The two most popular and widely collected classic silver dollars are Morgan dollars and Peace dollars.
Morgan dollar values
Like other coins, the values of Morgan Dollars are determined by the scarcity of the date based on the coin’s mintage and surviving population as well as the condition of the coin and how much demand exists for it from collectors.
At the other end of the spectrum are the rarest Morgan Dollars whose values reach into the several hundreds of thousands of dollars and even over a million in top grades. While this group has varied over time as hoards were discovered or top-graded examples certified, three coins have dominated it: 1893-S, 1895 and 1889-CC.
The true king of the Morgan dollar series is the 1893-S, which has the lowest original mintage of the series at 100,000 and more important, fewer than 12,000 coins are believed to have survived the multiple major melts of these coins. The 1893-S is usually seen well struck, and the few mint state coins that exist have good luster.
Almost 7,000 coins in all grades have been graded by PCGS, but fewer than 40 mint state coins. PCGS estimates that 9,948 total examples have survived of the original mintage with 123 being uncirculated coins.
Most coins in the market grade Very Fine and are worth about $5,000 but reach $43,500 in AU55, $260,000 in MS63, $735,000 in MS65 (from a 2018 auction) and in MS67 with only one known example it is currently estimated at $1.2 million!
In fact, the 1893-S is the first Morgan silver dollar that sold for over $1 million. This was the coin owned at various times by Jack Lee and Dr. Cornelius Vermeule, which sold in a private sale in 2008.
The 1895 Morgan dollar only exists in proof, though at one time it was thought that circulation strikes existed of the coin, which led to a wild goose chase for the coin. But a report from the U.S. Mint stating that 12,000 circulation pieces were issued turned out to be an error.
880 Proofs were made, and most are believed to still exist. Though not the lowest mintage proof coin, the 1895 has long been seen as a series key because it is the only coin minted only in proof and is needed for a complete set.
PCGS has graded 448 of these with only 20 coins graded higher than PF65 and the finest being one PF68. In PF60 the value is $48,500, while the single PF68 is worth $185,000.
The rarest and most valuable of the highly popular Morgan dollars struck at the Carson City Mint is the 1889-CC.
Of the 350,000 coins originally struck, which was related to the fact that the Carson City Mint had been closed for coin striking for three years before 1889, only about 25,000 coins in all grades are believed to have survived with about 4,250 in mint state.
Amazingly, only 1 1889-CC has been found in a GSA holder and is estimated to be worth over $1 million!
An XF can be had for $2,500, while an MS63 jumps to $45,000, an MS65 runs $375,000 (with only 3 graded by PCGS) and the finest coin that exists, the one MS68 that sold for over $500,000 in 2009, garnered a whopping $881,250 in 2013.
Because mint state coins are so rare and valuable, most collectors acquire circulated examples of this very scarce date.
The rarest circulation strike (based on mintage) Morgan dollar produced at the Philadelphia Mint is the 1894 issue with an original mintage of just 110,000. PCGS estimates that about 9,000 examples exist today with 6,500 of them being mint state coins.
From the time it was struck until the early decades of the 20th century, this date was considered a major rarity. Most of the coins found today were discovered in the late 1950s and early 1960s when some 1,000-coin bags of 1894 Morgan dollars were found.
In XF the coin runs $975 but jumps to $4750 in MS63 and $95,000 in MS66 and $150,000 in MS66+, the finest grade available with just one in that grade, making it a condition rarity.
Today there are several other Morgan dollars that are considered rarer than the 1894 in top grades like the 1901, 1884-S or 1883-S with the finest known example – an MS67+ PL to be sold at auction in August -- when it will likely bring around a half million dollars or more.
Peace dollar values
The lowest mintage coin of the Peace silver dollar series with 360,649 struck, the 1928 issue tends to be softly struck and have average luster. The coin has long been known to be the series key in terms of mintage, so many were saved in mint state. It is believed that fewer circulated than uncirculated specimens exist today.
While the coin is scarce in circulated grades because of the low mintage and worth $400 in MS60, gems are rare and command strong prices. MS65s are worth $3000 with only about 400 graded by PCGS, and MS66s run at least $30,000 with only 22 graded by PCGS. In 2015 one of those coins sold for $39,950 at auction.
The original mintage of the 1934-S Peace dollar was 1,011,000 coins, but only 35,000 are estimated to still exist, including 4,500 uncirculated examples. PCGS has graded just over 7,000 in all grades.
In XF the coin only runs $125, increasing to $500 for AU55, $2,000 in MS60, more for a nicer example,$10,000 in MS65 and $33,500 for the 33 MS66 coins that exist. The finest are 4 examples graded MS66+ worth a cool $100,000 each.
The high value of gems for this coin is related to the fact that nice examples are hard to find in part because the coin was not believed to be rare in the 1930s and 1940s because its mintage was not as low as other coins, and no major hoards of it were ever found.
The other key to the Peace dollar series because it is the first coin and the only high-relief issue is the popular 1921 issue. There are also several dates that are condition rarities such as the 1925-S, which is just under $100 in MS60 but $27,500 in MS65.
A total of 100,000 of the 1,006,473 1921 coins struck are believed to still exist with 40,000 of those estimated to be mint state coins. PCGS has graded almost 21,000 with the finest being 7 MS67 coins that are worth $140,000 each.
Circulated 1921 examples can be had for $200 or less
In MS63 the 1921 coin is worth $450, while in MS65 it runs $1800.
The most important point about the 1921 Peace dollar is that it did not strike well with experts estimating that only 10 out of every 1,000 coins is well struck. Dies kept breaking when the coins were made, which led to the lowering of the relief for the rest of the series. Look for specimens that are well struck whatever grade you can afford.