Vol. XII, No. 4
The Overdate Dollars of 1887
By Randy Campbell
One of the most exciting aspects of this great hobby is that fact that there are still an unknown number of new discoveries waiting to be found by today’s eager collectors. For instance, in 1993, yours truly discovered a 1922 Peace dollar with a naked-eye doubled die reverse. I could hardly believe my good luck!
In 1971, researcher Ted Clark discovered a much more significant variety when he announced the discovery of the 1887 over 6 Philadelphia Morgan dollar. A year later, numismatist Bob Riethe discovered the 1887 over 6 New Orleans dollar. (Is there an 1887 over 6 San Francisco dollar waiting to be discovered?)
There was a strong favorable reaction to these impressive discoveries by the collecting fraternity. By 1975, the Red Book valued the Philadelphia overdate at $250 in VF and $500 in Uncirculated, while the “O” mint overdate was listed $275 and $900, respectively. By 1985, both issues had declined significantly. The 1887/6 Philadelphia listed for $20 (VF) and $75 (Unc.) while the “O” mint was priced at just $22 and $90.
Collector Interest Returns
In recent years collector interest in these overdate dollars has started to return. One reason is the fact that it is now generally accepted that a complete set of dollars must have both the 1887/6 and the 1887/6-O.
A second reason is the success of the Society of Silver Dollar Collectors. Director Jeff Oxman has done an outstanding job of disseminating the latest information on silver dollar varieties. The organization publishes a quarterly journal and conducts about 4-6 auctions per year within dollar varieties are put up for bids. The two 1887 overdate issues consistently have brought strong prices in SSDC auction sales.
A third reason for the increasing interest in these overdate dollar is the overwhelming success of The Cherrypicker’s Guide to Rare Die Varieties by Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton. Both the first and second editions of this book were complete sell-outs. The recently released (and expanded) third edition is easily one of the most popular books in all of numismatics. Among other things, this book covers some of the more significant Morgan dollar die varieties, including the 1887/6 and 1887/6-O dollars. Collector awareness of these overdates has increased substantially because of this highly popular book.
Speaking of die varieties, the 1992 edition of the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars (the “VAM” book) by A. George Mallis and Leroy Van Allen has resulted in a major increase in the popularity of collecting die varieties. This book was selected as the winner of the Book of the Year Award by the Numismatic Literary Guild, a fitting award for a book that has had such a strong impact on our hobby.
The three major grading services (ANACS, PCGS and NGC) constitute a fifth reason for the increasing popularity of these overdate dollars. All three of these services certify these overdates and include them in their population reports. And, indeed, those low census figures in the population reports have certainly stimulated some buying by those who buy with an eye toward scarcity and possible future price appreciation.
How Scarce are These Overdate Dollars?
Only one die pair was used to produce the 1887/6 Philadelphia dollars. Likewise, I am aware of only one variety for the “O” mint overdate. Since die life lasted for perhaps 100,000 coins, we have a rough estimate for the maximum number of overdate dollars that were produced.
How many were melted? One guess is as good as another. However, it is my professional opinion that at least 90 percent of the Morgan dollar series was melted during the various silver melts of the last several decades. We know, for instance, that over 270 million cartwheels were melted in 1918 under the provisions of the Pittman Act. Countless millions more were destroyed in subsequent years, especially in 1980, when silver bullion prices reached $50 per ounce.
If 90 percent of these 1887/6 overdate issues were melted, that would leave an approximate survival of 10,000 coins. However, since to my knowledge none of the major dollar hoards contained any of these overdate coins, the TRUE survival rate is probably well below the 10,000 level for each issue. My speculation is that there are no more than 3,000 to 6,000 examples of each overdate in existence.
This estimate is substantially below the published approximate population estimate of numismatic scholar Q. David Bowers. In his Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States (1993), Bowers suggested the following survival rates:
G-4 to AU-58
MS-60 to 64
MS-65 & UP
10,000 – 20,000
5,150 – 10,300
100 – 200
15,250 – 30,500
7,500 – 15,000+
1,360 – 2,720
0 – 10
8,860 – 17,730+
However, my 35 years experience as a silver dollar specialist (including six years as a professional grader) has forced me to conclude that Dave Bowers’ estimates are very optimistic.
Survival estimates aside, what do the population reports of the three major grading services have to say regarding the actual number of certified overdate dollars? To answer this question, I analyzed recent population reports from ANACS, PCGS and NGC. The results of that analysis may surprise you!
The 1887/6 Philadelphia Overdate
CIRCULATED: The three services combined have certified only 15 AU 1887/6 dollars. Just 3 coins have been certified below AU. The fact that so few overdates have been certified in circulated condition can be attributed to several factors. First, the cost of certification ($10 for ANACS, $15 and up for PCGS and NGC) makes it not cost effective to certify low grade overdates. It hardly makes sense to slab a VF ‘87/6 (bid = $17) if you have to pay $15, plus postage, to get it certified. Second, these overdates are difficult to impossible to detect in grades below VF because the faint traces of the 6 are sometimes completely worn off on lower grade specimens. Third, it is my opinion (Bowers disagrees) that very few VF to AU overdates have survived the great silver dollar melts. Therefore very few will be listed in the population reports.
Current Coin Dealer Newsletter bid levels for the 1887/6 Philadelphia overdate are: VF-$17; EF-$24. Just two years ago, this date was bid at only $40 in AU. However, rising demand for this issue has driven AU bid to $56.
