Almost none of us were alive when the one-dollar bill also had a coin counterpart in the form of a silver dollar coin.
From 1878 to 1904 (and in 1921,) the United States Mint produced a dollar coin minted with a 90% silver composition which it released into general circulation yearly alongside the regular dollar bill for regular use.
This dollar coin is also called the Morgan dollar, named after George T. Morgan, the coin’s designer and the then Assistant Engraver of the United States Mint.
On the obverse, the 1889 silver dollar, like all Morgan dollars, bears a portrait of the head of Liberty, while the reverse features the symbolic American bald eagle with its wings fully outstretched.
The iconic design of this coin was a hit amongst the people during its production period and even to this day.
Despite the Morgan dollar being out of proper mintage for over a century, most Americans with even the faintest knowledge of U.S. coins will only need a second to pick it out of a lineup easily.
This level of recognizability is due partly to the unmistakable silver dollar design. However, it is also a testament to how popular these coins were and still are and why they are an instant hit with collectors everywhere.
What then is the 1889 Morgan dollar worth to collectors, and how much can you expect to get if you find one? What is the value of the 1889 silver dollar?
The 1889 silver coin is a large-sized coin with a 90% silver composition; as such, it packs more value than most base-level coins.
The melt value of the coin’s silver content alone is worth at least $14. However, when you consider the coin’s prestige, Its high demand, increasing rarity, and the fact that it is over 100 years old, it is no surprise that even 1889 Morgan dollars that are in subpar condition easily sell for at least $20.
With a decent condition, you should expect an 1889 silver dollar to be worth around $30. Depending on the coin’s grade and rarity, prices could rise up from this base, going up to a few hundred or thousand dollars.
As the years go by, the 1889 silver dollar and other Morgan dollars are becoming harder to come by, which has placed upward pressure on the average price.
If you find an uncirculated 1889 Morgan dollar in exceptional quality, it could easily fetch at least $200 on the open market.
1889 Silver Dollar Rarity
With the 1889 silver dollar, you have the 2nd most abundant Morgan dollar. With a total of 34,651,000 silver dollars minted in 1889, the only year with more Morgan dollars produced was in 1921.
The key to this increased production of the Morgan dollar was the fact that the one-dollar coin was gaining increased popularity over the years.
Around this time, the popularity of this coin was at its peak due to increased use in commercial activities like slot machines, table games, and casinos. There was also a steady rise in collector interest, with many hoarding the coin for their silver value (silver was rising steadily in price.)
With so many coins produced in 1889, it is no surprise that the 1889 silver dollar ranks slightly lower in price than most other morgan coins.
However, do not expect to get any 1889 Morgan dollars for dirt cheap.
This coin is currently over 120 years old, meaning that a significant percentage of its mintage has left the total supply either by being lost, broken, or melted.
Professional Coin Grading Services estimates that only around 2,500,000 of the coins from the original 1889 silver dollar mintage are surviving today, the bulk of which are circulated, low-condition coins.
Furthermore, from this estimated 2.5m surviving coins, only an estimated 7,000 are still in uncirculated condition, with only a fraction of those meeting requirements for the highest condition grades.
Consequently, an 1889 silver dollar in excellent condition is still a considerably rare coin, and if you find one, consider holding on to it as it could be quite valuable.
In 1889, the U.S. struck 34,651,000 silver dollars, with the bulk of these coins coming from the Philadelphia and New Orleans Mints and small fractions produced in the San Francisco and Carson City Mints.
|Mint||Mint Mark||Total Mintage|
The coins from the Philadelphia Mint shipped with no mint mark, while the coins produced in the New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City Mints bear matching “O” “S” and “CC” mint marks respectively.
When present, you can find the mint mark on the reverse of the coin, placed below the wreath nested underneath the symbolic American bald eagle.
Due to the significant discrepancies in the quota allocated to each Mint, the Mint an 1889 silver dollar originates from can heavily influence its price.
With only 300,000 produced from the Carson City Mint, 1889-CC silver dollars are the rarest of the bunch. Consequently, 1889-CC Morgan dollars, even in circulated condition, can easily surpass a $3000 valuation.
The United States Mint also produced 811 silver dollar proof coins in 1889, easily worth at least $4000 each today.
1889 Silver Dollar Value
The price of every collectible coin always starts with its melt value. With the 1889 silver dollar, the piece’s characteristic large size and its 90% silver composition mean that the coin is already quite valuable considering only its metal melt value.
The average melt value for the 1889 silver dollar amounts to around $14. Hence, even if your coin is defaced or worn beyond recognition, you are still guaranteed to get at least $14.
However, from here, the prices for 1889 Morgan dollars in decent condition can scale up fast.
The least rare varieties of this coin, the 1889 silver dollar from the Philadelphia Mint and the 1889-O silver dollar, both easily sell for up to $45 even in their circulated condition. However, you should expect the $45 price tag for only circulated coins in the best possible condition. A price range of $30 to $40 is more reasonable for specimens with fairly fine condition.
