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1879 Silver Dollar

The 1879 silver dollar is known as a Morgan Silver Dollar. It was designed by George T. Morgan and was minted from 1878 to 1904, and again for one year in 1921. There are a few key things to know about the design and values of the 1879 silver dollar.

1879 Silver Dollar

About the 1879 Silver Dollar

Minting of the Morgan Silver Dollars began in 1878 at the US Mints in Philadelphia, Carson City, and San Francisco. The US Mint in New Orleans began striking them in 1879 and the US Mint in Denver produced Morgan Silver Dollars in 1921. Therefore, the 1879 silver dollar was minted at Philadelphia, Carson City, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

The front, or obverse, of the Morgan Silver Dollars has a portrait of Miss Liberty facing to the left. It has the date, the words “E Pluribus Unum”, and the monogram of the designer on Miss Liberty’s neck. On the reverse, or back, there is an eagle with its wings open. He is holding some arrows and an olive branch. The words “One Dollar” and “United States of America” also appear on the reverse. Almost immediately, the number of tail feathers on the eagle was changed from eight to seven.

There were a few more design changes to the Morgan Silver Dollar during the very first year of production. One of the design changes to the silver dollar was making the eagle with a fuller breast, because many people thought he looked scrawny. Another design change was the top feather on the arrow was slanted. These changes went into affect by the production of the 1879-dollar at all the US Mints except San Francisco. In 1879, there were still some coins made that had the flat breasted eagle and the parallel arrow feather before the Mint changed to the full-breasted eagle, slanted arrow feather design.

Values of Silver Dollars

There are several factors in determining the value of a coin. The first factor is the rarity. Coins can be rare because of their age, a particular US Mint didn’t produce a large number of the coins, or the coins were melted down. Many years ago, there were not many coin collectors, so that is another reason some old coins may not be around. The 1879 dollar from the San Francisco Mint which has the 1878 reverse design with the fuller-breasted eagle would be more valuable because there were only a few made.

The second factor is the error coin. When a mistake was made, like the coin being struck twice or the die (engraved stamp) having a flaw, then you have an error coin. Third is the condition of the coin. To bring top dollar, a coin has to be un-circulated and in mint state condition, which means it, is near perfect.

Here are some of the estimated values of the 1879 dollars.

  • 1879 = $25 to $10,000
  • 1879 CC = $275 to $57,500
  • 1879 O = $25 to $20,000
  • 1879 S = $30 to $50,000 (with 1878 design on the back side)

Many silver dollars are collected because they are 90 % silver and can be melted down for their content. The current value of a Morgan Silver Dollar, as of October 27, 2010, is $18.22.

Silver Dollar History

You may wonder why the United States decided to start making silver dollars in great numbers. It was due to the Comstock Lode, which was the first major discovery of silver and gold in America. In 1859, the Comstock Lode was discovered in the area of Nevada where Virginia City is now located. The mining was fast and furious for a few years until around 1874, when the mines started being depleted.

Huge supplies of silver made the prices drop so Congress authorized the US Treasury to buy a huge amount of silver to make coins. They made too many coins, and 270 million coins were melted down for their silver content in 1918. The Morgan was minted for a final year in 1921, and replaced with the Peace Dollar to commemorate the end of World War I.