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Top 10 of the Top 100 – Part 9

NSDR Journal


Winter 2007

Top 10 of the Top 100

By Michael S. Fey, Ph.D.

Part 9 of 10


This is the ninth installment of a 10 part series

to present the Top 10 of the Top 100 Morgan dollar varieties.


The ninth example of the Top 10 of the Top 100 that we will consider is the 1903 S “small s” mintmark, VAM 2.

According to the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen & A. George Mallis, six different “S” mintmarks were used in striking Morgan dollars from 1878 to 1921.  The “S” mintmark denotes coins that were struck at the branch mint inSan Francisco.

A micro “s” mintmark was used to strike coins solely in 1921.  Very large “S” mintmarks were used solely in 1880.  Morgan dollars with small square “s,” medium rounded “S” and large “S” mintmarks were used to strike coins from 1878-1904.

While the vast majority of 1903 S Morgan dollars were struck with the large “S” mintmark, apparently only one die pair, VAM 2, was struck with a reverse having a small “s” mintmark.  This is an eyeball noticeable variety, one that is rarely encountered in grades of AU or finer, and scarcely encountered in lower circulated grades.

The 1903 S Morgan dollar is known as a semi-key date in the Morgan dollar series.  The combined populations from NGC, PCGS, and ANACS indicate that only a singleMintState example exists, an NGC 62.  It sold on eBay in November 2004 for a whopping $10,201.

The remaining 230 circulated examples certified by the combined grading services above grade mostly below in the AG-VF range.

The 1903 small “s” variety has captured the imagination of Morgan dollar variety collectors as well as date collectors.  It is currently considered a “hot Top 10 variety,” one that’s in high demand.  Very fine (VF) specimens bring about $800.  An Extremely Fine (EF) 45 example recently sold for $1800 in a PCGS holder.  And, a PCGS Almost Uncirculated (AU) 55 recently traded for about $4500.

Should another certifiedMintStatespecimen surface, I would expect it to exceed the prior record price.  When you consider that a common 1903 S Morgan dollar in EF is worth about $250, in AU about $1400, and in MS 63, $5500, it pays to search for the 1903 small “s” variety.

Eyeball noticeable mintmarked Morgan dollar varieties such as the 1903 small “s” variety, the various 1896, 1899, 1900 and 1902 O micro “o” varieties, as well as the 1888 and 1889 oval “O” mintmark varieties make for an interesting and rare Morgan dollar collection.

In the next issue, we will conclude the Top 10 of the Top 100 with a list of my favorite picks.


Knowledge is King!

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