VOL. XXIV, NO. 2
Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars, Part XVII
By Randy Campbell
“Gold and silver bullion may have stolen some of the thunder away from collector coins,” said one market observer. “But nice coins, including nice silver dollars, are still drawing lots of interest,” he concluded.
Interest, indeed. At the 28th Annual Silver Dollar Investors’ Forum held at the last FUN show, I predicted that Greysheet bid for the 1881-S in MS-65 DMPL (then $515) would top $600 by year’s end.
As of this writing (late May) bid for the 1881-S in MS-65 DMPL already has reached the $600 level! Several other dates, including the 1882-S and the 1883, have scored solid gains in recent months.
Even lower grade Deep Mirror Prooflike Morgans have drawn strong interest. The May 12 issue of the Coin Dealer Newsletter reported higher bid levels for nine different common dates in MS-63 DMPL. Dates like the 1880-S and 1881-S were quoted at a higher $63 bid in MS-63 Deep Mirror Prooflike.
Many coin dealers (and coin collectors) have made solid profits during the recent upsurge in gold and silver bullion prices. Will some of those profits be invested in mirror surface Morgan dollars?
The Philadelphia mint Morgan dollars struck from 1878 through 1884 have a well deserved reputation for being scarce to rare in Gem Prooflike and Gem Deep Mirror Prooflike condition. The 1882 is a good example of this trait.
The mintage of the 1882 (11.1 million) exceeds that of the 1880-S and is just slightly less than the mintage of the 1881-S. However, mirror surface 1882 Morgans are dozens of times scarcer than mirror surface 1882 dollars and are reasonably well struck. Surface abrasions are deeper and more numerous than usual.
Luster is problematical. A significant percentage of these dollars have been overdipped, cleaned or improperly stored. Many others suffer from noticeable surface hairlining.
In his landmark Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook, author Wayne Miller suggested that most 1882 dollars offered for sale as Prooflike are, at best, semi-prooflike “with fields that lack the depth of a fully Prooflike coin” (p. 96).
At ANACS, Prooflike dollars are required to have a minimum of two to four inches of clear reflectivity of standard typewriter printing on BOTH sides of the coin. The 1882, like the 1881-O, has many examples with mild reflectivity. Such coins will NOT bring full Prooflike prices from knowledgeable specialists.
MS-63 PL: The three major grading services combined have certified 190 examples of this date in MS-63 Prooflike. Most of them are brilliant Prooflikes with little or no cameo contrast between the fields and devices.
Current CCDN (“Bluesheet”) bid is $60.
MS-64 PL: As of recent population reports, the leading services have slabbed a total of 188 1882 dollars in MS-64 Prooflike condition. Typically these coins exhibit above average luster, a sharp strike and a few noticeable marks on Liberty’s cheek and neck.
Current Bluesheet bid is $100. Those pieces with noticeable cameo contrast may sell for $150-$200.
MS-65 PL: Despite its huge mintage, the 1882 is very scarce in Gem Prooflike condition. ANACS, PCGS and NGC combined have certified only 48 examples in MS-65 Prooflike.
Such coins should have a very sharp to full strike, superior eye-catching luster and perhaps just one or two minor marks in the prime focal areas. Overall eye appeal should be outstanding.
Current bid for 1882 dollars in Gem Prooflike condition is $545. Those exhibiting cameo contrast on both sides should sell for a substantial premium over bid levels.
Deep Mirror Prooflike
Most mirror surface 1882 Morgans lack the depth of mirrors necessary to qualify for the Deep Mirror Prooflike superlative.
Market grading standards require a minimum of four to six inches of reflectivity in the fields to qualify for DMPL.
Some 1882 dollars will be deeply mirrored on one side but only Prooflike on the other. At ANACS, such coins are given the Prooflike superlative.
MS-63 DMPL: ANACS, PCGS, and NGC combined have slabbed 174 examples of this date in MS-63 DMPL. In my experience, most of them have little or no cameo contrast.
Current sight-seen bid for the 1882 is $200 in MS-63 DMPL. Those examples with cameo contrast may command a price in excess of $250.
MS-64 DMPL: This is the target grade for many serious collectors and investors in mirror surface dollars. Demand is very strong.
The three major grading services combined reportedly have slabbed 169 examples of the 1882 Morgan in MS-64 DMPL. Given the huge price difference between MS-64 DMPL bid ($825) and MS-65 DMPL bid ($4,000), it is my opinion that several MS-64 DMPL’s have been cracked-out and resubmitted to the same (or different) grading services in an attempt to attain MS-65 DMPL status.
One dealer showed me a very attractive certified MS-64 DMPL at a coin show last year. “Do you think it’s a 65 DMPL?” he asked me.
“Not quite,” was my response. The dealer then told me he had submitted the coin twice to all three of the major grading services. In each case the coin received the same grade. “I guess the population reports for that coin are a bit high,” he laughed.
Thus, the propensity to crack-out and resubmit the coins has caused coins like the 1882 in MS-64 DMPL to have deceptively high population numbers. I would estimate that this date’s population of 169 represents not more than 100 to 125 different coins.
Current MS-64 DMPL bid is $825. Those with nice cameo contrast are worth substantially more.
MS-65 DMPL: the 1882 is a rare coin in certified MS-65 DMPL. As of recent population reports, ONLY 27 examples have been slabbed in MS-65 DMPL.
Such coins must have a minimum of four to six inch mirrors on both sides of the coin. The strike must be sharp to full.
Liberty’s cheek must be free of major marks. Overall eye appeal must be excellent to outstanding.
Current sight-seen bid is an impressive $4,000.
Ultra Deep Mirror
The 1882 is extremely rare with Ultra Deep Mirror surfaces on BOTH sides of the coin. Such coins are REQUIRED to have a minimum of 12 inches of clear reflectivity in the fields on BOTH sides of the coin. The mirrors on these coins are actually deeper than they are on many PROOF Morgans!
To date, ANACS has slabbed two examples in MS-63 UDM; two more have been certified in MS-64 UDM.
I am unaware of any recent sales of these coins. However, I would not be surprised if an MS-64 UDM traded hands for over $2,000 under current market conditions.
Best Grade for the Average Collector
Those collecting mirror surface Morgans on limited budges should consider the 1882 in MS-64 Prooflike. This coin combines a fairly low population (188 coins) with a very reasonable Bluesheet bid of $100.
As stated earlier, collectors should expect to pay at least $150-$200, or more, for pleasing certified examples.
Serious collectors and investors are drawn to the 1882 in certified MS-64 DMPL. They expect to pay over $1,000 for attractive examples of this date.