The San Francisco Mint variety, the 1889-S silver dollar, is considerably rarer, with only 700,000 coins ever struck. Consequently, this increased rarity is reflected in its pricing, with the best condition circulated coins retailing for between $75 and $85.
For uncirculated 1889-S Morgan dollars, expect a sale price north of $280.
The Carson City Mint 1889 silver dollar is the rarest of the bunch, with only 350,000 coins struck, of which only a tiny percentage have been put up for sale. Consequently, it is unsurprising to find circulated 1889-CC Morgan dollars selling in the $1300 to $1500 range.
Uncirculated 1889-CC coins are a scarce find with extremely infrequent auction events and prices that can reach into the $22,000 to $400,000 range.
While there are only 811 proof coins minted in this series, their average price point does not reflect their extreme rarity. This discrepancy occurs because, with proof 1889 silver dollars, collectors place the utmost importance on their condition and grade level.
The proof 1889 Morgan dollars that have appeared so far typically fall into the MS61-MS64 range when graded for condition. These coins typically retail for prices between $3000 and $6000.
However, proof 1889 Morgan dollars graded MS65 or higher almost never appear on the market as they are extremely difficult to find.
Nevertheless, when these coins do appear, they typically fetch a considerable ransom, such as the pristine proof 1889 silver dollar rated MS68 that sold for $34,000 at auction in 2006. If the same coin were to go on sale today, it would reach prices that are at least a few multiples of its last realized price.
For an easy visual guide on what to expect in the coin markets when shopping 1889 silver dollars refer to the table below. Use the table as an approximate estimate of the market value of the 1889 silver dollar and as a general guide for making better market decisions.
|COIN TYPE⬇\QUALITY➜||MS 55-58||MS 59||MS 60||MS 61-63||MS 65 or Higher|
|1889 Silver Dollar (Philadelphia mint)||$30 – $35||$42 – 45||$70 – $75||$120 – $150||$250+|
|1889-O Silver Dollar||$30 – $35||$42- $45||$70 – $75||$120 – $150||$250+|
|1889-S Silver Dollar||$70 – $75||$82 – $85||$250 – $300||$300 – $400||$600+|
|1889-CC Silver Dollar||$1000 – $1200||$1300 – $1500||$20,000 – $22000||$30,000 – $50,000||$200,000+|
|Proof 1889 Silver Dollar||–||–||$3000 – 4000||$4000 – $6000||$30,000+|
1889 Silver Dollar Error Coins
With the extreme identifiability of Morgan dollars, and especially the 1889 silver dollar, it is no surprise that these coins have a religious following in the coin collecting world.
This utmost enthusiasm surrounding the Morgan dollar series also extends to their error coin varieties. Nothing encapsulates this ardor better than the fact that silver dollar varieties and error coins are categorized and treated differently from the rest by many coin collectors.
Morgan dollar varieties and error coins are called VAMs after researchers Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis who first published a comprehensive work detailing their research on all the variations in the dies the United States Mint used in striking the silver dollar’s series.
Consequently, unlike what you get with other coins, there is a detailed catalog of almost every possible variation you can find amongst Morgan dollars.
For example, using this link, you can view a detailed compilation of all the 1889 silver dollar variations and errors noted by the researchers. There are over 50 of them.
The availability of this extensive resource significantly reduces the hassle of detecting and valuing your 1889 silver dollar coins, as you can easily compare the characteristics of your coin with the parameters defined for each error type.
Once you find the matching VAM name for your coin’s error, you can then use that name as a search parameter for finding the rarity levels and the average market value of that specific error type.
While there is an abundance of 1889 silver dollar VAMs, the vast majority of those are not super rare or aesthetic. As such, they typically attract regular prices that are on par or slightly higher than entry-level 1889 silver dollars.
Some rarer, more sought-after 1889 silver dollar VAMs that typically attract higher ransoms from coin collectors include
- VAM 23A – an 1889 silver dollar with several clashes and a slated date on its obverse. VAM 23A typically sells for between $70 and $130.
- VAM 28A – an 1889 silver dollar with a date slightly off-kilter and a slight doubling of the ear of Liberty. This coin averages prices in the $200-$600 range
- VAM 19A – A very aesthetic 1889 silver dollar with a doubly imprinted reverse and a die break on the American bald eagle’s wing. This coin easily retails for at least $2000.
Why do we use dollar notes instead of the silver dollar coin?
While the United States Mint has produced and circulated a wide range of dollar coins, these coins have never been popular in general use (except for a few use cases like with slot machines and casinos.)
A combination of having one of the more iconic designs and being far less convenient and practical than the dollar note has made the dollar coin the perfect collector’s item.
Silver dollar coins like the 1889 Morgan dollar have been a hit with coin collectors since their inception. Many collectors opt to hoard them for sentimental reasons or their potential future value rather than spend them.
What makes an 1889 silver dollar rare?
Despite their extreme popularity amongst collectors, most 1889 silver dollars are not particularly rare. However, the high demand and continuously dwindling supply mean that these coins easily sell for a decent premium compared to their silver melt value.
The one variety of the 1889 silver dollar that is quite rare is those minted in Carson City. Only 350,000 of these coins were originally minted, and only a few survive today.