Why Some Coins are Worth More than Others

Popularity and rarity are the cornerstones to what makes a coin valuable.  What is worth more, an 1878-S or 1893-S U.S. Morgan silver dollar?  Those who have never collected or cared about coins will normally gravitate to the oldest as being the most valuable.  Old U.S. silver dollars are among the most popular coins to collect.  Fortunately for us, the United States Mint made hundreds of millions of examples.  Most silver dollars are not rare although all have a premium.  An average 1878-S Morgan dollar may only be worth $30 because millions were minted compared to an 1893-S, which is worth thousands because only 100,000 coins were produced.

What does the “S” stand for on a coin?  “S” is for San Francisco.  The mint mark on Morgan dollars is located on the reverse of the coin just above the “DO” in dollar.  Morgan silver dollars with no mint mark were minted at Philadelphia, the nation’s first mint.  Other possible mints for silver dollars made from 1878-1904 include “CC” for Carson City, and “O” for New Orleans.

Other factors that impact value includes:  damage, cleaning, authentication, and grading.  If your 1893-S Morgan dollar has a hole in it or a deep scratch, then the value may be 10% of an undamaged example.  If the coin has been cleaned or wiped, then it may be downgraded or slightly discounted depending on the degree of cleaning.  If the coin is counterfeit it will have no worth and may be illegal to own.   If a 1893-S dollar is certified PCGS or NGC Uncirculated, then it may be worth over $100,000 versus an about good worth $1500.

Certifying a coin does not make it more valuable; it only confirms the coin is authentic and its preservation is original.  The two most respected certification companies include PCGS, Professional Coin Grading Service and NGC, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. 

Even the 1878-S can be valuable in high grade.  A MS67 1878-S is worth thousands.  An MS67 represents an almost perfect example.  In a year, I may go through hundreds of 1878-S Morgans and never see one close to MS67.  At the coin shop an average example can be found for around $30.  Please remember – NEVER clean your coins!


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