The 1895 Morgan silver dollar is known as the "King of the Morgan Dollars" because it is the rarest and one of the most valuable coins in the entire Morgan Dollar series. The highest price ever paid for a Proof 1895 Morgan silver dollar $199,750.00 in April 2017 at Heritage Auctions' U.S. Signature Coin Auction in Chicago, Illinois.
According to U.S. Mint records, there were 12,000 circulation strike Morgan silver dollars struck for 1895, and 880 Proof specimens struck. However, research has accounted for 750 to 800 of the 1895 Morgans, all of them Proofs. What baffles the experts is, where did 12,000 plus coins go?
Numismatic scholars do not agree amongst each other with how or why the 12,000 circulation strike specimens of the 1895 Morgan silver dollar have vanished. Most scholars believe that the Mint never produced the coins in the first place and that this notation in the Mint accounting ledgers is an error. Some believe that the coins were minted, but as the Treasury Department melted hundreds of millions of coins throughout the years, some believe that the 12,000 unaccounted-for 1895 coins were melted. Another theory proposes that the coins were lost at sea in a shipwreck.
The Morgan Dollar is so-called because George T. Morgan designed it. When it first came out, it was an unpopular coin frequently derided as the "Buzzard Dollar" because of the shape of the eagle's head and its scrawny appearance. The coin was also derisively called a "cartwheel" for its large size and weight. The proper numismatic term for the coin type is the "Liberty Head" silver dollar.
Although the Morgan Dollar wasn't very popular when it first came out, we know today that it is one of the most popular coin types in the entire U.S. coinage series. This is simply due to the fact that United States Mint made almost a billion Morgan silver dollars between 1878 and 1921. In February of 1878, a law called the Bland-Allison Act was passed by Congress requiring the Treasury to buy between two and four million troy ounces of silver per month. The Treasury had to do something with all this silver, so it had the Mint produce the Liberty Head, or Morgan, silver dollars.
The Treasury was forced to buy this incredible amount of silver, all of which was flowing out of the Comstock Lode in Nevada, because of a group of silver mine owners who had formed a lobbying group. Led by Congressman Richard "Silver Dick" Bland, the silver lobby was able to influence the legislation that made the U.S. Treasury its biggest customer.
Millions of Morgan silver dollars sat in government vaults for many decades, languishing in obscurity. There were still plenty of Morgans to go around since they only circulated in a few small areas. Sometime around 1960, certain coin dealers became aware that the Treasury Department was swapping Morgan Dollars that were more than 80 years old, on a dollar for dollar basis, in exchange for silver certificates. Many of the dealers were just after the silver bullion at lower-than-market cost, but others realized the potential collector value of these 60 to 80-year-old mint state silver dollars. Tens of millions of Morgans were bought at face value until 1964 when the Treasury shut down the silver certificate exchange program.
The Treasury had about 2.9 million Morgans left in 1964, mostly scarce Carson City specimens, which the GSA put up for public sale via mail-bid auctions starting in 1972. By 1980, as the supplies dwindled, the public finally became interested in collecting the beautiful Morgan Dollar. The real feeding frenzy came when an amazing hoard of more than 400,000 Morgans was found in the basement of Nevada miser LaVere Redfield after his death in 1975.
The Redfield hoard got a lot of publicity, and as the U.S. population had become a lot more familiar with the value of silver coins in the years following the change from silver coinage to clad coinage. The publication of the "Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Peace and Morgan Silver Dollars" by Leroy Van Allen and George Mallis, also known as the VAM book, also spurred significant collector interest in Morgan silver dollars.
Die Varieties and Rare Coins
The VAM book really boosted the values of Morgan dollars into the big time. This book lists all of the known die varieties of the Morgan dollar series and spurred collectors to examine their coins more closely for detail. Coins that were previously valued based on a given year's known mintage of a certain number of specimens now had sub-categories of specimens for that year based on die varieties. These sub-categories were naturally more scarce than just any coin from that year, so collectors who might previously have been satisfied with one specimen from each year and mint now had to have several from each year to complete the "set."
Out of all the different dates and mintmark combinations, the 1895 no mint mark is the rarest of them all. Given that there are no business strike specimens known to exist, a Proof specimen will have to be obtained to complete your collection of Morgan silver dollars. Some of the Proof specimens have been circulated, usually by accident because the Mint didn't always package them so nicely as they do today, but no business strike example of the 1895 Morgan Silver Dollar has ever been found.