PCGS Coin of the Month: 1877 Morgan Half Dollar in Silver

1877 Morgan Half Dollar in Silver, obverse

The 1877 Morgan Half Dollar in Silver, PCGS PR66CAM is the Professional Grading Service’s (PCGS) Coin of the Month.

While United States pattern coinage has long been a favorite area for many collectors, there’s a particularly strong interest in this piece designed by George T. Morgan. It features the curly-haired portrait of Miss Liberty as made popular on Morgan’s Liberty Head dollar that debuted in 1878 and became known by the surname of its namesake designer.

1877 Morgan Half Dollar in Silver, reverse

Anything Morgan dollar-related is numismatic gold, and therefore it’s little surprise that this silver half-dollar pattern bearing the familiar “Morgan” Liberty fared well when it hit the auction block in 2022. This pattern was purchased by Harry W. Bass, Jr. in 1970 and was held in his cabinet for decades. It was also on public exhibition for two decades at the American Numismatic Association Money Museum before the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Foundation determined it was time to liquidate the famous collection to raise proceeds for various critical Dallas-area organizations in need. 

The 1877 Morgan half-dollar pattern was graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as a Proof-66 Cameo and hit the auction circuit, where big money was expected for this popular piece – one of just six known. The pattern didn’t disappoint. It crossed the block at Heritage Auctions on September 29, 2022, for a sensational $43,200. 

Coin Grading

Grade refers to a coin’s level of preservation: how many nicks or scratches or other imperfections it has. Coins are graded on a scale of one to 70, with higher numbers signifying higher grades.  One represents a coin that is so well worn that it’s barely identifiable as to its type. 70 represents a perfect coin: a coin that when viewed under a five-power magnifying glass has no visible imperfections.

60 through 70 represent the Mint State (MS) grades. A coin graded MS-60 can have so many nicks and scratches and flaws that it might look as if Godzilla used it as a teething ring. MS-65 is the industry standard for “Gem.” MS-66 through MS-69 are the near-flawless super-grade or wonder coin assignations. With each grade level above MS-66, the value might double or triple.

Grade names are used in addition to numerical grades. In ascending order, these word grades are About or Almost Good; Good; Very Good; Fine; Very Fine; Extra or Extremely Fine; About or Almost Uncirculated; and Mint State.

A Proof is not a special Mint State coin. Proof refers to a method of manufacture, not a grade. Although Proof coins are struck using specially polished dies and specially selected planchets (metal discs) to ensure a chromium-like brilliance, they can circulate or be spent. Proofs are also graded on the one through 70 scale. A Proof coin grading less than Proof-60 is referred to as an “impaired Proof.”

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