VOL. XII, NO. 2
The Bill Lower Collection
By Randy Campbell
You’d pay to see it. It’s that nice. Even if you don’t like silver dollars; you’d like THESE silver dollars! “It” is the Bill Lower Collection of U.S. Morgan and Peace dollars. How nice are his dollars? ANACS’ Senior Numismatist, Michael Fahey, had a one word answer, “Wow!” Michael went on to say that “this is the nicest collection of its kind to come through ANACS in my 14 years as a professional grader.”
Bill Lower, an enthusiastic collector from New York state, began his silver dollar pursuits in the late 1950’s. By 1960, his collection included a VF example of the rarest date Morgan dollar (at the time) – the 1903-O. “I traded the ’03-O for about $500 worth of other silver dollars,” said Bill.
A few months later, the U.S. Treasury released hundreds of bags of dollars, AT FACE VALUE, to an amazed community of directors! Included in that release were multi-bag quantities of dates previously thought to have been nearly wiped out by the great silver dollar melts. Dates like 1898-O, 1902-O and 1904-O went from scarce date status to common date status within a few weeks. But the biggest loser undoubtedly was the 1903-O, whose value in BU collapsed from over $1,000 to less than $40! “I guess I timed my trade just right,” Bill told me.
Encouraged by his good fortune, Bill forged ahead. Mirror surfaced Prooflike dollars fascinated me,” said Bill. In the 1960’s, he purchased deeply mirrored dollars from dealers like Harry Forman, John Love and Dean Tavenner. In the 1970, he developed business relationships with Wayne Miller, Les Fox, Roger Bryan, Leroy Van Allen, and several other leading dealers. By this time, his appetite for deeply mirrored dollars was legendary.
My first encounter with Bill occurred at the 1977 A.N.A. convention in Atlanta. At that time current FUN board member Dr. Ken Embler and I were eagerly pursuing common date deep mirrors for about $10 to $15 per con. At that show, Ken and I were able to buy some extraordinary coins from some dealers. However, other dealers would simply shrug their shoulders and say “some guy from New York beat you to the prooflikes.” Eventually we caught up with Bill. We discovered that he, too, had an advanced case of “Prooflike Mania.”
Over the years, Bill expanded his dollar interests to include frosty surfaced dollars, gorgeously toned dollars, Proof dollars, and even an occasional Peace dollar. But deeply mirrored Morgans remained his number one interest.
Recently, Bill decided to have much of his incredible collection certified by ANACS. What follows are my descriptions of just a small segment of his collection. Sit back, get your soda and popcorn, and enjoy the show!
First, in order to enhance your enjoyment, I will describe the following superlatives;
PROOFLIKE (or PL): minimum of 2 to 4 inches of reflectivity of standard typewriter print in the fields of the coin, on both sides, with no areas of fade out.
DEEP MIRROR PROOFLIKE (or DMPL): minimum of 4 to 6 inches of reflectivity in the fields of both sides of the coin, with no areas of fade out. A dollar that is DMPL on one side and PL on the other side is considered PL by ANACS standards.
ULTRA DEEP MIRROR (UDM): minimum of 12 inches of reflectivity on both sides of the coin. Dollars that are UDM on one side and DMPL on the other side considered DMPL by ANACS standards. Most dates are unknown in Ultra Deep Mirror.
Now, on to some of the highlights of the Bill Lower Collection as certified by ANACS.
1881-S: MS-68! A snow white, untoned, fully struck blazer! The cheek is perfect!
1878-8TF: MS-65 PL. The obverse is DMPL, with heavy cameo contrast.
1878-7TF: MS-65 DMPL. The finest DMPL of this issue I have ever seen.
1878-7TF (Rev. of 1879): An ultra rare MS-64 DMPL Round Breast, plus an amazing MS-65 PL, which is tied for the finest known PL of this date!
1878-7/8 TF: MS-64 DMPL. Scarce VAM-38 that approaches MS-65 quality.
1878-CC: Two MS-656 DMPL’s. Two blazing cameos, with flashy gold and purple rim toning. Several MS-64 DMPL’s are also in his collection.
