1886 O Morgan Silver Dollar: A Complete Guide

1886 O Morgan Silver Dollar

Here is a highlight of the amazing Morgan dollar. It is undisputed as the best-known 1886-O, an issue that is very challenging to find in Gem and higher grades. The surfaces of this virtually pristine example are brilliant and mark-free and present an amazing deep cameo finish. The fields are deeply mirrored, and highly reflective, and form a splendid backdrop to richly frosted design elements. 

The strike is complete over exactly the most complex features, when mixed with the previous deep cameo finish, it indicates that this piece was minted from a very early set of the dies before many if any other samples had been struck. This coin’s incredible quality must surely have been recognized at the time of striking, for it has been carefully handed down from owner to owner in its actual, almost pristine condition. 

Long identified as one of the most beautiful and alluring Morgan dollars of any issue, our offering of this exquisite 1886-O represents what could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime bidding option for the advanced professional in this perennially popular series.

History of 1886 O Morgan Silver Dollar

Not atypical for Morgan dollars and one of the concerns that cause the series so attractive, this issue is far more lacking in Mint State than the 1883-O, 1884-O, and 1885-O despite maintaining a higher mintage (10,710,000 coins for the 1886-O as opposed to, for example, 9,185,000 pieces for the 1885-O). Given that the 1886-O is great in worn condition, millions of examples likely found their way into circulation starting in the late 19th century. 

Under the 1918 Pittman Act, millions more, most likely over 50 percent of the mintage, were most likely kept in storage till be melted. Remaining coins in government vaults were limited with Q. David Bowers (1993) assuming that “apparently no more than a few bags slopped onto the demand in the 1940s and 1950s — enough to have the problem in the $6 to $10 range for most of the years 1945-1960.” 

Despite its pronounced scarcity in Mint State, at the 1886-O was mainly ignored by dealers and collectors, a situation that Bowers accuses of the known poor striking, brightness, and surface quality for which this problem is understood. During the Treasury Department releases of 1962 to 1964, a few more bags probably came to light, also enough to meet the demands of a market that was normally less than enthusiastic about this issue. 

The coins emitted during the 1960s may have been part of mixed-date bags, for Harry J. Forman related by Bowers, 1993 “realized that he never had a real bag of 1886-O dollars, but he did notice several hundred ‘minimum Uncirculated’ coins having different dates in a bag.” Wayne Miller (1982) notes four original Uncirculated rolls and bought in 1971. Surprisingly for the issue, Miller explains those coins as “full strike BU,” but he quickly follows that up with the fact that, while “BU pieces are known at about every coin show…gems are truly scarce.”

The days of partial bags and Uncirculated rolls of 1886-O dollars are now history, and Mint State examples of this issue are widely distributed. While main numismatic auctions occasionally show multiple certified coins, these are almost only in MS-60 to MS-64 (along with a number of the seemingly everywhere, and highly sellable About Uncirculated examples). 

Bowers’ comments about the overall poor quality of Mint State 1886-O dollars were commented upon earlier by Miller when he represented the typical Mint State 1886-O as “heavily bag marked, with indifferent luster.” Such comments are equally relevant in today’s market, and they explain the extreme rarity of this problem in grades above MS-64.

Given the scarcity and conditionally difficult nature of the 1886-O in Mint State, it should come as no shock that fully Prooflike and Deep Mirror Prooflike examples are exceedingly rare. So rare that many numismatists will go their entire collecting lives without even seeing an example, let alone having the opportunity to acquire one.

Specification:

  • Category: Morgan Dollars (1878-1921)
  • Mint: New Orleans
  • Obverse Designer: George T. Morgan
  • Reverse Designer: George T. Morgan
  • Composition: Silver
  • Fineness: 0.9
  • Weight: 26.73g
  • ASW: 0.7734oz
  • Melt Value: $23.65 (6/20/2024)
  • Diameter: 38.1mm
  • Edge: Reeded

Basic Design:

Obverse

The Morgan Dollar’s obverse shows the text, “Liberty; E Pluribus Unum; 1886.” The silver one-dollar coin’s obverse has the head of a woman facing left, wearing a cap and small crown with flowers pleated in her hair, and stars covering the boundary.

Reverse

The reverse text on the Liberty dollar reads “United States of America; In God We Trust; One Dollar; O.” The reverse of the Morgan Dollar shows an eagle with its wings spread in the center and a wreath surrounding it.

Rarity and Condition

Common Grades

This year, just silver dollars were made at the New Orleans Mint. But the dies were put too widely separate and the result was shoddy. The coin in millions was poorly minted. Most of them had been melted in 1918 or evacuated in the 19th century, with very few having been kept to be utilized as coinage. The striking can be very sharp or flat in the center. Luster might be more frosty or dull and rough. The 1886-O Morgan Silver Dollar is highly rare in gem Mint State and quite common in worn grades.

Finding worn $1 silver coins from 1886–O should be easier. They are regularly offered in popular EF and AU ratings, with many lower grades being accessible. Most of the mintage was in circulation, whether for many years or not, but change nonetheless.

Higher Grades

One of “those” Morgan dollars, the 1886-O is superb in all grades up to choice AU-58, but after that, it is as hard to find an attractive Mint State coin. Even at “just” MS-60 to 62, the date proves elusive, and at MS-63 and above, collectors face one of the first great challenges in the series. A pleasingly lustrous and nicely struck MS-63 coin represents value and quality without harming your numismatic budget.

Value of 1886 O Morgan Silver Dollar

If you want a coin that will be valued more in the future, a UNC 1886-O is the best investment. These are almost exclusively in MS-60 to MS-64 everywhere, and highly salable About Uncirculated examples.

According to the NGC Price Guide, a Morgan Dollar from 1886 in the circulated condition is worth between $41.50 and $450 as of June 2024. However, 1886 O Silver Dollars in pristine, uncirculated condition sell for as much as $190,000 on the open market.

Also Read – 1896 O Morgan Silver Dollar: A Collector’s Guide

Conclusion

The Morgan Dollar series is very famous among collectors. Given the scarcity and conditionally challenging nature of the 1886-O in Mint State, it should come as no surprise that fully Prooflike and Deep Mirror Prooflike examples are exceedingly rare. So rare that many numismatists will go their entire collecting lives without even seeing an example, let alone having the opportunity to acquire one. This exquisite 1886-O represents what could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime bidding opportunity for the advanced specialist in this perennially popular series.

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