What Is the 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar?

Posted on February 15, 2021

No coin collection is complete without a 1921 Morgan silver dollar. This coin has a significant economical and political history that makes it one of the most sought-after United States coins. Take a look at this quick history and overview to get acquainted with the 1921 Morgan silver dollar.

What Makes This Dollar Unique?

There are a few different factors that make the 1921 Morgan silver dollar special, including:

  • The 1921 run of this coin was the last of the Morgan dollar series.
  • The U.S. Treasury had to craft special dies in order to mint these silver coins.
  • To create the 1921 mintage, the government melted down over 270 million Morgan silver dollars.
  • The Morgan silver dollar was widely used only in the Western United States.

What Is the History Behind This Dollar?

The Morgan silver dollar series has a rich history that makes them particularly attractive to collectors. The series culminated with the 1921 Morgan dollar, which was the final mintage for the coin.

The United States and Silver

The United States has a rocky relationship with silver. In 1783, Thomas Jefferson developed a national coinage based on the Spanish silver dollar. The United States Congress adopted this system in 1785, but the country wasn't able to start producing its own coinage until the Mint Act of 1792. This act established the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, naming the silver dollar as the silver coin with the highest denomination.

In 1794, the U.S. produced its first silver dollars, which failed. Merchants preferred Spanish silver dollars, which were heavier and more familiar, and sold U.S. silver dollars overseas. Production of silver dollars stopped in 1804, though Congress brought it back in 1836. They were official U.S. currency, but the silver dollars were mostly vaulted, melted down, or sold overseas. Production stopped again in 1873.

Why Was the Morgan Silver Dollar Made?

Like many American dollar coins during the 19th and 20th centuries, the Morgan silver dollar was never a popular currency. Production of the first Morgan dollars occurred from 1878 to 1904. The Morgan silver dollars were a result of the 1878 Bland-Allison Act, which reestablished silver as legal tender in the United States. This act required the government to mint 2 million silver dollars per month. [1]

In 1904, the production of the Morgan silver dollar ceased because of the depletion of the silver bullion supply and Comstock Lode. The popularity of the paper dollar was another factor in the cessation of the silver dollar. In 1918, Congress passed the Pittman Act. This act required the government to melt down older, largely uncirculated Morgan dollars in the United States Treasury vaults and buy more silver to replace them.

The Morgan silver dollar was revived for one more run in 1921 before the series was replaced by the Peace silver dollar. It was designed and engraved by its namesake, George T. Morgan.

Morgan Dollars Destroyed

In 1942, even more Morgan silver dollars were melted down as a result of the Wartime Silver Act. Between 1979 and 1980, millions of coins were melted down. It's now fairly difficult to accurately estimate how many Morgan silver dollars exist today. Though the 1921 Morgan silver dollar is the most common version of the coin, its numbers have dwindled as a result of mass melting.

How Can You Recognize and Value the Variations of This Dollar?

There are a few distinguishing features of the 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar that make it particularly valuable.

  • Unique silver content. 0.7734 oz of silver is relatively high and was unparalleled in dollars at the time. The 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar was the first of its kind, to feature such high silver content. Metallurgic analysis can confirm this alongside coin grading.
  • Used special dies. Because the Treasury had destroyed Morgan Silver Dollar dies, these had to be recreated in 1921 to fulfill the recoining outlined in the 1918 Pittman Act. These generate the unique design of the 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar.
  • Denver mint. In 1921, the Denver mint was added for production of these half dollars, and it was the only year that they were produced there”making these silver dollars particularly valuable, even before the relative production volumes among the mints are considered.

Depending on the features that your particular silver dollar bears, its value can differ widely. However, the coin's value effectively relies on two properties:

  • Where was it minted? The mint mark will reveal whether it was minted in Philadelphia (the default, so no mint mark), Denver (D), or San Francisco (S). Each mint released different volumes of coins this year, and therefore silver dollars from each mint have different values of scarcity. Philadelphia led the way with 45 million silver dollars; San Francisco made about 21 million; and Denver made about 20 million.
  • What condition is the coin in? Generally speaking, a mint-state condition 1921 Morgan Silver Dollar will fetch about two-and-a-half to three times the value of a coin in good condition, but this number can get higher depending on the mint and coin condition.

Who Is Interested in This Dollar and Why?

A mint-condition, uncirculated 1921 Morgan silver dollar is worth around $56, especially versions with mint marks. A coin with the lowest 'good' rating is worth $29. [2] The higher the quality of a 1921 Morgan silver dollar, the more appealing it will be to collectors. The auction record for a rare mint-condition 1921 silver dollar is $19,975. The auction record for a 1921-D Morgan silver dollar was $44,063. [3]

An attractive aspect of the 1921 Morgan silver dollar is that it is an accessible and worthwhile pursuit for both collectors and investors. Some silver dollars in decent condition are affordable, and some can sell for a nice profit.

Regardless of monetary worth, the 1921 silver dollar has a nostalgic place in United States history, and it makes for an appealing addition to any person's coin collection.

Article Sources

1. GovMint. 'Morgan Silver Dollar Coins,' https://www.govmint.com/morgan-silver-dollar. Accessed Sept. 3, 2020.

2. USA Coin Book. '1921 Morgan Dollars,' https://www.usacoinbook.com/coins/3300/dollars/morgan/1921-P/. Accessed Sept. 3, 2020.

3. Collectors Universe, Inc. 'PCGS Auction Prices, Morgan Dollar, 1921 Morgan MS,' https://www.pcgs.com/auctionprices/details/1921-morgan-ms/97297. Accessed Sept. 3, 2020.