Silver dollars have historically been one of the most popular coins among collectors and investors. Minted from silver rather than a base metal, silver dollars have intrinsic value from their precious metal content. The value of a silver dollar depends on factors like its condition, mintage, rarity and precious metal prices.
What Is a Silver Dollar?
A silver dollar is a one dollar coin minted in the United States between 1794 and 1935. Silver dollars were last minted for circulation in 1935, although limited numbers of certain coin issues have been created since then. The term “silver dollar” most often refers to Morgan and Peace silver dollars minted from 1878 to 1935.
Morgan dollars were minted from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921. The Morgan dollar features a profile of Lady Liberty on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. Peace dollars were minted from 1921 to 1935 to commemorate peace after World War I. They feature a profile of Lady Liberty on the obverse and an eagle with an olive branch on the reverse.
Silver dollars are composed of 90% silver and 10% copper. This gives them a precious metal value in addition to their face value of $1. When silver dollars were still in circulation, they were often referred to as “cartwheels” for their large size and weight compared to other coins of the era.
What Determines a Silver Dollar’s Worth?
There are several factors that determine how much a silver dollar is worth today:
- Silver Content – The intrinsic silver value provides a base level of worth.
- Condition – The grade assigned based on wear, luster and marks.
- Mintage – Low mintage dates and key date coins command higher prices.
- Rarity – Some varieties and error coins have very small populations.
- Demand – Popular varieties and well-known coins attract collector interest.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these value factors:
Silver Content Value
With a 90% silver composition, a silver dollar contains 0.77344 troy ounces of pure silver. The table below shows the minimum silver value for common silver dollars based on silver spot prices as of November 1, 2023:
|Coin||Silver Weight (Troy Oz)||Silver Value (@ $19.00/oz)|
This means that a heavily worn Morgan or Peace dollar with no collector value would be worth at least its silver melt value. Silver dollars struck prior to 1878 contain slightly more silver at 90.27%.
The condition or grade of a silver dollar plays a major role in determining its worth to collectors. Heavily worn and damaged coins have little premium value. On the other hand, “uncirculated” coins showing no wear can command substantial premiums.
Professional coin grading services like PCGS and NGC assign numeric grades from 1 through 70 based on a coin’s condition. Higher numbers reflect better condition and higher value. For circulated coins, the grading scale used is:
- Very Good-8
- Very Fine-20
- Extremely Fine-40
- About Uncirculated-50
Uncirculated coins are graded from MS60 up to the theoretical perfect MS70. Condition rarity for a specific date and mint can greatly increase value. For example, an MS65 1885 Philadelphia Morgan dollar may be worth over $300 compared to just $14.70 for its silver content.
The total number of coins struck for a date, mint and variety is called the mintage. Some key date silver dollars have very low mintages compared to more common issues. Coins with low mintages in circulated condition can be worth substantial premiums. Examples include:
- 1893-S Morgan Dollar – 100,000 minted
- 1895 Morgan Dollar – 880,000 minted
- 1895-O Morgan Dollar – 450,000 minted
- 1892-S Morgan Dollar – 1,200,000 minted
Uncirculated examples of these dates are particularly rare and expensive. High demand results from the low supply of nice condition survivors.
Aside from having a low mintage, some silver dollar varieties are rare because few examples were released or many were later melted. These “condition rarities” can be worth large premiums over common issues. Some key rarities include:
- 1804 Silver Dollar – Class I Original and Class III Restrike varieties are worth over $1 million each in nice condition due to extreme rarity.
- 1895 Proof Morgan Dollar – Just 12-15 examples of this proof-only date exist.
- 1921 Peace Dollar High Relief – Less than two dozen of these specially struck coins are known.
- 1964 Peace Dollar – Illegally struck sometime in the mid-1960s, only 9-12 authenticated examples trade hands.
Error coins, like off-center strikes and double-struck coins, are also considered rare varieties that are highly sought-after.
Collector demand is the final factor determining silver dollar value. Certain Morgan dollar varieties are worth large premiums based simply on popularity.
The 1879-CC Morgan dollar is worth over $200 in G-4 condition and over $4,000 in MS65 condition. With a reasonably high mintage over 2.7 million, its value comes mainly from collector interest. The lower mintage 1878-CC Morgan Dollar has less demand and trades for significantly less in circulated condition.
Likewise, the 1884-S Morgan dollar has strong collector demand due to its low mintage of just 3.2 million coins. Most examples were melted with few surviving in top grades. Its value reflects both its rarity and popularity.
What Are Silver Dollars Worth in Different Conditions?
Here is an overview of silver dollar values based on condition:
|Condition||Typical Value Range|
|Good (G-4)||$15 – $55 (common dates)|
|Very Good (VG-8)||$18 – $85|
|Fine (F-12)||$20 – $120|
|Very Fine (VF-20)||$25 – $150|
|Extremely Fine (EF-40)||$30 – $200|
|About Uncirculated (AU-50)||$50 – $500|
|Uncirculated (MS-60)||$70 – $1,500|
|Gem Uncirculated (MS-65)||$100 – $5,000|
Key dates, rare varieties and special condition rarities can easily fall outside of these general ranges.
