During a May 4 discussion with members of the numismatic media, U.S. Mint Director David Ryder and his staff discussed their interest in making use of the provision in the law that created the forthcoming 2021 Morgan and Peace dollars that allows the coins to be continued to be issued in the future provided demand exists for doing that.
Based on a cross-section of collector views and discussions with them, experts, and dealers, there does appear to be support for an ongoing series of new Morgan and Peace dollars, but that support is largely conditioned on certain key factors including how many coins are issued per year, what finishes are used, and whether privy marks continue to be used.
And there remains a cadre of collectors who say they would prefer a one-year series for a variety of reasons from the risk of reducing the specialness of the 2021 coins to having too many different coin series to collect and other reasons.
How this issue plays out has the potential to help shape the American numismatic hobby and coin market almost as much as the introduction of new reverse designs this summer on the American silver and gold Eagles.
An ongoing series of modern Morgan and Peace dollars could become one of the most widely collected modern U.S. coin series and also stimulate even greater interest in collecting the original versions of these coins, issued respectively from 1878 to 1921 and from 1921 to 1935. The latter remain among the most popular and widely collected classic U.S. coins.
More broadly, a new series should help to more deeply connect classic and modern U.S. coins, which should be beneficial for the hobby by creating more collectors and for the value of the older coins, which will be sought by even more collectors. In fact, as the release of the 2021 silver dollars approached, the values of the original 1921 dollars and of other coins in both dollar series have been rising, including those for more common dates.
At the same time, if too many coins are released annually, there is a risk of saturating the market with more coins that collectors want, or as one collector told me, “of killing the golden goose.”
For some collectors, the whole point is to celebrate the centennial of the last Morgan and the first Peace dollar, so why keep issuing them? Many others are excited about the prospect of continuing to collect modern Morgan and Peace dollars that for many are a continuation of the original coin series just as the special silver and gold 50th anniversary Kennedy half dollars are part of that series.
That is also how NGC has decided to classify the 2021 coins, while PCGS and Whitman are still considering the matter, according to articles that appeared in the May 24 issue of Coin World.
The 2021 silver dollars were authorized by Congressional legislation but are not part of the modern commemorative program, nor are they tribute coins like those issued in gold in 2016 for the centennial of the debut of the Liberty dime, Standing Liberty quarter, and Walking Liberty half dollar.
The Mint refers to them as “updated renditions” of the classic silver dollars that are faithful to the original intent of the coin’s designers, George T. Morgan and Anthony de Francisci.
Some Collector Views
When I informally surveyed collectors for this column in March 2020, I noted:
Reactions to date generally fall into one of three categories: Those who strongly support the program; those who liked the previous idea of a commemorative coin but are not interested in an ongoing series; and those who say the Mint should stop recycling old coin designs and create new ones.
Since then, those differences in views mostly appear to persist, although there is stronger support than there was a year ago for an ongoing series depending on what versions and how many coins are released annually, prices, etc.
This is how one collector who is enthusiastic about the prospect of an ongoing program recently put it:
I would love to see this continued in 2022 and beyond. Silver dollars are very popular, and this would help spur further interest in an already popular series. I also think that they should revive other classic designs as well.
We don’t need six silver dollars every year, but I strongly favor having annual Morgan and Peace dollars. I’d like to see Morgan dollars made at West Point too. As well as Peace dollars at Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.
In terms of finishes, I’d like to definitely see a traditional cameo mirror Proof Morgan dollar. Proof Morgan dollars made from 1878-1904 can cost thousands of dollars even with no cameo contrast, with cameo or ultra-cameo coins costing up to five figures in some cases.
Having a Proof 2022 Morgan dollar with every single coin having ultra-cameo contrast would allow collectors who can’t afford Proof Morgans now to be able to get them at an affordable price point. I’d also like to see Proof, Reverse Proof, Enhanced Uncirculated Morgan, and Peace dollars.
A collector who does not favor an ongoing series unless future coins are different from the 2021 issues said:
In response to your question regarding the 2022 versions and beyond it is my belief that this will saturate the market and reduce the value of the 2021 versions if they replicate what they are doing in 2021. If they in fact offer different variations from the 2021 coins, then that will help the 2021 versions maintain their value.
But it still takes away the rarity of the 2021 because now you have more versions of Peace dollars. More importantly, the Morgans were not produced after 1921 so how can you justify a 2022 and beyond Morgan? You can’t in my opinion.
I have seen this happen with other collectibles. The companies over produce their product ruining their products’ collectible value by saturating the market. To be clear, what makes any product highly collectible is the rarity of it, which in turn increases the value of the product as time moves on. Less equals more!
Factors Shaping Series’ Prospects
Whether or not collectors embrace the coins as an ongoing series will be shaped by factors such as how the 2021 coins look in hand, especially those with privy marks which some collectors today indicate they do not favor because they do not like the way the privy marks are expected to look based on the Mint’s promotional materials.
