VOL. XIX, No. 1
Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars, Part VI
By Randy Campbell, NLG
FUN Education Director
At the FUN Convention, a collector asked me, “Do all MS-65 Deep Mirror Prooflikes look the same?” “Not necessarily,” was my response.
Design differences are one reason why two silver dollars of the same grade may look vastly different. For example, an 1878-S Morgan dollar, with the flat breast B reverse design, will appear quite different from an 1880-S dollar with the robust C reverse design. Likewise, the 1921 Morgan, with its one year design modifications, will look vastly different from both the 1878-S and the 1880-S in the same grade.
Differences in luster and strike constitute two more reasons why coins in the same grade may give a different appearance. Specifically, Mirror Surface 1881-S dollars typically exhibit brilliant luster and a sharp to full strike. Conversely, Mirror Surface 1889 dollars typically display luster that is somewhat subdued and a strike that is not as sharp as that of the typical 1881-S.
Finally, dollars of THE SAME DATE AND GRADE may differ vastly from one coin to the next. Specifically, the 1887 Morgan dollar exists both as a brilliant Deep Mirror Prooflike and as a frosted cameo Deep Mirror Prooflike! Needless to say, the frosted cameos sell for more money because of their spectacular visual appearance!
Thus, to paraphrase George Orwell, some MS-65 DMPL dollars are more equal than others. They don’t all look the same!
My date-by-date analysis of Mirror Surface Morgan dollars continues with a brief examination of one of the glamour dates in the series, the 1879-CC.
Traditionally, the 1879-CC is divided into two groups. The first is referred to as the 1879-CC with the regular or normal CC mintmark. The second group is referred to as the 1879-CC with the “Capped CC” mintmark.
1879-CC Normal CC Mintmark
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The elusive, low mintage, 1879-CC tends to be plagued by numerous deep bagmarks on Liberty’s face and neck. The strike tends to be average to below average.
The occasional sharply struck 1879-CC dollar may have significant luster problems caused by cleaning or overdipping. For all these reasons the 1879-CC is regarded as a great rarity in either MS-65 Prooflike or MS-65 Deep Mirror Prooflike.
PROOFLIKE: The three major grading services combined have certified just over 100, 1879-CC normal CC dollars in MS-63 Prooflike (current CCDN bid is $2,400). As of early 2001, ANACS, PCGS and NGC combined have certified 49 1879-CC dollars in MS-64 Prooflike condition (bid = $3,500). In MS-65 Prooflike, ONLY FIVE EXAMPLES HAVE BEEN SLABBED BY THE MAJOR SERVICES (bid = $17,000)!
DEEP MIRROR PROOFLIKE: At ANACS, Deep Mirror Prooflike dollars are required to have a minimum of four to six inches of clear reflectivity in the fields on both sides of the coin. While Mirror Surface 1879-CC dollars tend to have noticeable cameo contrast, the depth of those mirrors usually falls short of what is required for the SMPL superlative.
The major grading services have slabbed only 55 1879-CC (normal CC) dollars in MS-63 DMPL (current bid is $2,585). Just 39 have been certified in MS-64 DMPL (bid = $5,000). In MS-65 DMPL, ANACS has slabbed one coin, NGC one coin and PCGS two coins. With a combined population of just four coins, it’s no wonder the 1879-CC (normal CC) is bid at $23,000 in MS-65 DMPL!
ULTRA DEEP MIRROR: I have never seen, nor heard of, an 1879-CC with Ultra Deep Mirror on both sides of the coin. Frankly, I doubt that such a coin exists.
1879-CC Capped CC Mintmark
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Four reverse dies were used in the striking of 1879-CC dollars. Three of them (VAMS 1, 2 and 4) featured the normal CC mintmark. Just one of the reverse dies (VAMS-3) employed the very small CC mintmark upon which the larger, normal, CC mintmark was overstruck. This large CC over small CC variety was dubbed the “Capped CC” variety because each normal C appeared to have a tiny cap on top of it. These two “caps” were the remnants of the smaller CC’s that were mostly obscured by the larger normal CC mintmark. Indeed, the extraneous metal around the mintmark suggested that the CC’s had been glued on. Thus, Capped CC 1879-CC dollars often sold for less than half the price of their normal CC counterparts. Fortunately, modern research and scholarship have mostly done away with the numismatic old wives tale. The 1879-CC Capped Die is now rightly regarded as being even scarcer than the 1879-CC with the normal mintmark.
Most 1879-CC Capped CC dollars display a strike that is about average for the Morgan dollar series. Some weakness may be seen on the hair over Liberty’s ear. Luster tends to be average to below average quality. Bagmarks tend to be numerous and severe. These factors, combined with a very low mintage, are the primary reason why the 1879-CC Capped CC Mintmark is a very rare coin in gem condition with mirror surfaces.
PROOFLIKE: The three major grading services combined have encapsulated ONLY 12, 1879-CC Capped CC dollar sin MS-63 Prooflike (versus 105 normal CC’s slabbed in this grade). Current CCDN bid is $2,050. In MS-64 Prooflike, the leading services have certified 31, Capped CC dollars (bid = $3,350). Current bid for this issue in MS-65 Prooflike is a mythical $16,000. I say “MYTHICAL” because the 1879-CC Capped CC is UNKNOWN IN THIS GRADE! As of early 2001, no examples of this coin have been certified in MS-65 Prooflike.
