Incredible 1896-S Morgan Dollar, MS69 (!)1896-S $1 MS69 PCGS. Of the many remarkable Morgan Dollars in the current offering of coins from the Jack Lee Collection, this single coin is the most amazing example. It is essentially perfect. The only blemish we can find, and this requires extremely careful examination, is a tiny mark between star 11 and the border. Over the years, PCGS has certified 1.7 million Morgan Silver Dollars in all the different grades, yet only nine coins have been certified as MS69. These include six 1880-S Morgans, 2 dated 1881-S, and this 1896-S dollar.
Wayne Miller had the following comments about this issue: "Despite a mintage of five million pieces, the 1896-S is very scarce in uncirculated condition. Although original rolls of this date have appeared as recently as 1973, they appear to have been widely dispersed. Most BU specimens evidence average luster, very heavy surface abrasions (particularly about Liberty's face), and much weakness on the high points. The latter does not appear to be the result of worn dies, but is more probably due to inadequate striking pressure or improper basining of the dies." Miller continued, suggesting the Gem Morgan Dollars are among the most underrated of all dates in the series. Like certain other issues in the Morgan Dollar series, the 1896-S Dollar is relatively common and easily obtainable in circulated, well-worn grade, but becomes elusive in Very Fine or higher grades. The mintage of this issue totaled 5 million coins, and apparently many of them quickly entered circulation. Bag quantities of Mint State coins were available and paid out at the mint as recently as the early 1950s, but no bag quantities were available later than that time. Apparently very few, if any, were included in the early 1960s Treasury release. Today, most want lists of Morgan dollars from all except the most advanced collectors include this date. It has been called one of the "Most Wanted" of all Morgan dollar issues.
Miss Anna Willess Williams, whose profile was used for these coins, has never looked so good. She was certainly a lovely bride, for 1896 was the year that she was married. An extensive notice was published in the May 1896 issue of The Numismatist: "The announcement that the Goddess of Liberty is about to be married has aroused new interest in the woman whose face is known to more people than that of any other women of the American continent. Every man, woman or child who has a silver dollar carries the handsome profile of the Philadelphia school-teacher, Miss Anna W. Williams. Her classic features have been stamped upon millions of silver disks.
"It is twenty years since the pretty blonde girl became world-famous. It was then stated that Miss Williams' profile was the original of the Goddess of Liberty on that much abused, much admired and equally much disliked Bland silver dollar. The friends of the young woman placed every obstacle in the way of possible identification, but failed in their object. The story of how Miss Williams came to be the Goddess of Liberty may be retold, now that it is said she is soon to become a bride.
"In the early part of 1876 the Treasury Department secured through communication with the Royal Mint of England. The services of a clever young designer and engraver named George Morgan. Upon his arrival in this country Mr. Morgan was installed at the Philadelphia Mint and was assigned the task of making a design for the new silver dollar. After many months of labor the young engraver completed the design for the reverse side of the coin upon which he represented the American eagle. His attention was then turned to the other side, and his original inclination was to place on it a fanciful head representing the Goddess of Liberty. But the ambitious designer was too much of a realist to be satisfied with a mere product of fancy. Finally he determined the head should be the representation of some American girl and forthwith searched for his beauteous maid.
"It was a long search, although pleasant. He told his friends of his desires, and one of them spoke of the really classic beauty of Miss Anna Williams. The English designer was introduced to the girl. Mr. Morgan was at once impressed with her beautiful face and studied it carefully. Then he told her what he desired, and she promptly refused to permit herself to be the subject of the design. Her friends, however, induced her to pose before an artist. After five sittings the design was completed.
"Mr. Morgan was so enthusiastic that he declared Miss Williams' profile was the most nearly perfect he had seen in England or America. His design for the Bland silver dollar was accepted by Congress, and so the silver coins have been pouring from the mints all these years adorned with the stately face of a Quaker City maiden.
Miss Williams is a decidedly modest young woman. She resides on Spring Garden Street, not far from the school in which for years she has been employed as an instructor in philosophy and methods in the kindergarten department. She is slightly below the average height, is rather plump, and is fair. She carries her figure with a stateliness rarely seen and the pose of the head is exactly as seen on the silver dollar. The features of Miss Williams are reproduced as faithfully as in a good photograph."
Ex: Jack Lee 1; Jack Lee 2. From The Jack Lee Collection, III(#7244) (Registry values: P7, N19439) (NGC ID# 2564, PCGS# 7244)
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