VOL. XXII, NO. 3
Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars Part XIV
By Randy Campbell, NLG
Director of FUN Education
At a recent A.N.A. Convention in Pittsburgh, a collector came up to the ANACS table and asked me, “Where have all the DMPL dollars gone?”
“To Europe,” said a recent commentary in the Coin Dealer Newsletter. Indeed, overseas investors are jumping on the silver dollar express. And many of these buyers are attracted to Mirror Surface Morgan Dollars.
“Off the market,” were the words used by the Florida dealer Don Bonser. When the coin market was slow, some of the same coins would rotate from one dealer’s stock to another dealer’s inventory week after week. “Under current hot market conditions, when many coins are sold, they are off the market,” said Bonser. For the most part, coins sold at coin shows today are being sold to serious investors or hard core collectors who have no intention of reselling these coins in the foreseeable future. They are “off the market.”
Thus it’s no wonder that collectors had a difficult time locating nice Mirror Surface dollars even at the world’s second largest coin show in Pittsburgh. Indeed, one DMPL enthusiast told me, “There are less than 25 attractive MS-65 DMPL dollars at this show. It’s hard to believe!”
My date-by-date analysis of Mirror Surface Morgan dollars continues with an examination of the 1881 Carson City issue.
The magic CC mintmark combined with this date’s very low mintage (296,000) have made the 1881-CC one of the more popular dates in the series. However, low mintage and popularity should be confused with rarity.
The great GSA Carson City dollar auction sales of the 1970’s included approximately 147,000 1881-CC dollars. Those coins were dispersed among tens of thousands of successful bidders. Thus, the 1881-CC is one of those dates that can be found at virtually any medium or large-sized coin convention.
The typical 1881-CC displays a sharp to very sharp strike (much sharper on average than the typical 1880-CC).
Luster tends to be well above the series average. 1881-CC dollars with below average luster most likely have been cleaned, overdipped, or improperly stored.
Bagmarks tend to be fewer than average in both number and severity.
Given these factors, it is my opinion that the 1881-CC is the most consistently appealing dollar ever struck at the Carson City mint.
Prooflike Morgan dollars must exhibit a minimum of two to four inches of clear reflectivity of standard printing in the fields on both sides of the coin.
MS-63 PL: The three major grading services combined have certified 396 1881-CC dollar sin MS-63 Prooflike. Current Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter bid is $400.
MS-64 PL: ANACS, PCGS and NGC combined have slabbed 445 examples of this date in MS-64 Prooflike. Current Bluesheet bid is $450, just $50 more than the price quoted for MS-63 PL’s.
MS-65 PL: A total of 151 1881-CC dollars have been certified MS-65 Prooflike by the major services. Most of them feature moderate cameo contrast, a very sharp strike, and no major abrasion. A few minor marks may be seen.
Current CCDN bid is $650. However in The Real World of Coin Shows, MS-65 PLs of this date are trading in the $750-$1,000 price range.
Deep Mirror Prooflikes
At ANACS, Deep Mirror prooflike dollars must have a least four to six inches of clear reflectivity in the fields on BOTH sides of the coin. This distinction is an important one because DMPL 1881-CC dollars are worth substantially more than Prooflike examples.
The 1881-CC is one of the more common dates in the series in Deep Mirror Prooflike. It is more common in DMPL than dates like 1879-S, 1882-S or 1904-O. Strong collector demand for CC dollar sis the primary reason for the relatively high price of this date.
MS-63 DMPL: ANACS PCGS and NGC combined have encapsulated 403 1881-CC dollar sin MS-63 DMPL. Typically, these coins exhibit very deep mirrors, nice cameo contrast and a few annoying marks in the prime focal areas (such as the cheek, neck or the fields in front of the face).
Current sight unseen Bluesheet bid is $420. However, sight-seen bid on the Greysheet is $710.
MS-64 DMPL: The major services combined have certified 610 examples of this date in MS-64 DMPL. These coins generally display very positive eye appeal and an overall pleasing appearance. A couple of marks on the cheek or, perhaps, a slight luster deficiency are all that separate them from 65 status.
Sight-unseen bid in MS-64 DMPL is $470. Sight-seen Greysheet bid is $1,025.
MS-65 DMPL: The three leading certification services have slabbed 211 1881-CC dollars in MS-65 DMPL. Virtually all of these coins exhibit very deep mirrors, moderate to heavy cameo contrast and just a few stray abrasions.
Mirror surface dollar fanatics sometimes will pay outrageous premiums for those coins that have the greatest cameo contrast and the best overall eye appeal. Current Bluesheet and Greysheet prices “reflect” this market reality.
Current sight-unseen Bluesheet bid for the 1881-CC in MS-65 DMPL is $800. Conversely, sight-seen Greysheet bid is $2,250.
My interpretation of this information is, perhaps, a controversial one. It is my view that the so-called “sight-unseen market” is almost nonexistent in the MS-65 DMPL market.
Those buying MS-65 DMPL dollars WANT TO SEE THE COIN! A well known dollar dealer told me, “You’d have to be an idiot to buy a Gem DMPL dollar sight-unseen. There are too many coins out there that don’t measure up!”
1881-CC dollars in MS-65 DMPL that do “measure up” may command $2,500 or more under current market conditions.
Ultra Deep Mirrors
The 1881-CC is one of the ten most common dates in the series in Ultra Deep Mirror. Such coins must exhibit a minimum of 12-inch mirrors BOTH sides of the coin.
To date, ANACS has slabbed 9 examples in MS-63 UDM; 9 more in MS-64 UDM; 4 in MS-65 UDM and one stupendous example in MS-66 Ultra Deep Mirror.
That lone MS-66 UDM featured incredibly deep mirrors, heavy cameo frost and incredible eye appeal. It had mirrors that are deeper than most Proof Morgan Dollars!
Best Grade for the Average Collector
Those looking for a pleasing mirror surface 1881-CC dollar for less than $500 probably are out of options in this very hot coin market.
As of this writing, MS-64 DMPL 1881-CC dollars are bid at $1,025 on the Greysheet. Real sales reportedly are taking place in the $1,200-$1,500 range. I expect these real world prices to rise to even higher levels before this article appears in print.
Nonetheless, those collectors on limited budgets should consider the 1881-CC in certified MS-64 DMPL. It is worth paying a premium to buy those coins with pleasing cameo contrast.
Investors and advanced collectors historically are drawn to the 1881-CC in MS-65 DMPL. At $2,250 Greysheet bid, this date cannot be considered undervalued. However, under current conditions, I expect this coin to rise to even higher levels during the next few months.
Finally, MS-64 UDM or MS-65 UDM ’81-CC’s are extremely popular. The problem is FINDING ONE!
In my previous column I discussed the rarity and pricing of the 1881 Philadelphia Morgan dollar in MS-65 DMPL. At the time, the major services combined had slabbed 16 examples.
At the October Silver Dollar Show in St. Louis, the 17th example surfaced in the inventory of an Illinois dealer. The coin, certified 65 DMPL by PCGS, featured very deep mirrors and intense cameo contrast on the obverse.
The asking price was $17,500 (versus a Greysheet bid of $11,000)!