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1885 Was A Very Good Year



1885 was a very good year for my Morgan Dollar collection, but not so for the Carson City Mint.

A number of significant events occurred in 1885; among them were the births of World War II Admiral Chester Nimitz and General George Patton. In 1885, the magazine ?Good Housekeeping? hit the newsstands and Mark Twain?s ?Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? was on the way to become a best seller. In 1885, we saw significant advances in medicine with the first surgical appendectomy and an effective vaccine against rabies. On the social and business scenes, the US ?Salvation Army? organizes, and technological giant American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) becomes incorporated. In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated and the ?Statue of Liberty? arrived in New York. However, in the middle of all these significant events and a new administration in Washington, the Carson City Mint closed in 1885 simply because its administrators were of the wrong political persuasion.

With this as a historical backdrop, I recently completed an 1885-year set of Morgan Dollars. Among Morgan?s, 1885 is a relatively easy year to assemble in mint-state condition. My year set started with the most difficult coin, the 1885-CC. Current Fair Market Value lists this coin in MS-64 condition for $720, and I acquired this coin in the mid 70?s as part of the ?LaVere Redfield? hoard for around $90. Two other coins, the 1885 and 1885-O have a Fair Market Value of $215 each in MS-65 condition. Both coins I recently purchased for ?Gary?s MS-65 & 66 Morgan Gems? custom set. This leaves me lacking only the 1885-S and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed a shame not collect the entire year set. Subsequently I began perusing E-Bay listings for the 1885-S Morgan Dollar and briefly considered a MS-62 example for $272. I declined to buy this coin because it cost more than I wanted to pay for a coin that does not otherwise fit into my collection. Furthermore, there are still a few more coins left to purchase for my custom set. After searching through several E-Bay listings; I bid on and won an acceptable AU-53 example for slightly less than FMV and less than half the cost of the MS-62.

Because I love coinage history, I am fascinated at the pedigree of my 1885-CC Morgan Dollar. First is the coins? origin in Carson City, Nevada. Nothing says ?old west? like a Carson City Dollar minted with silver most likely mined from the Comstock Lode. Additionally, the 1885 dollar was the last coin minted at Carson City until 1889 when a new presidential administration came into office and the mint re-opened. The Carson City Mint minted silver and gold coins through 1893 and served as an assay office for some time thereafter.

The second half of my coins pedigree pertains to my coins? previous owner LaVere Redfield. LaVere Redfield was a man who liked hard currency and did not trust banks (kind of sounds like a lot of us today). From his estate in Reno, Nevada, he amassed a hoard of over 400,000 silver dollars and stored them in the basement of his house. In those days, silver dollars were readily available at face value through local banks and casinos. It is said that LaVere Redfield bought his dollars by the $1000 bag, and dropped the bags through a coal chute into a hidden area of his basement. This accounts for the excessive bag marks on many of the coins from the hoard. After his death in 1974, his heirs auctioned the entire hoard for 7.3 million dollars and from there the coins were sold to individual collectors like me.

Below is a photo collage of my 1885-CC Morgan Dollar, so until next time, happy collecting!





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