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Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars, Part VII

NSDR Journal


July 2002



Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars, Part VII

By Randy Campbell, NLG

FUN Education Director


In early June an east coast collector asked me, “What’s going on with mirror surface dollar prices?”  My quick response was, “They’re up and headed to even higher levels.”

In early March, the 1885-CC was bid at $310 in MS-64 Prooflike. Today, it’s quoted at $325 on the May 10 Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.  During that same period, the 1883-CC has jumped from $102 to $120 in MS-64 Prooflike.  Many common dates also have risen to higher bids.

Deep Mirror Prooflikes have scored significant gains during the last two months.  Common date MS-64 DMPL’s (like the 1884-O and the 1885-O) are up from $90 to $95 bid on the CCDN.  Among the common date MS-65 DMPL’s (like the 1880-S, 1881-S and the 1885-O) bid levels have jumped from $275 in early March to $300 in late May.  Demand is said to be very strong.

Reports from the just concluded June Long Beach coin convention indicate that dealers were asking – and getting – above current bid levels for MS-64 DMPL and MS-65 DMPL Morgan Dollars.  This tells me that more plus signs are on the way.



My date-by-date analysis of mirror surface Morgan dollars continues with an examination of the 1880 Philadelphia issue.

The 1880 typifies one of the great paradoxes of the Morgan dollar series.  Specifically, many dates with very high mintages (1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1884, 1889, 1890, 1921-D, 1921-S, etc.) are scarce to rare in Deep Mirror Prooflike condition while dates with much lower mintages (like the 1881-CC and the 1885-CC) are relatively common and available with deep mirrors on both sides of the coin.

A comparison of the 1880 (mintage: 12.6 million) to the 1880-S (mintage:  8.9 million) will serve to illustrate this most interesting anomaly.  In grades ranging from MS-63 Prooflike through MS-66 Prooflike, ANACS, PCGS and NGC have slabbed a combined total of just over 300, 1880 Philadelphia dollars.  In those same grades, the three major services have certified over 16,000 1880-S Morgan dollars!

Statistically speaking, the 1880-S is about 53 Times More Common in Prooflike condition than the 1880 Philadelphia!


General Characteristics

High mintage Philadelphia issues, such as the 1880, tend to exhibit a wide range in the quality of the strike.  Those that were struck toward the end of a given die’s lifespan will tend to display an average to flat strike. Conversely, those coins that were among the first struck will tend to have sharp high point detail.

In most cases mirror surface dollars constituted the first few hundred strikes off of properly polished and basined dies.  (Those dies that were not highly polished and basined would produce NO mirror surface dollars.)

Thus, because mirror surface dollars usually were the produce of fresh new dies, they usually display a sharp to full strike.  Such is the case with the 1880.  In my experience, most mirror surface 1880 dollars exhibit adequate high point detail.

The vast majority of mirror surface 1880 Morgans grade less than MS-65 because of a few too many surface abrasions or too many hairlines (caused by mishandling).

Quite a few 1880 PL and DMPL dollars have been carelessly overdipped to the point that the coin’s luster has been significantly impaired.  Such coins will have a dull, “washed-out” appearance.

Prior to 1971, the 1880 was very rare with mirror surfaces on both sides of the coin.  However, in that year, a bag of gorgeous cameos came onto the market (see Wayne Miller’s Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook, p. 88 for the details).  It is my opinion that the vast majority of PL and DMPL 1880 certified dollars came from that one solitary bag!

Prooflike:  ANACS, PCGS, and NGC combined have certified about 125, 1880 Morgans in MS-63 Prooflike.  Current CCDN bid is $60.  The major services have slabbed about 150 examples in MS-64 PL (bid = $125).  Only 34 1880 dollars have been encapsulated in MS-65 Prooflike condition.  Current Blue sheet bid is $925.

Deep Mirror Prooflike:  As of recent population reports, the major services have certified 108 1880 dollars in MS-63 Deep Mirror Prooflike.  Current bid is just $180.  A total of 144 coins have been slabbed in MS-64 DMPL (bid = $520).  Given the huge disparity between MS-64 DMPL bid and MS-54 DMPL bid, it is my opinion that many 1880 dollars have been cracked-out of MS-64 DMPL holders and resubmitted in the hope of having the coin upgraded.  Thus, the population of 144 in MS-64 DMPL may represent only 80 to 100 Different Coins!

ANACS, NCG, and PCGS have certified 34 coins in MS-65 DMPL.  Typically, these coins display very deep mirrors, frosted devices, and noticeable cameo contrast.  Current high CCDN bid is $2,300.  However, under current market conditions, a pleasing example could fetch over $3,000 at a major auction.

Each of the three major services has certified one 1880 Morgan in the lofty grade of MS-66 DMPL.  The one certified by ANACS, an amazing cameo “headlight,” currently is owned by an Ohio collector.  It is one of the most stunning Morgan dollars I have ever seen!

Ultra Deep Mirror:  Only one coin, an MS-63 UDM, has been certified in Ultra Deep Mirror, by ANACS.  I have never seen, nor heard of, a Gem Ultra Deep Mirror example of this date.

Better Varieties:  The 1880 Morgan dollar offers a bonanza of scarce to rare VAM varieties.  VAMS 1-A, 6, 7, 8, and 23 (among others) all trade for substantial premiums among variety specialists (see Oxman and Fey’s The Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties:  The VAM Keys for details.)  However, I am not aware of the existence of any of those five VAMS in mint state condition with mirror surfaces on both sides of the coin.  Are there any waiting to be found?

Comments:  MS-65 DMPL is my favorite grade for collectors of mirror surface 1880 dollars (expect to pay over $3,000).  Those collecting on a more modest budget should consider the MS-64 DMPL (bid = $520) or the MS-64 Prooflike (bid = $125).

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