Most Valuable Silver Dollars
Here is a look at some of the most expensive and rare silver dollars that have sold at auction or through dealers:
- 1804 Silver Dollar – The “King of Coins”, Class I Originals have sold for between $2.5 million to $4.14 million.
- 1913 Liberty Head Nickel (Pattern Struck as Silver Dollar) – The Olsen Specimen sold for $3.29 million in 2007.
- 1885 Trade Dollar – The sole known Proof example sold for $3.29 million in August 2006.
- 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar – The Cardinal Collection Specimen sold for $10 million in January 2021.
- 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar – The Neil/Carter/Contursi Specimen sold privately for $10 million in 2010.
Other notable rarities selling for 6 and 7-figure sums have included the 1804 Class III Restrike, 1873-CC No Arrows Seated Liberty dollar and multiple 1893-S Morgan dollars grading MS64 or higher.
For collectable common-date Morgan dollars, those grading MS65 can sell for $100 to over $5,000 with rainbow toning or special pedigree. MS66 gems can bring $1,000 to $15,000 or more depending on eye appeal and other attributes. And MS67 to MS68 coins trade for anywhere from $10,000 up to $100,000 at auction.
Finding Accurate Silver Dollar Values
Determining the true market value for a silver dollar involves researching actual auction and sales records for the specific date, mint, variety and condition.
For common circulated grades, the Red Book price guide provides an approximation. For certified/graded coins, the PCGS Price Guide and NGC Coin Explorer both list average values for each date and grade.
Looking at recent eBay sold listings can provide a snapshot of current market prices. Viewing price realized records from major coin auction houses, like Heritage Auctions and Stack’s Bowers, will yield the most accurate values for rare coins.
For extremely rare coins or patterns, researching historical sales records may be the only way to assign a dollar figure to their value. Rarity alone makes many silver dollars worth far more than their face value or silver content.
Selling Silver Dollars
There are several options for selling your silver dollars:
- Sell directly to a coin dealer either locally or an online dealer.
- Sell to other collectors through auction houses, forums or marketplaces like eBay.
- Use a consignment service to have your coins auctioned for maximum market value.
- Take advantage of buyback programs from major coin grading companies.
Getting coins professionally graded and authenticated by PCGS, NGC or ANACS will verify the condition and significantly increase value for high-grade coins.
Research the fair market value thoroughly before selling. Be wary of undergrading or undervaluing rare coins which can cost you thousands of dollars or more!
Silver Dollar Investment Potential
Silver dollars have great tangible value from their precious metal content. They also possess collectible value that has steadily increased over time. Many silver dollars – especially Morgans – were melted down over the years, increasing the rarity of those that still exist.
Key date silver dollars in top condition have consistently increased in value over the decades. Low mintage coins like the 1895 Morgan dollar that brings $50,000+ in AU/UNC condition are very scarce finds in today’s market. As time passes, rarity and demand will likely continue increasing.
Investment-grade Morgan and Peace dollars with strong eye appeal in MS65 condition can provide good long term growth potential. These numismatic gems have value well above the intrinsic silver worth.
Silver dollars carry modest premiums compared to gold coins, allowing for portfolio diversification on a budget. With collectors always hunting for rare dates and varieties, circulation finds still occur but become increasingly uncommon over time.
The Future Market for Silver Dollars
Silver dollars will continue to represent one of the pillars of American numismatics. Both the Morgan and Peace dollars series contain dozens of keys dates, condition rarities, and one-of-a-kind varieties to stoke demand from collectors and investors.
Exceptional gem quality Morgan dollars certified MS66 and higher will likely be the most sought after among investors seeking value appreciation. These condition rarities have steadily increased in value in recent decades.
Classic silver dollars with rich history will always enjoy strong collector demand. Those with demonstrable rarity will command the highest prices when auction records are set. As existing supplies dwindle from melting and loss, remaining coins will grow more valuable.
Long term prospects for the rarest silver dollars are bright. Landmark rarities like the 1804 dollar, 1913 Liberty Head nickel, and 1866 No Motto dollar are million-dollar trophy coins highly coveted by the most advanced collectors.
Barring a major change in precious metal prices or economic upheaval, the best Morgan dollars, Peace dollars and early American rarities should continue appreciating over the next 50 years and beyond.
Silver dollars have a baseline worth from their metal content. However, condition rarity, low mintages and demand create substantial numismatic value for many dates and mints. Key date Morgan and Peace dollars along with extremely rare coins like the 1804 dollar carry values in the hundreds to millions of dollars.
Collectors and investors appreciate silver dollars for their physical beauty and ties to America’s history and the Wild West era. Exceptional gem Morgans and Peace dollars stand out as investments with strong ongoing appreciation potential into the future.