Struck in a period of 26 years, the 1878 silver dollars are among the most widely collected US silver coins of all time. Not only have the 1878 silver dollar offered a pillar to the US economy to stand upon, but also – surprisingly enough – aided the US in the 1st World War. Nevertheless, the silver dollars came in various variations, such as 7-tail feathers, 8-tail feathers, and mint marks (CC, S, O, and D) – as we will read later – which help determine their value.
Speaking of value, the rarest 1878 silver dollars will cost you an arm and a leg. Meanwhile, for the less rare examples, you won’t be able to go bankrupt and still own a collection of 1878 silver dollars. So, the value mainly depends on the rarity, variations, and condition of the dollars you consider.
For instance, according to PCGS, an 1889-CC Morgan Silver Dollar (MS-68) was auctioned and sold at a price just shy of $900,000! Similarly, an 1878 No Mint mark error Morgan Silver Dollar 7/8 tail feathers, in ‘Good’ condition, can set you back by 35 bucks.
Before we dive further into the value of 1878 silver dollars, let’s revisit the dollar’s story and read the significant events that took place during its lifetime – up until 1921.
1878 Silver Dollar: Brief History
Following the discovery of the largest silver deposits in US history in Nevada, vast deposits of silver were extracted. The operation, or what people call the ‘Comstock Lode,’ accentuated the mintage of coins and introduced certain ‘loopholes’ for the coin producers to earn profits.
The coin producers called for ‘free silver,’ which meant an unlimited mintage of silver coins. Such practices caused unnecessary inflation in the US economy. It was when the Panic of 1873 struck the US, causing the US economy to face the wrath of an economic downturn. Eventually, the US government had to step in and take specific measures.
The Bland-Allison Act of 1878 was introduced as an answer to the ‘free silver movement’ supporters. The Act made it necessary for the US Treasury to purchase around $2m – $4m worth of silver at market value each month. The silver then took the shape of coins, restoring the silver dollar as legal tender. Enter: the Morgan silver dollar.
George Thomas Morgan, a US mint engraver, was chosen to be the man for the job. Morgan devised a coin bearing the image (head) of a Philadelphia school teacher Anna Williams on the observe, representing ‘Lady Liberty.’ The coin also featured an American bald eagle on its reverse, symbolizing strength and authority.
Moreover, the coin’s reverse featured inscriptions such as “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “LIBERTY,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” and “ONE DOLLAR.”
Also, Morgan named the coin after his name, Morgan. Hence, the name: (1878) Morgan Silver Dollar. Moreover, you can also expect to find a mint mark on an 1878 (Morgan) silver dollar, revealing the place where it was minted.
For instance, an 1878 silver dollar depicting “CC” shows that the coin was minted in Carson City. Conclusively, the same goes for all other US mints, as described in the table below:
|Mint Mark||Mint Location|
|No Mint Mark||Philadelphia|
The coin was minted at 3 US mints: Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Carson City. The table below shows the total quantity of 1878 (Morgan) silver dollars minted in different US mints:
|1878, 8 feathers||Philadelphia||749,500|
|1878, 7 feathers, all variations||Philadelphia||9,759,300|
|1878 CC||Carson City||2,212,000|
|1878 S||San Francisco||9,774,000|
Nevertheless, to strike a better deal with the coin producers and ‘free silver’ supporters, the US Government passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890). The Act mandated the US Treasury to purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver (140,000 KGs) each month. Also, the Act ordered the US Treasury to purchase silver through the issue of special ‘Treasury Notes,’ which could be redeemed for gold (or silver).
The result came in the form of silver prices falling to a record low, which placed an overwhelming burden on gold reserves. More importantly, one of the worst economic downturns soon followed pursuit in response to the Act’s authorization, causing banks and brokerage houses to collapse. Ultimately, the US Government had to pull the plug on the Act and, thus, retracted it in 1893.
After the drastic effects of the ‘Panic of 1893’, the Government called off the production of silver dollars in 1895. Eventually, it resulted in some of the scarcest Morgan dollars produced. In fact, the most expensive Morgan silver dollar ever sold was an 1893-S PCGS MS67 CAC-Graded Morgan Silver Dollar, which fetched an eye-popping $2,086,875!
The US Government uplifted the coin-production halt in 1898, increasing the production of silver dollars. However, production was short-lived once again when the Government called off the mintage of silver dollars in 1904, as demand and (silver) bullion supplies fell.
Fast forward to 1918, the US Government mandated the US Mints to melt 350,000,000 Morgan dollars – out of which 270,121,554 Morgan silver dollars – were melted. The coins melted under the Pittman Act represented 47% of all the Morgan silver dollars minted between 1878 – 1904. So, only 15% of the Morgan dollars survived.
The US Government did so to counter certain WW1 German propaganda and to prevent the British economy from collapsing. Overall, the efforts paid off well as Britain received financial stability and
1878 Silver Dollar Value
The 1878 silver dollars, depicting no mint marks (minted in Philadelphia), had different variations on the reverse. In addition, the reverse design impacted the value of the coin itself. For instance, some 1878 silver dollars featured the American bald eagle bearing seven feathers, while others featured the same eagle but bore eight feathers.
Meanwhile, there also exist coins that feature 7 over 8-tail feathers. Such overstrikes fetch different valuations. For instance, according to USA Coin Book, a 7 over 8-tail feather overstrike is valued at an average of $45 and can raise values of more than $2,500 in MS+ conditions.
