1886-O Morgan Dollar: PCGS Coin of the Month

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1886-O Morgan dollar obverse, PCGS MS65. Courtesy of Professional Coin Grading Service TrueView.

The 1886-O Morgan Dollar, PCGS MS65 is the Professional Grading Service's (PCGS) Coin of the Month.

The Morgan Dollar Series

There are few series as popular as the Morgan dollar, which launched in 1878 and ran until 1921, with a hiatus of some 16 years from 1905 through 1920. The Morgan dollar series began its life known as the Liberty Head dollar, but collector sentiments led to the coin being dubbed the “Morgan” dollar in honor of its designer, George T. Morgan. Many dates are highly common while others are scarce. Still, others are deemed commonplace in the absolute sense yet yield few survivors in the upper grades. Such conditional rarities are found in dates like the 1886-O, a New Orleans emission that is extremely difficult to find in the better grades, despite its relatively high mintage of 10,710,000 pieces.

The 1886-O Morgan Dollar

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1886-O Morgan dollar reverse, PCGS MS65. Courtesy of Professional Coin Grading Service TrueView.

The 1886-O Morgan dollar is a decidedly common coin in circulated grades, where prices are really no higher than for dates of similar vintage and mintage. But this is how conditional rarities sometimes fly under the radar, leaving unsuspecting coin collectors and coin dealers to believe that a common date is a common date when that’s not always the case even by a long shot.

Consider the situation of the 1886-O Morgan dollar as compared to the 1880-S Morgan, a contemporary issue of a similar (though lower) mintage of 8,900,000 coins. More than 39,000 examples exist of the 1880-S in Mint State-65. But what about the population of 1886-O Morgan dollars? Try three.

Why is the 1886-O Rare?

Why is the 1886-O Morgan dollar rarer than the lower-mintage 1880-S? Much of it goes right back to the scenario surrounding the striking of the coins, with the 1886-O Morgan dollar hailing from a New Orleans Mint where officials were much more concerned about producing big numbers over quality coins. Dies were forced to last longer than normal, and this led to mostly poor-quality results. Yes, the New Orleans Mint managed a respectable 10.7 million Morgan dollars in 1886, and a great many of these coins went directly into commerce, where they needed to go. But this translated into over-subpar coinage. Tie that in with the fact that many 1886-O Morgan dollars were likely melted, and all of that translates into a scarce coin that offers slim pickings in the upper-grade echelons.

With just three examples in Mint State-65 from PCGS and only one in Mint State-65+, which is the highest grade seen for this coin in PCGS plastic, it’s little surprise that one of the tiny handful of Mint State-65 specimens took robust figures at a recent Heritage Auctions event in February 2022. That’s when and where one of the outstanding 1886-O Morgan dollars graded MS-65 fetched an incredible $156,000.

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