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Business strikes: 350,000
Coinage Context
Mint reopens for coinage: The Carson City Mint, which had produced its last gold and silver coins in 5, reopened on July 1,1889. Coinage resumed in ctober.
Numismatic Information
Desirability: The 1889-CC Morgan Dollar in Mint State is far and way the rarest Carson City Morgan dollar and tidily outdistances its closest rivals, the elusive 1879-CC and 1893-CC. As such, it has acquired an i of fame in recent years. Offerings of coins in higher grades are apt to be one at a time (instead of by the roll or bag). A Mint State coin is a candidate for a picture and effusive description in an auction catalogue.
Hoard coins: When Carson City silver dollars were being paid out from the Cash Room at the Treasury Department in Washington, many thousands of all issues 1878-1893 were distributed, except 1889-CC. Apparently, only a few single coins and rolls were given out, some of them as early as 1933-1934. By the 1950s, possibly only a few hundred coins remained on hand at the Cash Room. I have found no record of bags being distributed from Washington during that decade or any time later.
It is probably the case that more 1889-CC dollars were stored at the San Francisco Mint and/or in Federal Reserve stocks in the West than at the Treasury Building. In 1925 and 1926, quantities of 1889-CCs were paid out at face value from storage at the San Francisco Mint. Bags that came to light in the 1950s are all from the San Francisco Mint vaults, so far as I know. In the 1950s a bag of 1,000 pieces was released in Montana, followed by another in the early 1960s. Apparently, the first bag contained many heavily marked coins, "sliders" if you will, of a quality that today would be called AU-55 or 58. In addition, at least two intact bags were in existence in 1976 (one of these is from the Ben Stack group mentioned below). Probably, these have not been distributed.
Harry Warner of Mill Valley, California, told Walter Breen that he once owned a bag of 1,000 coins. Ben Stack told Harry J. Forman that he bought two bags by advertising (1954) in the Las Vegas Sun, and another was acquired in this way or by buying it separately. One of these bags went to Irving Davidoff, owner of the Klondyke Coin Exchange in New York City; another was dispersed at $140 per roll of 20 coins ($7 apiece); the third was still owned by Ben Stack as of February 1976, for he offered it to me at that time.
Only one solitary coin was left in the Treasury when the government decided to hold back CC dollars after payouts were halted in March 1964!
The 1889-CC is very scarce in worn grades. Apparently, relatively few were released into circulation in or near the year of mintage. Most that come on the market show quite a bit of wear, and grades from VG-8 through VF-30 are encountered more often than higher grades as EF-40 to AU-58. In 1992, the 1889-CC in worn grades was the second most valuable (after 1893-S) business strike Morgan dollar. In my own company, Bowers and Merena Galleries, it seems that I have had more worn 1893-S dollars than 1889-CCs, but I never kept specific track, so I cannot be sure. Walter H. Breen reported that in more than 20 years of keeping records, he has seen many worn 1893-S dollars but only a few worn 1893-CC coins.
Mint State grades: Most Mint State 1889-CC dollars on the market are in lower grade levels, often with dull, washed-out appearing surfaces. Marginal pieces will usually be fully struck but will have poor lustre and heavy bagmarks. The activities of PCGS, NGC, and certain of their contemporaries have made it possible to choose grades when buying and have a decent chance of getting what you expect.
Nearly all 1889-CC dollars are well struck with excellent definition of details. The lustre is usually of medium intensity on MS-63 or finer coins, often a bit satiny. Deeply frosty, coruscating, lustrous coins are not typical; in fact, I do not recall ever having seen one.
I estimate that 5,000 to 8,000 remain in the MS-60 to 62 range, this figure including several thousand coins still in bags, undistributed. At the MS-63 level about 1,500 to 3,000 are believed to survive. From that point the population drops to just 400 to 800 for MS-64 and only 80 to 150 for MS-65 or better. In the last-named grade, the 1889-CC is one of the top ten rarest Morgan dollars, although it hardly rivals the 1893-S.
Prooflike coins: Prooflike 1889-CC dollars are highly desired. However, nearly 50% of all Mint State coins display prooflike characteristics. In fact, this issue is distinctive among Morgan dollars in that it is just about as available in prooflike finish as with satiny lustre. (Among nearly all other issues, prooflike coins form only a small percentage of Mint State coins.) Prooflike coins are usually cameos, but often have numerous bagmarks from the effects of Treasury storage and handling over the years. Many DMPL coins have been certified-nearly 100 as of September 1992-but nearly all are MS-63 DMPL or lower. The "Proofs" offered by B. Max Mehl in the AlexJ. Rosborough Collection (April 9, 1929) and by B.M. Douglas (The Numismatist, 12/51) were almost certainly DMPLs.
