Morgan dollars have been one of the coin market's main beneficiaries of the renewed interest in silver, as the prices for common examples have soared in the last year.
Dealers are seeking quantities of these coins for purchase, in grades from cull to Mint State 67, to fill orders. While common dates have become more expensive, many Morgan dollars that once traded at premiums are now, relatively, more affordable.
As of April 19, major market makers were paying $97 for 1878 to 1904 dated MS-64 examples certified by either Professional Coin Grading Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corp, $202 for MS-65 coins, $365 for MS-66 examples and $645 for MS-67 pieces provided they were untoned, or nearly so.
Just one month earlier when silver was at the $35 level, these Morgan dollars were trading at $77, $156, $252 and $585 respectively.
Contrast this to a year ago when silver was around $18 an ounce and the same coins were trading at $37, $47, $125, $220 and $650 respectively.
Speculators, market observers and curious collectors are all wondering if the rapid rise in prices for the lower grades of Mint State generic dollars is sustainable.
A silver lining is that the premiums for many issues once considered "better" have simply evaporated.
At the MS-64 level, 1882, 1883 and 1888-O Morgan dollars, which once traded for $20 premiums, now trade at around the same price as a common example like the 1881-S dollar.
The 1903 Morgan dollar once enjoyed a $40 premium in MS-64 over common coins and that premium has been reduced sharply to just a few dollars.
In MS-65 the premiums for other issues evaporate including the 1883-O dollar, which lost its $50 premium and now trades as a generic coin.
The 1898 Morgan dollar, which once traded at a $75 premium, now trades at just a $10 premium over a generic coin. In terms of relative rarity, PCGS and NGC have certified just 4,251 examples of the 1898 dollar in MS-65 in contrast to more than 90,000 MS-65 1881-S dollars. Yet, with some looking, a collector can now purchase both for around the same price.
While these coins have not gotten any rarer or more common, the demand for certified generic dollars has presented some buying opportunities for savvy collectors to buy scarcer issues for the same price as a common example.
Down the grade scale, some tougher Morgan dollars look like fantastic values.
With common Very Good Morgan dollars trading at $34, prices for issues like the 1894-O and the 1894-S dollars have not changed much in the past year and now can be purchased for less than $10 more than the most common example.
Steve Roach is a Dallas, Texas, based rare coin appraiser and fine art advisor who writes the world's most widely read rare coin market analysis each week in the pages of Coin World. He is also a lawyer and helps create estate plans for collections. Visit him online at http://www.steveroachonline.com, join him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenroach or follow him on twitter @roachdotsteve