In addition, there are those who express interest in a West Point Mint, W-mint marked Morgan, while others note no Morgans were made there, so why do it?
Other factors include whether future releases are done in Proof or with special finishes like Reverse Proof, or perhaps issued as bullion coins, which opens up the possibility of coins with Prooflike and Deep Prooflike surfaces as the bullion five-ounce America the Beautiful coins have in many cases.
From my survey of current collector views, it does seem like there is especially strong interest in Proof versions precisely because, as the above collector suggest, that is something most collectors could never afford in an original Morgan dollar.
There is also the matter of whether the Mint will issue five different Morgans and a Peace dollar per year, one of each, or some other combination. While some collectors seem interested in whatever will be offered, there appears to be greater support for one of each type per year, which would be more affordable for a greater number of collectors.
Then there is the issue for collectors of whether they can afford to and want to invest the effort and time in collecting modern Morgan and Peace dollars, in addition to the other series they collect such as American Silver Eagles, commemoratives, classic coins, etc.
And for the Mint there is the issue of whether it will be able to obtain sufficient silver planchets to issue the coins each year, especially if demand for silver bullion continues to remain high. While the portion of that demand driven by the pandemic during the past year may abate as the virus comes under control in the U.S. and hopefully the world too, there are other reasons to expect high demand including the release of the Type 2 reverse Silver Eagles.
Plus, the Mint is expected to begin a new series of five-ounce silver coins next year, which are the silver versions of the new quarter series on American women, and possibly also fractional silver versions.
Tom Uram, who is president of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists and a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, a published numismatic author, and longtime collector, first suggested during a CCAC meeting the idea of doing a new Morgan for the centennial of the 1921 Morgan dollar in 2021 and worked with Michael Moran (who proposed the 2021 Peace dollar) to get the necessary legislation through Congress.
He said he would favor doing a multi-year series provided it is limited to two coins per year (one Morgan and one Peace) and used different finishes each year as well as different designs such as for anniversary years. Those could include the various pattern designs George Morgan created, which are depicted in sketches in Whitman’s The Private Sketchbook of George T. Morgan by Karen M. Lee, published in 2013.
The Mint has similarly suggested the historic assets it possesses from both original coin series to issue coins with slightly different designs. That presumably means issues like the various 1878 Morgans with different numbers of tail feathers, but that is not clear at the moment.
He also supports periodically issuing coin and currency sets with the new coins such as one that would include the 1886 $5 silver certificate that features an image of the Morgan dollar on its reverse.
Michael “Miles” Standish, NGC vice president and author of Whitman’s Morgan Dollar (now in its second edition), is an authority on the original Morgan dollars issued from 1878 to 1921, who has graded some of the finest known examples of those coins.
The 100th anniversary of the 1921 Morgan and 1921 Peace dollar is a fabulous program from the U.S. Mint for 2021. Both designed coins are very popular amongst collectors and should be very exciting to watch when they roll out this fall. Looking forward, if the demand indicates a total success and sell out [a multi-year program would make sense]. I believe it will be very import for the Mint to listen to its customer base on what they want going forward. The success of this a program should open the door for other past coins and anniversary milestones.
His last point is one several collectors voiced in one form or another, i.e., the desire for more coins that celebrate major numismatic anniversaries by reproducing classic coin designs.
Ian Russell, president of GreatCollections, which sells a large number of Morgan dollars at auction every week, said:
I only heard about the idea of an annual issue of Morgan/Peace dollars last week and I think it’s a great idea and will be well-received by collectors. I’m not a fan of the “privy” marks and so many [different coins] unless they are actually being minted at the different locations.
The market for Morgan dollars and Peace dollars has been increasing lately, in part due to the anticipated demand of the new issues. Look at common date MS-64 Morgans. They have gone up 60% in the past 12-18 months. And very recently, there’s been a lot of demand for 1921 Morgans. I’m sure from marketing companies wanting to put together 100-year sets — 1921/2021.
It seems highly likely the Mint will decide to continue the new silver dollar program in 2022 and probably beyond, but how it does will determine whether the series is ultimately successful for the Mint, collectors, the market, and the hobby.
And what may be good for the Mint, flippers and dealers may not necessarily be what collectors want. As Mr. Standish noted, it will be very important for it to listen to what its customers want going forward.
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing primarily in modern U.S. and world coins. His work has appeared in Coin World, CoinWeek, The Greysheet and CPG Market Review, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, FUN Topics, The Clarion, and COINage, among other publications. His first coin-writing position was with Coin Update.
In 2015, his CoinWeek.com column, “The Coin Analyst,” received an award from the Numismatic Literary Guild for best website column. By 2017, he received an NLG award for best article in a non-numismatic publication with his “Liberty Centennial Designs,” which was published in Elemetal Direct. In October 2018, he received a literary award from the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) for his article, “Lady Liberty: America’s Enduring Numismatic Motif,” that appeared in The Clarion in 2017.