VOL. XIX, NO. 3
Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars, Part VIII
By Randy Campbell, NLG
FUN Education Director
In the previous installment of this column I noted that demand was very strong for mirror surface Morgan dollars. I predicted that more price increases were just around the corner. In fact, that is exactly what has happened.
In early March, the 1885-CC was bid at $310 in MS-64 Prooflike. By May, bid had risen to $325. Now, as of mid-August, bid has jumped to $350 for the certified 1885-CC in MS-64 Prooflike condition.
Similarly, the certified MS-64 Prooflike 1883-CC has risen from $102 in March to $120 in May to the current CCDN bid of $135. That’s an increase of about 33% in less than six months!
Several other dates have scored significant gains in both Prooflike and Deep Mirror Prooflike during the last six months. However, very few certified mirror surface dollars have been “flushed out” by these higher bid prices. Supplies are very tight. More bid increases are inevitable over the short term as dealers scramble to fill customer want lists.
Which dates are poised for another round of plus signs? I believe the 1882-CC, the 1883-CC, and the 1884-CC could rise to higher bid levels, especially in the grades of MS-64 DMPL and MS-65 DMPL.
In mid-October, fellow ANACS grader Mike Faraone and I will be manning the ANACS table at the New Silver Dollar Show in St. Louis. Can you imagine a large convention attended by hundreds and hundreds of Mirror Surface Maniacs? It ought to be fun!
My date-by-date analysis of mirror surface Morgan dollars continues with an examination of the 1880-CC.
Traditionally, the 1880-CC has been divided into two groups. The vast majority of 1880-CC dollars were struck with the so-called “Round Breast” or Reverse of 1879. A small minority, perhaps 10 to 20% of the mintage, was struck with the so-called “Flat Breast” or Reverse of 1878. These two different types of 1880-CC dollars will be discussed separately.
1880-CC Reverse of 1879
The “Round Breast” is officially designated as the C reverse by Van Allen and Mallis. Beginning in 1879, this reverse design was used for the vast majority of Morgan dollars struck through 1904. It is generally referred to in the dollar community as the Reverse of 1879.
The top arrow feather is the key to determining the Reverse of 1879. On this reverse, the top arrow feather is slanted in relation to the other arrow feathers. See Figure A.
Approximately 80 to 90% of the surviving 1880-CC dollars bear this Reverse of 1879 design.
In 1972, after much fanfare and publicity, the General Services Administration began a series of five auction sales. The purpose of these auctions was to carefully liquidate the last 2.9 million silver dollars remaining at the U.S. Treasury.
Collectors were stunned when it was revealed that the vast majority of the coins in his hoard carried the greatly desired CC mintmark. The sale of these coins created a CC Dollar Sensation that has continued to this very day.
Over 131,000 coins from this hoard were dated 1880-CC. The great majority of mirror surface dollars of this date undoubtedly came from this hoard.
Unlike most dates, a great number of 1880-CC dollars suffer from a poor strike. High point detail is lacking on the hair above Liberty’s ear and on the eagle’s breast feathers.
In his authoritative Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook, author Wayne Miller suggests that these weak strikes are the product of defective dies (p. 91). Others have suggested that inadequate striking pressure may have played a role. Whatever the cause, the fact is that relatively few mirror surface 1880-CC dollars display a sharp to very sharp strike.
Other problems include cloudy, hazy luster, spotting and dip stain residue, and a tendency for annoying surface abrasions on Liberty’s cheek or ht fields in front of her face.
In my experience, less than 20% of the 1880-CC “Round Breast” mirror surface dollars grade MS-65 or higher.
PROOFLIKE: ANACS, PCGS and NGC combined have certified about 350 examples of this date in MS-63 Prooflike. Current high CCDN bid is $235. About 450 examples have been slabbed in MS-64 Prooflike (bid=$315). However, fewer than 175 have been graded MS-65 Prooflike by the major services (bid=$650). Most Prooflikes of this date display light to moderate cameo contrast and below average to average eye appeal
DEEP MIRROR PROOFLIKE: The leading services have been encapsulated just over 200, 1880-CC Reverse of 1879 dollars in MS-63 DMPL (CCDN bid is $240, just $5 more than MS-63 Prooflike bid). About 300 coins have been slabbed in MS-64 DMPL (bid=$350). Fewer than 80 examples have been certified as MS-65 DMPL. Current CCDN bid is $2,000.
This issue does exist with very deep mirrors and heavy cameo frost. Such “headlights” have sold for several multiples of Blue Sheet bid.