1878-S: MS-66 PL. Deep mirror cameo obverse with a PL reverse. Solid eye appeal.
1879: MS-65 DMPL, and an amazing MS-66 PL, tied with one other coin for the finest known!
1879-CC: MS-65 PL. ABSOLUTELY THE FINEST KNOWN! This is the only MS-65 OL of this date ever certified by ANY MAJOR SERVICE! One of the highlights of the Bill Lower Collection.
1879-O: An MS-64 DMPL with cameo contrast plus an MS-65 with creamy white luster and canary yellow toning at the rims. Very close to MS-66.
1879-S: A frosty MS-67 with an incredible obverse!
1880: His impressive MS-65 DMPL was exceeded by his truly incredible MS-66 DMPL, an eye-catching cameo; the finest ever graded by ANACS and tied for the finest known!
1880-O: MS-64 DMPL. A deeply mirrored cameo with heavy contrast. Tied for the highest graded by ANACS.
1880-S: MS-67 PL. The obverse is DMPL.
1881: MS-65 DMPL. So rare! Tied for the highest graded by any service.
1881-O: Ho-hum. Just a couple of MS-65’s.
1881-S: The aforementioned MS-68 is a”wow” coin. His cameo MS-67 DMPL isn’t bad, wither.
1881-CC: I thought his MS-66 DMPL was a neat coin. But Bill’s MS-66 UDM was an amazing cameo “headlight!”
1882: Bill’s rare MS-65 PL is barely worth mentioning. His two, yes TWO MS-765 DMPL’s were tied with a few others for the finest known DMPL’s of this date. WERE? Yes, “were.” The Lower Collection includes a stupendous 1882 in MS-66 DMPL, the FINEST KNOWN ON THE PLANET! You will not believe this coin when you see it!
1882-CC: MS-65 UDM. “Across the room mirrors,” with exceptional cameo frost.
1882-O: MS-65 UDM. The highest graded UDM of this date by 3 points! I have never seen a deeper, more heavily contrasted example of this date.
1882-S: MS-65 PL. Half of the reverse is covered by an arc of vivid, original bag toning.
1883: MS-65 DMPL. An attractive, deep cameo.
1883-O: Bill’s MS-65 UDM reminds me of a prooflike dollar! But his sensational MS-66 DMPL is tied for the finest known DMPL of this date!
1883-S: MS-64. Frosty and untoned.
1884-CC: MS-67 UDM. This is only the SECOND MORGAN DOLLAR EVER GRADED MS-67 UDM! A mind boggling “headlight” that virtually defies description! The jet-black ultra deep mirrored fields frame the incredibly frosted essentially mark free devices. A wonder coin! ANACS grader Mike Faraone said, “Just looking at this coin is an incredible experience!”
1884-O: MS-65 UDM. A frosted cameo with the deepest mirrors I’ve ever seen on an ’84-O!
1885: MS-66 DMPL. Untoned blazer with a very clean cheek. The first MS-66 DMPL certified by ANACS.
1885-CC: Two MS-66 DMPL’s with light rim toning.
1885-O: Just an MS-65 DMPL. Am I spoiled, or what?
1885-S: MS-65 PL. The finest ever graded by ANACS and tied for the finest known PL of this date.
1886: MS-66 PL. Untoned and very attractive.
1886-O: An MS-63 PL and an MS-64. Very scarce.
1886-S: MS-64 UDM. Incredible depth of mirrors! Beautiful purple/blue peripheral toning.
1887: MS-67 DMPL. The FINEST KNOWN DMPL OF THIS DATE, PERIOD! Moderate cameo contrast highlights this sensational Morgan dollar. After examining this coin, ANACS grader Charley Erb said “This is why people are attracted to Morgan dollars!” Amen.
1887-O: Three, count ‘em, three MS-64 DMPL’s, plus an amazing MS-65 Prooflike! Expensive.
1887-S: MS-66. Unbelievable frost over an incredibly sharp strike! Tied for the finest known! This is the best 1887-S I have ever seen. Current Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter bid is $10,500. This coin may be worth more!
1888: MS-66 DMPL. Just a hint of yellow toning at the rims. Tied for the highest graded by ANACS.
