"A true Uncirculated 1895 Silver Dollar would be one of the greatest finds in numismatic history."
Thus begins Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth's discussion of the issue, listed as number 76 in 100 Greatest U.S. Coins. The authors point out that the reported figure of 12,000 business strikes manufactured would put the 1895 Morgan business strikes (if any exist today, or ever existed in the past) as far rarer than the two other lowest-mintage business strike Morgans, the 1893-S and 1894, both of which posted circulation strikes of 100,000 coins or greater.
Ignoring the issue of whether or not any business strike 1895-dated Morgan dollars were ever struck, the mystery of the 1895 Philadelphia silver dollar production only deepens when one considers the characteristics of the proofs.
Writing in September 2006 in Coin Values magazine, in an article titled "Philly 1895 Morgan Dollars," Roger Burdette discusses the number of dies manufactured for the proof issue. He notes that Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber provided an annual report of dies provided to the coiner, in which he separated the "dies by those used for circulation coinage and those used for Proof coins":
"All United States coinage dies were made by the engraving department at the Philadelphia Mint. Working dies for the coming year were prepared by the engraving department during the last quarter of the calendar year, and generally shipped to the Branch Mints in December. Because of the time and cost involved in making a coinage die, particularly those required for silver dollars, the engraving department made only the minimum expected to be needed during the first part of the new year. Thereafter, the Branch Mints placed orders for additional dies with the director's office in Washington.
"A typical pair of silver dollar dies could produce 250,000 or more coins before wear or damage caused the dies to be removed from service. Some die pairs lasted for 450,000 coins!"
Apparently nine dies -- five obverses and four reverses -- for the 1895 proof Morgans were created, yet no die totals at all are shown for standard circulating dollars. (Burdette writes, ".. nothing says they [the dies] were only used to strike Proofs.")
Four different obverse dies are documented among the proofs surviving today (see the Bowers Silver Dollar Encyclopedia). Why were so many dies created for a nominal proof issue of 880 pieces, and why were none recorded for business strikes? The question remains unsolved, as does the larger mystery of whether the 1895 business strikes were ever minted at all -- and if they were, what fate they ultimately met.
Census: 5 in 67 Ultra Cameo, 6 finer (4/11).
From The Virginia Beach Collection.(Registry values: P4) (#97330)
To be sold at the Heritage Long Beach Sale as Lot 4150