DEEP MIRROR PROOFLIKE: The 1879-CC Capped CC is much scarcer in Deep Mirror Prooflike than its normal CC counterpart. In MS-63 DMPL, the leading services have slabbed only 14 Capped CC coins (verses 55 for the normal CC). MS-63 DMPL bid for the Capped CC is $2,800, just $215 higher than the quoted bid for the normal CC. In MS-64 DMPL it’s the same story. The Capped CC has a combined census of just 10 coins graded (bid = $8,000), making it about four times scarcer than the normal CC in that grade.
As stated earlier, the 1879-CC Capped CC is unknown in certified MS-65 Prooflike condition. It is also UNKNOWN IN MS-65 DMPL! Thus, the current bid of $35,000 must be considered mythical or theoretical.
Two more points need to be made regarding the 1879-CC with the Capped CC mintmark. First, like the normal CC the Capped CC mirror surface dollar usually exhibits cameo contrast on both sides of the coin. Second, again like the normal CC, the Capped CC is unknown to this author with Ultra Deep mirrors.
COMMENTS: On a price/rarity basis I believe the best buy for the 1879-CC with the normal CC mintmark is the MS-64 DMPL (bid = $5,000). I also like the MS-64 DMPL grade for the 1879-CC with the Capped CC mintmark. However, since only 10 examples have been certified, you may have to spend considerably more than the current bid of $8,000 to acquire one.
On the second day of the show a collector brought an 1884-O dollar up to the ANACS table for a free verbal opinion. The mirrors were incredibly deep. The strike was very sharp. The cameo contrast was most appealing. Despite the presence of a few bagmarks, I graded the coin MS-64 Ultra Deep Mirror.
“Wow, this is the first UDM Morgan I’ve ever owned,” said the smiling collector. He then asked me, “Roughly, what do you think this coin is worth?”
It’s not easy to get price information on Ultra Deep Mirror dollars. They’re not listed on the Greysheet. They’re not on the Bluesheet. They’re not in the Red Book.
Fortunately, an old friend, dealer Jim Curtis of California, came to the rescue. “I can get close to double DMPL bid for common date UDM’s,” he said. In case of the 1884-O, MS-64 DMPL bid is $80 in the Bluesheet. That would make the retail selling price of the ’84-O in 64 UDM roughly $150. Dealers having a specific need for this coin might be willing to buy it for about $110-$130.
Why are knowledgeable dealers and collectors willing to pay so much more money for an Ultra Deep Mirror? “Flash” is the answer. At ANACS, Ultra Deep Mirror dollars are required to have a minimum of 12 inches of reflectivity in the fields on both sides of the coin (versus a minimum of 4-6 inches for Deep Mirror Prooflikes).
Scarcity is the second reason why specialists are willing to pay more for UDM examples. They are about 13 times scarcer than MS-65 DMPL examples. In the case of the 1884-O in MS-65 DMPL, ANACS has certified 50 examples. However, only FOUR examples of the 1884-O have been slabbed MS-65 UDM. They are scarce!
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Mirror surface 1879-O dollars are not particularly scarce. However, most examples suffer from heavy marks, shallow mirrors, or impaired luster (from overdipping or improper storage). Also, a significant percentage of mirror surface 1879-O dollars are lightly circulated. Thus, the mirror surface 1879-O is very scarce in MS-64 and down right rare in MS-65 condition.
PROOFLIKE: ANACS, PCGS, and NGC combined have certified 150, 1879-O dollars in MS-63 Prooflike (bid = $160). Only 67 examples have been slabbed in MS-64 Prooflike (bid = $475 as of the August 10 CCDN). Amazingly, ONLY ONE 1879-O has been certified in MS-65 Prooflike! It is bid at $4,200.
DEEP MIRROR PROOFLIKE: The major services have slabbed only 54 examples of this date in MS-63 DMPL (bid = $750). Just 48 have been graded MS-64 DMPL (bid = $1950). And a mere four examples have been certified MS-65 DMPL (bid = $9,800).
ULTRA DEEP MIRROR: The 1879-O is extraordinarily rare in certified Ultra Deep Mirror. As of August 2001, ANACS has slabbed two examples in MS-61 UDM and one in MS-62 UDM. Incredibly, one solitary 1879-O dollar has been certified in MS-65 Ultra Deep Mirror. This coin, a breathtaking “headlight,” is one of the most amazing Morgan dollars I had ever seen! At one time it was owned by a Florida coin dealer. However, its current whereabouts are unknown to this author.
BETTER VARIETIES: Two varieties of the 1879-O dollars are known to exist with the so-called O over O horizontal mintmark. Both VAM-4 and VAM-28 are unknown to me with mirror surfaces on both sides of the coin.
Both O over O horizontal varieties are highly sought after by specialists. Oxman and Fey consider them to be among the Top 100 VAMS. In MS-60, the VAM-4 has an estimated value of $250 versus the $50 value of a common variety 1879-O in MS-60.
COMMENTS: This date is virtually unavailable in MS-65 condition with mirror surfaces on both sides of the coin. Therefore, I recommend the 1879-O in certified MS-64 DMPL at a fair increment above the current bid of $1,950. Those collecting on smaller budgets may want to consider a flashy MS-64 Prooflike, currently bid at $475.