1895 Morgan Silver Dollar (1895 Morgan S$1) NGC PF65 CAMEO. This splendid proof key date 1895 Morgan Dollar shows cameo contrast on the obverse and deep cameo contrast on the reverse. The left and top obverse fields are almost black, and there is light toning on the devices especially on Liberty’s face and neck. The reverse shows black and white contrast with a bit of light toning on the eagle’s breast and the rim. A couple of tiny scattered ticks keep this coin from a higher mint state grade. As expected for a proof coin, the strike is full and sharp on both sides with every detail clearly visible. As the “King of the Morgan Dollars,” the 1895 Proof Morgan silver dollar is the key coin in the series. With an original mintage of 880, it is, of course, rare in all conditions.
It is estimated that only about 700 or so exist today. Since the Morgan dollar series is collected by hundreds of thousands of people, this is the coin that every collector must have to complete a full set. Although the 1895 Proof Morgan is no rarer than other proof silver dollars in the series, it is always under the most intense demand from date collectors. Since the 1895 is so difficult to obtain, some collectors limit their collections to business strikes only so they can complete their sets.
Interestingly enough, the Mint actually reported a coinage of 12,000 business strikes for this date. However, none have been found to date. Researchers theorize that the 12,000 coins were merely a ledger entry at the end of the 1894-95 fiscal year that ended in June 1895. Maybe in June of 1895, business strikes of the previous year were delivered.
Another theory is that the 12,000 existed and were melted under the terms of the Pittman Act of 1918.
Because the 1895 is so rare, authentication is mandatory. Many so called 1895 dollars are alterations of the 1895-O or the 1895-S that have had the mintmark removed. Also 1885 Philadelphia’s have been altered by changing the second 8 to a 9. (All USRCI coins are authenticated by one of the major grading services.)
Morgan dollars were issued annually from 1878 to 1904 and then in 1921. They show a close-up head of Liberty facing left. She wears a headband inscribed LIBERTY. In her hair are cotton, corn, wheat, and tobacco. She wears a modified Phrygian cap and is surrounded with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, thirteen stars (seven left and six right), and the date. The reverse shows an eagle with wings raised looking left. In its talons are arrows and olive branch, symbols of preparedness and peace. A wreath is below, and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST is above. Except for the eagle’s wing tips, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ONE DOLLAR, separated by stars, circumscribe the design.
In the late 1870’s a group of silver mine owners convinced Senator William Allison (Republican from Iowa) and Representative Richard Bland (Democrat from Missouri) to support a proposal for a new silver dollar. After much negotiation and intense lobbying by the silver industry, Bland and Allison introduced a bill to resume silver coinage. Despite the veto of President Rutherford B. Hayes, the Bland-Allison Act became law in February, 1878. It required that the Treasury buy a minimum of two million dollars a month of domestic silver to be coined into dollars. The act also gave the silver dollar legal tender status. In 1904 production was halted because the supply of bullion was depleted. In 1918 the Pittman Act provided for the return of the Morgan dollar. It made its final appearance in 1921.
George T. Morgan was born in 1845 in Birmingham, England. In 1876 he came to the United States and was hired to be an Assistant Engraver at the Mint. He wrote a letter to Mint officials explaining his previous experiences: “I am familiar with the engraving of coin dies, having for several years, assisted Messrs. J.S. & A.B. Wyon. I think I may say that I have a good knowledge of Design & Modeling. I served an apprenticeship to the Die Sinking at Birmingham. From Birmingham School of Art I successfully competed for a Scholarship at South Kensington… during my Studentship I obtained Medals & Prizes for Models of Heads from Life, Figures from Life & Antique Heads from Photographs and Flowers from nature. I believe it is not usual for an Engraver to have a practical knowledge of Bronzing. Fortunately I have knowledge of this art and could in a short time so instruct an apt scholar that he would be able to successfully bronze a medal.”
That year Morgan was hired to work at the Mint in Philadelphia. It was understood that William Barber would soon retire so there would be a place for Morgan to work. In 1878 Morgan designed a Liberty head for the new dollar. The only complaint with his design was that Liberty was too heavy. For his model, Morgan used Anna Williams, a school teacher from Philadelphia. Charles Barber also submitted a design. His design showed Liberty as being too heavy, but she was also dumpy looking and had a fat neck. Morgan’s reverse showed an eagle that looked almost heraldic. Barber’s seemed more real. It is an irony that the first Morgan dollar was presented to the president who had vetoed the authorizing act. As the coins entered circulation, they were popular in the West and South but were generally ignored in the northeast, where paper currency served for most business transactions. When William Barber died in 1879, his relatively untalented son, Charles, became the Engraver. Morgan finally became Engraver after Charles died in 1917. Morgan remained Chief Engraver until he died in 1925.
In their population reports both major grading services have certified 163 proof cameo 1895 dollars. In proof cameo 65, NGC has 17 with 32 better.