Likewise, an 8TF (Tail Feather) 1878 silver dollar can retrieve a value of $56 in average conditions and more than $1,700 in Mint (MS+) conditions.
The table below shows the different values of the 1878 Morgan silver dollar based on its variations (tail feathers, overstrikes, and reverse):
|Variety||Very Fine (VF)||Extremely Fine (XF/EF)||About Uncirculated (AU)||Mint State 61||Mint State 63||Mint State 65||Auction Record|
|8 Tail Feathers||$97||$115||$143||$273||$370||$1,250||$55,813|
|7/8 Tail Feathers Overstrike||$54||$68||$92||$266||$370||$1,940||$15,010|
|7 Tail Feathers, Reverse of 1878||$54||$59||$72||$115||$162||$780||$43,475|
|7 Tail Feathers, Reverse of 1879||$54||$58||$70||$273||$390||$1,970||$37,600|
In addition, other factors may influence an 1878 silver dollar’s value, such as mint location, mint marks, condition, grading system, and errors. For instance, the 1878 silver coins denoting “S” (San Francisco) mint marks are valued at roughly around $25 (good condition).
Meanwhile, the coins depicting “CC” (Carson City) mint marks are valued at $67, much more than 1878-S silver dollar coins. So, keep a close eye on the wear of the coins to determine their actual value.
The table below depicts the different values of the 1878 Morgan silver dollar according to its mint marks/location:
|Date and Grade||Coin Condition|
Fake Vs Real 1878 Silver Dollars
Although thousands of 1878 silver dollars are listed on sites like eBay, etc., you may encounter a counterfeit dollar. Here’s how you can differentiate a fake 1878 silver dollar from an authentic case.
The 1878 silver dollars comprise 90% pure silver content and 10% copper. Since silver is soft and delicate, a simple touch can verify whether the dollar you’re holding is authentic. Moreover, silver emits very weak magnetic effects because of the (silver) content present in them. So, you may run the silver dollar for a ‘magnet test.’
Likewise, 1878 silver dollars weigh 26.73 grams. You may use a weighing scale to counter-check and compare the weight figures of the silver dollar.
Alternatively, you may strike an 1878 silver dollar against another metal. The coin is likely to be genuine if the dollar emits a ‘chime’ or a ‘ping’ noise. However, such ‘authenticity tests’ should not be carried out on valuable coins in mint conditions as they may deform and (likely) damage the coin.
Another relatively straightforward way to determine the genuineness of an 1878 silver dollar is by looking out for markings and errors. Under a magnified eye, you can look for poorly struck numbers or abnormalities on mint marks or letterings. For instance, the “LIBERTY” on the dollar’s reverse may be written slantly (or poorly), indicating a counterfeit dollar.
Rare examples of 1878 (Morgan) silver dollars are still famous and a treat for coin collectors and enthusiasts. If you have any 1878 silver dollars lying around in your grandfather’s drawer, be sure to grade and value them. Who knows what the future (or luck) may have in store for you?
A quick skim of the 1878 (Morgan) silver dollar’s history will show how important the dollar contributed to major US historical events, including the Panic of 1873, the Panic of 1893, and even the 1st World War. So, you’re not only getting value in return, but also a significant chunk of US history.
Also Read: Morgan Silver Dollar (1878–1921) Value Chart Guide (Rarest One Was Sold For A Lofty $2,086,875)
What are the mint marks on 1878 Morgan silver dollars?
The mint marks on 1878 silver dollars reveal the location of the mint where the dollars were produced. The 1878 silver dollars were minted in Philadelphia, Carson City, and San Francisco. The dollars bearing no mint marks reveal that the dollars were produced in Philadelphia. Similarly, an 1878 silver dollar depicting “CC” marks indicates that the dollars were made in the US mint(s) in Carson City.
Last but not least, the silver dollars depicting “S” marks show that the dollars were manufactured in San Francisco. Also, the mint marks can be found on the reverse side of the dollar, right underneath the bald eagle’s tail feathers.
How many variations of the 1878 silver dollar are there?
Three variations exist for 1878 silver dollars – 7-tail feathers 1878 silver coins, 8-tail feathers 1878 silver coins, and 7 0ver 8-tail feathers 1878 silver coins. Each of the variations is valued differently. Likewise, the 1878 silver dollar underwent three reverses. The 1st reverse included 8-tail feathers and specific changes on the eagle inscription on the dollar, such as a flat breast and a parallel arrow feather.
The US Mint made the same modifications in the 2nd reverse, also known as the ‘Reverse of 1878’. However, instead of the traditional 8-tail feathers, the coin comprised 7-tail feathers. In the 3rd reverse (Reverse of 1879), the dollar featured the same 7-tail feathers and embraced a rounded breast on the eagle and a slanted arrow feather.
How to check if the 1878 silver dollar is real or fake?
There are several measures through which you can determine the genuineness of the 1878 Morgan silver dollar. For instance, you may conduct a ‘magnet test’ or ‘ping test’ to determine the actual content value of the dollar. Alternatively, you may weigh the coin to counter-check it against its actual weight, i.e., 27.63 grams.
Similarly, with the help of a magnifying glass – or a coin expert – you can look for abnormalities, errors, and poorly struck numbers/figures on either side of the dollar to judge whether the coin you’re observing is genuine.