identifying marks on the branch mint coins."
An expanded discussion of the Panic of 1893 provides further background for the scarcity of silver dollars from this year and was provided in the December 31, 2007 issue of Coin World:
"The panic was marked by toppling businesses and failing banks, and the infusion of European investors in American concerns did little to stem the downturn as the depression stretched overseas as well. ... Despite the nationwide loss of more than 4 million jobs, President Grover Cleveland had taken a hands-off approach, believing the struggling business climate was cyclical.
"Cleveland was, however, troubled by the nation's dwindling gold reserves, which had been steadily declining during the waning years of the Benjamin Harrison presidency.
"Cleveland blamed the problems on Congress' lavish spending and the impact of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890.
"The Sherman Act provided the Treasury with the authority:
--To purchase 4.5 million ounces (or 281,250 pounds) of silver each month at market rates.
--To issue notes redeemable in either gold or silver; these are the Treasury notes, also called coin notes. ...
"The planned government purchases amounted to almost the total monthly output from the mines ...
"The increased supply of silver drove down the price of the metal.
"As the price of silver continued to decline, holders of the government notes understandably redeemed them for gold (whose price wasn't falling) rather than silver.
"The result of the growing disparity between the two metals was the depletion of the U.S. gold reserves."
It was against this monetary backdrop that silver dollars were produced in 1893. The result was predictably low at not only the San Francisco Mint, but also the other three mints at Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Carson City. Only 100,000 dollars were struck in the San Francisco facility. All 100,000 pieces were struck from a single die pairing -- the most widely known die characteristic being a diagonal die scratch in the top of the T in LIBERTY.
What happened after these coins were produced remains a mystery. Most likely it is a case of heavy attrition. Most of the production run probably met the same fate as many other silver dollars from this era: They were melted under the terms of the 1918 Pittman Act. Of course, as with many other numismatic rarities, there are always stories about rolls and bags. But these have turned out to be nothing more than numismatic "old-wives' tales."
In the 1988 Norweb catalog it was speculated that this coin might have been one of the pieces reserved for examination by the Assay Commission. No concrete evidence is given for this belief, but it would explain the superlative condition of this coin.
The high-grade (Uncirculated) examples of the 1893-S we have seen over the years all have similar luster characteristics. One expects thick, frosted mint luster from an S-mint dollar, but the finish on the 1893-S is invariably satiny. The only other San Francisco issue that comes readily to mind with this sort of finish is the 1912-S nickel. This piece has brilliant surfaces throughout, unlike its 1988 appearance in the Norweb sale, indicating that the coin has been conserved since that time. The striking details are slightly soft over the ear of Liberty, but all the eagle's breast feathers are present. Because of the extraordinary preservation of this coin, a strong magnifier is necessary to verify that this is indeed the Norweb coin. The following are tiny identifiers for this piece: a microscopic spot in the obverse field between stars 2 and 3; between the right stand of the M in UNUM and the lower portion of the cap of Liberty is a short, shallow, vertical mark in the field; an irregular-shaped planchet flake is located adjacent to the upper-back part of the eagle's head on the reverse; and a vertical milling mark (three mills long) is in the reverse field between the left portion of the wreath and the eagle's left (facing) wing.
This is the only MS67 certified by NGC with the next finest graded MS65. The PCGS Population Report shows just one piece graded MS67, and similarly with the next finest graded MS65. As one of just two certified pieces at the Superb Gem grade, this landmark specimen will be the centerpiece of a top-quality Morgan silver dollar collection. The key date of the series, this coin is the single highest-graded NGC-certified example and may well be the second finest surviving 1893-S Morgan dollar.
Ex: Norweb Collection, Part III (Bowers and Merena, 11/1988), lot 3887, where it brought $357,500, a record for any Morgan dollar at that time; David Carter and George Bodway; PCGS Tour Coin, 1990 and 1991; Jack Lee (Heritage, 4/2008), lot 2366.(Registry values: P10, N19439) (NGC ID# 255U, PCGS# 7226)
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