1888-O: MS-65 DMPL plus an MS-66 PL. The Lower Collection is memorable for both its quality and its quantity.
1888-S: Bill’s MS-64 DMPL is flashy. His MS-66 is outstanding! The obverse has light golden toning over a nearly perfect cheek. The reverse features unforgettable lilac, blue and canary yellow toning. What color!
1889: MS-66. Snow white, untoned, and a very sharp strike.
1889-O: MS-65 PL, the highest graded by ANACS in PL, plus a superlative MS-66, the best I’ve ever seen for this date.
1889-CC: MS-62 PL. A $10,000 coin that won’t impress you.
1889-S: MS-65 DMPL. So nice and so rare! A deeply reflective cameo. ANACS, PCGS and NGC have each graded one MS-65 DMPL of this date. Is this the best of them?
1890: MS-64 DMPL. This very scarce deep cameo would be the highlight of many dollar collections. It’s barely a footnote in the Lower Collection.
1890-O: A high end MS-64 DMPL and a fully gem MS-65 DMPL. Each coin has noticeable cameo contrast.
1890-CC: Five, yes five, MS-64 DMPL’s plus an unusually mark free MS-65 PL that is tied for the finest known certified PL of this date!
1891-CC: MS-64 DMPL. An underrated date in this grade.
1891-O: MS-63 DMPL. A great rarity in Deep Mirror Prooflike.
1891-S: MS-65 PL. The highest graded PL of this date certified by ANACS.
1892: MS-64 PL. One of the finest known PL’s of this date in existence. An untoned beauty!
1893: Proof-65. A sharply struck, attractive proof.
1894: Proof-64 Cameo. Terrific cameo contrast.
1895: Proof-64. A near gem Proof example of this, “The King of the Morgan Dollars.”
1895-S: MS-64 PL. Just a few marks disturb the beautifully mirrored fields.
1897-S: An MS-65 DMPL and an MS-66. Two very neat coins.
1898: Unbelievably, the Lower Collection contains FOUR MS-65 DMPL 1898 dollars! An amazing accumulation!
1898-O: Bill’s fabulous MS-66 DMPL was “blown away” by his unfathomable MS-67 DMPL 1898-O! This amazingly mark free deep cameo is THE HIGHEST GRADED DMPL OF THIS DATE EVER GRADED BY ANY SERVICE! It was a thrill to examine this incredible dollar!
1899: MS-66 PL. The only MS-66 PL of this date certified by ANACS.
1899-O: MS-67. Milky white luster, a virtually perfect cheek, and yellow/gold peripheral toning, plus an absolutely full strike! Wow, again!
1900: MS-66. Snow white and sharply struck.
1900-O: MS-64 DMPL. Not all coins of this date in 64 DMPL holders really are DMPL. This one is.
1900-S: MS-64 PL. Uncommon in PL.
1901: Proof-63. Seems ordinary compared to some other coins in this collection.
1902: MS-66. Exceptional luster graces this nearly prooflike 1902 Morgan.
1903-O: MS-66. A creamy white, untoned, blazing beauty.
1904: MS-64 PL. Tied for the finest known certified Prooflike of this date. A very rare date in PL.
And how about the Peace dollars in the Bill Lower Collection? So far, only a few have been certified. Here are the highlights.
1922-S: MS-66. A hint of golden toning over lustrous, mark free surfaces. A usually sharp strike for the date. Tied for the finest known!
1923: MS-66. Several superb, untoned, gems.
1928: MS-65. Sharply struck and free of major abrasions.
1928-S: 65. The most sharply struck and lustrous example of this date I have ever seen at ANACS. Among the finest known of this, the rarest date in the series in MS-65!
1935-S: MS-66. A pure white monster! One small mark on the neck from MS-67!!
ANACS has not yet seen all of the coins in Bill Lower’s fabulous dollar collection. However, more will be on their way to Columbus in the very near future. I am told there in a memorable 1884-S, a superb 1896-S, an ultra rare Proof 1893-CC, plus some other sensational specimens!
Perhaps there will be a “Bill Lower Collections, Part II,” article in the future? I sincerely hope so!