VOL. XXV, NO. 3
1889 CC Morgan Dollar Genuine Dies
A study by John Roberts
(Revised 8 July 07)
5 obverse dies and 5 reverse dies combine to form 6 die pairs.
It has been my privilege to authenticate a number of examples of this key date Morgan Dollar. Unlike the 1893-S and 1894 Philadelphia issues, there has been little information available to positively identify genuine dies for this important date. To this end, notes and photographs were taken from every suitable example encountered. After a number of months, it appears the dies actually used or those with their issue still extant are largely accounted for. Two particular stages have proven to be particularly elusive, but the dies that produced them are identified with a fair degree of certainty. The best source of information on 89-CC’s has been the Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis along with the annual updates of this work by Leroy Van Allen. However, the VAM book is about varieties, not die diagnostics of otherwise fairly unremarkable pieces from the viewpoint of a variety specialist. Each die pair has been cross-referenced to its VAM number when possible. It is almost a law of nature that any written work becomes outdated almost as soon as it is published. I welcome the discovery of other legitimate dies and the unveiling of stages not illustrated here. Without a beginning, there is no growth of knowledge. It is my hope that the information presented here will assure those that own genuine pieces and further suppress the forgeries that damage our market.
I have used shorthand for date positions that has not appeared elsewhere, although these measurements are similar to those used in the Van Allen-Mallis work. It was necessary to fix more accurate locations for this type of work. The left and right edges of the base of the 1 were measured relative to the point of the neck and the number of denticles in between. These distances were prefaced in shorthand by LEB1 and REB1. The letter and number following is a denticles count, C3 is for the center of the 3rd, LH4 would be over the left half of the 4th, RE2 is the right edge of the 2nd, and B45 would be located between the 4th and 5th denticles. After seeing the measurements a few times, they should become as familiar as Overton’s star positions are to Capped Bust Half collectors. When the mintmark is discussed, the first C is denoted as C1 and the second as C2.
In his work Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States A Complete Encyclopedia, Q David Bowers notes that 10 obverse and 7 reverse dies were shipped to Carson City to produce dollars in 1889. Mint records indicated that 350,000 pieces were produced. Bowers estimated a surviving population of between 8500 and 15,000 pieces in all grades. Although several thousand mint state pieces were placed into numismatic channels in the early 1960’s only a single example was in the GSA holdings. It is far and away the rarest Carson City date and a key to the series.
I have positively identified five obverse and five reverse dies forming six marriages.
Here is a “Quick Finder” index to aid in attribution
|LEB1||C3||Die Pair 1 C2 appears low; Die Pair 4 C2 appears high|
|LEB1||B34||Die Pair 2 C2 high; Die Pair 5 C2 low; Die Pair 6 CC’s level|
|LEB1||LH3||Die Pair 3 CC’s level & almost always cracked thru S of PLURIBUS|
It has been of great assistance to view the permanent archives of two major auction houses. I would like to thank Heritage and Stacks/ANR for making their past and present catalogs available online for no charge. It has proven to be an invaluable research tool. I have noted two examples of each listing by their lot number. Please visit their websites to view large images of higher grade examples of each die pairing.
If any genuine examples are encountered that do not match these descriptions, I would appreciate the opportunity to examine them to photograph and to edit my descriptions.
Editor’s Note: Photos of the obverse and reverse of die pairs 1 and 2 were shown in the Summer 2007 issued of the Journal. This issue concludes the article showing die pairs 3, 4, 5, and 6.