ULTRA DEEP MIRROR: As of August 2002, I am aware of ONLY 1 ULTRA DEEP MIRROR CERTIFIED EXAMPLE OF THIS DATE (an ANACS MS-64 U
DM). Mirror surface 1880-CC dollars with 12 inches or more of reflectivity on both sides of the coin are extraordinarily rare.
BETTER VARIETIES: The Treasury hoard of CC dollars contained a bonanza of overdate varieties for this issue. VAM-5, featuring a sharp second 8 over 7 high and VAM-6, featuring a second 8 struck over a low 7, are seen from time to time with mirror surfaces on both sides of the coin. They bring substantial premiums from knowledgeable variety specialists.
COMMENTS: My favorite grade for the 1880-CC with the Reverse of 1879 is MS-64 DMPL. Current certified bid is $350. Given the current very strong demand for CC dollars, collectors should expect to pay perhaps $425 to $500 for pleasing certified examples with nice cameo contrast.
1880-CC Reverse of 1878
Van Allen and Mallis listed ten different varieties (VAMS) for the 1880-CC dollar. Eight of these varieties displayed the “Round Breast” or Reverse of 1879. Two varieties, VAMS 4 and 7, displayed the “Flat Breast” or Reverse of 1878.
Among all surviving 1880-CC dollars, no more than 10 to 20% of them feature the elusive Reverse of 1878.
Again, the top arrow feather on the reverse of the coin is the key to determining the appropriate reverse style. On the Reverse of 1878, the top arrow feather is parallel to the other underlying feathers. See Figure B.
1880-CC dollars with the Reverse of 1878 typically are seen with a strike that is of just average quality. Sharply struck examples are scarce.
Luster on this issue also tends to be of average quality. However, roughly a quarter to a third of the 1880-CC Reverse of 1878 dollars have pleasing, eye-catching, milk-white luster.
Surface abrasions tend to be numerous and distracting. They are the primary deterrent to locating a Gem example of this date.
PROOFLIKE: As stated earlier, ANACS, PCGS, and NGC have slabbed about 350 1880-CC dollars with the Reverse of 1879 in MS-63 Prooflike. Would you believe ONLY 25 Reverse of 1878 examples have been slabbed in MS-63 Prooflike? It’s a fact!
Curiously, the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter (CCDN) does not price the 1880-CC with the Reverse of 1878 in Prooflike (although bids are listed for this issue in Deep Mirror Prooflike). Given the lack of Blue Sheet prices, I would estimate that current bid for this Reverse of 1878 should be roughly $350 in MS-63 PL.
A mere 20, 1880-CC dollars with the Reverse of 1878 have been certified by the leading services in MS-64 Prooflike. This makes the Reverse of ’78 more than 20 Times Scarcer than the Reverse of ’79 in MS-64 Prooflike! In this grade, the 1880-CC with the Reverse of 1878 should be worth in the $700 to $800 range, or more.
Only 8 examples of this issue have been graded MS-65 Prooflike by the three major services. Such coins could well command over $3,000 under current market conditions.
DEEP MIRROR PROOFLIKE: DMPL 1880-CC, Reverse of 1878, dollars are of about equal rarity with the Prooflike examples. A total of 31 have been slabbed in MS-63 DMPL (current CCDN bid is $400). ANACS, PCGS, and NGC have encapsulated only 22 in MS-64 DMPL (bid=$900). Only 6 1880-CC Reverse of 1878 dollars have been graded MS-65 DMPL by the three leading services. Current high CCDN bid is $5,000. Given the current demand for mirror surface dollars, an MS-65 DMPL example of this date might command a price that is well above bid levels.
ULTRA DEEP MIRROR: I have never seen, nor heard of, an 1880-CC Reverse of ’78 dollar with Ultra Deep Mirrors. I doubt that such a coin exists.
THEY’RE ALL OVERDATES! Only two VAMS are known with the Reverse of 1878. One of them, VAM-7, is unknown to me with mirror surfaces. The other VAM with the Reverse of 1878 is the famous VAM-4, 1880-79-CC dollars, featuring the sharpest and best known overdate in the Morgan dollar series! On this issue, both the 7 and the 9 are fully and clearly visible underneath the last two digits in 1880! Indeed, this issue would be worth a substantial premium just because of its status as an overdate. The fact that it also has the Reverse of 1878 is an added major bonus!
COMMENTS: The grade of MS-64 DMPL is my favorite grade for collectors of mirror surface 1880-CC Reverse of 1878 dollars. Current bid of $900 seems reasonable, given its population of just 22 coins graded by major services in that grade. However, collectors may have to pay over $1,200 for a nice example with noticeable cameo contrast.