Caveat emptor: Numerous "1889-CC" dollars have been created by adding mintmarks to common 1889 Philadelphia Mint coins. Unless you are an expert and can do it yourself, have any high-value 1889-CC dollar authenticated.
Business strikes:
1. Normal date: Breen-5610. High 9. Three varieties are known from three pairs of dies out of the 10 obverses and seven reverses furnished: VAM-1,2, and 3. VAM-2 has higher 9 than the other obverses. VAM-3 has the date more to the right than normal.
1889-CC Morgan: Summary of Characteristics
Business Strikes:
Enabling legislation: As earlier, plus Act of February 28, 1878
Designer: George T. Morgan
Weight and composition: 412.5 grains; .900 silver, .100 copper
Melt-down (silver value) in year minted: $0.724
Dies prepared: Obverse: 10; Reverse: 7; (at least 3 pairs were used from this quantity)
Business strike mintage: 350,000; Delivery figures by month: January-September: none; October: 100,000; November: 100,000; December: 150,000.
Specimens sent to the Assay Commission: 175 '-o
Estimated quantity melted: Unknown, but probably at least 250,000.
Approximate population MS-65 or better: 80 to 150 (URS-8)
Approximate population MS-64: 400 to 800 (URS-10)
Approximate population MS-63: 1,500 to 3,000 (URS-12)
Approximate population MS-60 to 62: 5,000 to 8,000 (including several thousand coins still undistributed in bags) (URS-14)
Approximate population G-4 to AU-58: 3,500 to 7,000 (URS-13)
Availability of prooflike coins: Nearly 50% of all known Mint State coins have prooflike surfaces. Numerous DMPL coins exist, mostly at the MS-63 level or below. Population included in the above Mint State figures.
Characteristics of striking: Usually seen well struck.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: At least 1,000 coins and possibly as many as 3,000 were in the 1962-1964 Treasury release (Breen); possibly as many as seven other bags (7,000 coins) came to light in the 1950s and 1960s. This coin is somewhat of an enigma in Mint State, for the actual market availability of coins and the number of pieces certified is much less than the number of reported mint-sealed bags would indicate. See above.
The 1889-CC is the rarest and most desired issue among Carson City Morgan dollars.
Additional Information
The Carson City Mint in 1889
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1889, commented that the business of the Carson City Mint during the fiscal year, which ended June 30, 1889, was confined to that of an assay office. Further: "Since the commencement of the present fiscal year the mint at Carson has been reopened for coinage and is now in full operation. Samuel C. Wright was appointed by the President superintendent, vice William Garrard, and took charge July 1, 1889.
"P.B. Ellis was appointed by the President assayer, vice Joseph R. Ryan, July 1, 1889. E.B. Zabriskie was appointed by the President melter and refiner, July 12, 1889, vice [melter and refiner] John H. Dennis. Charles H. Colburn was appointed by the President coiner, July 1, 1889."
Coinage at Carson City 1889-1890
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1890, told of the Nevada facility:
"The mint at Carson was reopened for coinage on July 1, 1889, but, owing to the dilapidated condition in which the building and machinery was found, after four years of idleness, repairs and betterment of the building and overhauling and repairing the machinery were necessary, and consequently the coinage of gold and silver was not commenced until October 1, 1889. . . . The melter and refiner received, during the year, bullion containing 183,635.672 standard ounces of gold. He made 83 melts of gold ingots, of which 6 were condemned.
"He returned to the superintendent in settlement, at the close of the fiscal year, an excess of 3.322 standard ounces of gold. The same officer received, during the year, bullion containing 1,812,222.15 standard ounces of silver. He made 1,358 melts of silver ingots, of which 39 were condemned. He returned to the superintendent in settlement, at the close of the year, an excess of 921.80 standard ounces of silver.
"The coiner received from the superintendent 192,722.350 standard ounces of gold. There were coined in his department and delivered to the superintendent 92,460 double eagles of the value of $1,849,200, being 51.5% of good coin produced from ingots operated on. He had a gold wastage of 6.689 standard ounces.
"The same officer operated upon 2,331,896 standard ounces of silver and delivered to the superintendent 1,438,000 standard silver dollars, being 54% of good coin produced from ingots operated upon. He had a silver wastage of 378.98 standard ounces."
Silver Dollar


1889-CC Morgan Silver Dollar
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