UNCIRCULATED: The combined population and bid levels for the 1887/6 dollar are as follows: MS-60=30 coins, $125 bid; MS-61=55 coins, $210 bid; MS-62=197 coins, $400 bid; MS-63=190 coins, $875 bid; MS-64=83 coins, $1,350 bid; MS-65=25 coins, $3,100 bid. The combined population in uncirculated condition is 580 coins.
PROOFLIKE: A total of 84 1887/6 overdates have been slabbed in prooflike condition. This includes MS-63 PL=38 coins, $1,000 bid; MS-64 PL=15 coins, $1,500 bid and MS-65 PL=1 coin, $5,200 bid. There is also one certified MS-66 Prooflike, the finest known example of this overdate.
DEEP MIRROR PROOFLIKE: 46 ‘87/6 dollars have been certified in DMPL. This includes MS-63 DMPL=17 coins, $3,650 bid; and MS-64 DMPL=9 coins, $5,000 bid.
To date, the three major services have certified a total of 729 1887/6 dollars. Undoubtedly, some of these coins were cracked out and resubmitted to the same (or different) grading services in the hope of obtaining a higher grade. Thus, the actual number of different coins submitted to the services is certainly below 700 and may be below 600.
The 1887/6 New Orleans Overdate
CIRCULATED: ANACS, PCGS and NGC have certified a total of 52 ‘87/6-O dollars in circulated condition. 46 have been slabbed in AU, and 6 in lower circulated grades. Current Greysheet bids for this overdate are: VF=$18; EF=$26; and AU=$60. This AU bid represents a $20 increase since 1993.
UNCIRCULATED: The combined population and bid levels for mint state ‘87/6-O dollars are as follows: MS-60 =100 coins, $220 bid; MS-61=113 coins, $300 bid; MS-62=132 coins. $575 bid; MS-63=67 coins, $1,500 bid; MS-64=8 coins, $4,500 bid.
How about MS-65s? There aren’t any! The 1887/6-O is one of just two dates in the series (the other is the 1882-O over S) for which no coins have been certified above MS-64 by any of the three major services.
Prooflikes? Deep Mirror Prooflikes? It’s the same story. The 1887/6-O is one of just a handful of dates for which no mirror surfaced dollars are known to exist.
As of this writing (August, 1995), the three major services have certified a total of 476 1887/6-O dollars in all grades combined. Allowing for crack-outs and resubmissions, the actual number of coins is certainly below 450 and may be below 400 coins.
Speaking of 400, Q. David Bowers reports that a hoard of 400 uncirculated 1887/6-O dollar surfaced at the 1977 ANA convention in Atlanta. It is possible that some (most?) of the certified mint state examples of this overdate are from that hoard.
A Source of Confusion
The 1887/6-O has a die variety that is sometimes confused with the overdate. Specifically, the 1887-O, VAM-2 features a double 1 and a tripled 7. The triple punched 7 is occasionally misattributed as a 7 over a 6. Careful study of the photos and descriptions in the VAM book will help the collector avoid this confusing situation. (Parenthetically, the VAM-2 is worth cherrypicking because it brings a nice premium in EF and AU, although not as much of a premium as the overdate.)
Another source of confusion centers around the fact that the remnants of the underlying 6 are even weaker on the New Orleans coin than they are on the Philadelphia overdate. On those struck from a late die state, the 6 can be very difficult to see. Cherrypicker supreme Bill Fivaz located one of these coins housed in an NGC holder. The coin was certified as a regular 1887-O, not an overdate. However, the eagle-eyed Mr. Fivaz noted the remnant of the 6, bought the coin, and eagerly showed off his prize to me at a show a few months ago!
Best Grade for the Average Collector
Those collectors working on limited budgets may want to consider the purchase of AU or MS-60 examples of these overdates. However, in my opinion, the best grade to buy for the 1887/6 Philadelphia is the MS-63 Prooflike, currently bid at $1,000.
With a combined population of just 38 coins, this overdate is a recognized rarity in that grade. MS-64s (bid=$1,350) are also recommended.
My preferred grade for the ’87/6-O is the MS-63, currently quoted at $1,500. Only 67 coins have been certified in MS-63, and only 8 coins have been slabbed in MS-64. Thus, for most dollar collectors, the MS-63 ‘87/6-O is the highest grade they will ever see for this date. It is also the highest grade most collectors can afford.
Buy Them Certified
Dollars are sometimes sold to novices as overdates that, in fact, are not overdates. At a recent coin show, a collector brought an 1887 dollar up to the ANACS table for a free verbal opinion. The coin which he thought was an overdate was, in reality, an 1887 with scratches applied around the bottom of the 7 to mimic a 6.
The best way for beginners to avoid making a costly mistake is to BUY THEM CERTIFIIED! ANACS, PCGS, and NGC guarantee the grade and authenticity of their encapsulated dollars, an invaluable asset at liquidation time. Of course, those of you who are more experienced are invited to “cherrypick away!”
Check the Junk Boxes
You’ve gone to a coin show and spent just about all the money you want to spend. As you head out the door, you notice a dealer with a large box of EF and AU dollars. After sorting through about 25 coins, you pick up an AU 1887-O. You grab your trusty loupe, examine the date carefully and, holy cow, it’s ———————
Have fun collecting silver dollars!