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Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars, Part XI

NSDR Journal

VOL. XX, NO. 2

July 2003



Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars, Part XI

By Randy Campell, NLG

FUN Education Director


A caller to the ANACS grading room asked me “Price-wise, how have Deep Mirror Prooflike Morgan dollars performed over the last year or so?”

A little research revealed some very interesting numbers.  In early March of 2002, common date MS-64 DMPL’s (such as the 1880-S and the 1885-O) were bid at $90 on the Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter.  Sixteen months later (July 2003), those same common dates are now bid at $128, a 42% increase in 16 months.

Similarly, the common date MS-65 Deep Mirror Prooflike rose from $275 bid to $340, an increase of about 24%.

However, bid prices don’t tell the whole story.  What have common date MS-65 DMPL Morgans Really Been Selling For?  At both the November Silver Dollar Show in St. Louis and the January FUN Convention in Orlando, I was able to confirm several actual sales at huge increments over bid.

One sale of three common date MS-65 DMPL’s went down for just over $1800, or almost Double Bid!

A flashy MS-64 DMPL 1881-CC (bid = $330) sold dealer-to-dealer for $500 and, later, for $600!  “If you’ve got an attractive DMPL dollar, you can throw away the Bluesheet,” said one very happy dealer.



My date-by-date analysis of Mirror Surface Morgan dollars continues with an examination of the 1880-O issue.

The 1880-O is another glaring example of why mintage figures are a poor predictor of the number of surviving coins in mirror surface condition.

The 1880-O’s mintage of about 5.3 million is roughly two-thirds the mintage of the 1880-S (8.9 million).  However, in Prooflike condition, there is a huge disparity in the number of survivors.  In grades ranging from MS-63 Prooflike through MS-66 Prooflike, ANACS, PCGS, and NGC have certified a combined total of just over 100, 1880-O dollars.  In those same grades, the three major services have slabbed over 16,000 1880-S dollars.

Thus, the 1880-O is about 150 TIMES SCARCER than the 1880-S in Prooflike condition.


General Characteristics

Most 1880-O dollars exhibit adequate high point detail.  Many are sharply struck (an unusual trait for a New Orleans mint dollar).

Luster generally ranges from average to below average quality.  The high demand (and high bid prices) for MS-64 and MS-65 examples has lead many collectors and dealers to dip and overdip marginal 1880-O dollars.  Such coins will have a dull, washed-out, lifeless appearance.

The 1880-O is one of the most heavily bagmarked dates in the Morgan dollar series.  Deep, distracting abrasions are the norm for this issue.

Thus, it’s not surprising to discover that most mirror surface 1880-O dollar exhibit way too many marks to be considered for choice or gem.

WARNING:  The so-called “coin doctors” love to work on Mirror Surface 1880-O dollars.  Deep scrapes on Liberty’s face may be thumbed, tooled, or filled with artificial frosting in an attempt to artificially raise the coin’s grade by one or two mint state grades.

Generally speaking, the graders at the three major certification services do a good job of detecting those fraudulently altered 1880-O dollars.  However, some of the lesser known services have slabbed 1880-O dollars with altered surfaces.

PROOFLIKE:  ANACS, PCGS and NGC combined have certified fewer than 90 1880-O Morgans in MS-63 Prooflike.  Current CCDN bid is $350.  Only 21 examples have been slabbed in MS-64 Prooflike.  Certified bid on this very scarce coin is $1,600.  ONLY ONE 1880-O dollar has been certified MS-65 Prooflike.  Current bid is $19,550.  What would it sell for at a major auction?

DEEP MIRROR PROOFLIKE:  The major grading services have encapsulated about 120 1880-O dollars in MS-63 Deep Mirror Prooflike.  Current CCDN bid is $485.  76 examples of this date have been slabbed MS-64 DMPL (bid = $3,320).  Again, ONLY ONE 1880-O dollar has been certified in the lofty grade of MS-65 Deep Mirror Prooflike.  The current theoretical bid for this condition rarity exceeds $50,000.

ULTRA DEEP MIRROR:  ANACS has certified three 1880-O dollars in MS-62 Ultra Deep Mirror and another three examples in MS-63 UDM.  These memorable coins feature incredibly deep mirrors on BOTH sides of the coin.  Also, all the UDM’s display attractive cameo contrast on both front and back.

Only one 1880-O dollar has been certified MS-64 Ultra Deep Mirror.  The coin, from the fabulous Bill Lower collection, featured intense cameo frost on the major devices and mirrors that were deeper then MOST PROOF MORGANS!

BETTER VARIETIES:  In his landmark Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook (published in 1982), author Wayne Miller commented that, “Many overdate varieties of the 1880-O exist.  None, however, command a premium” (p. 89).  Boy, how times have changed!

Currently, all of the major overdate varieties (VAMS-4, 5, 6, 6A and 6B) command substantial premiums in grades ranging from Fine through MS-62.  In higher grades the premium diminishes.

Among these overdates, only the 1880-O VAM-4 (1880 over 79) is seen with some regularity with mirror surfaces on both sides of the coin.

In the grade MS-64 Deep Mirror Prooflike, the VAM-4 accounts for roughly half of all the 1880-O dollars certified as 64 DMPL by ANACS.

COMMENTS:  MS-64 Deep Mirror Prooflike is my favorite grade for collectors of Mirror Surface 1880-O dollars.  Nice two-sided cameos should command a premium over the current bid of $3,220.

Those collecting on more modest budgets may want to consider pleasing MS-63 DMPL’s (current bid = $485).  Collectors should expect to pay $600 or more under current market conditions.

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