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Fine or MS?



It makes no sense to buy an 1881-CC Morgan Dollar for $305 in Fine condition when I could have a MS-63 for roughly $200 more.

Many of you are aware that I am trying to purchase the best Morgan Dollars possible for an average cost of $200 per coin and grading no lower than VG-10. However, there are eight coins in this series that even in grades as low as VG-10, have Fair Market Values of more than $200 each. Among those coins with a FMV of over $200 in VG-10 is the 1881-CC.

The 1881-CC with a mintage of 296,000 is an interesting coin because it is readily available in Mint State. PCGS Coin Facts estimates the survivability of the 1881-CC in MS condition at 156,700 coins or 52% of the original mintage. This anomaly is also true for the 1885-CC and the 1903-O.

Since Carson City Morgan Dollars are popular with collectors, and the 1881-CC has a low mintage, this coin has a respectable FMV of $328 in VG. In fact, I saw an F-12 listed on E-Bay as a ?Buy it Now? for $305. However, since the 1881-CC is so readily available in Mint State, one can purchase an MS-63 example for between $475 and $525.

This left me with the same decision I had when I bought my 1903-O Morgan, do I buy a VG coin or spend a couple hundred more dollars and get a solid MS coin. The decision was simple, and I bought a MS-63 1881-CC in a PCGS rattler holder for a reasonable price. My rational is simple, when I can get quality for a relatively small amount of money, I will most often go with quality because it provides the best value.

In stark contrast to the 1881-CC is the 1895-O with a mintage of 450,000 and an estimated survivability of 37,515 in all grades, and just 740 coins in MS! With a FMV of $253 in VG, I went for the VG as opposed to $52,500 in MS-63. However, this coin does not represent the best value, and I may upgrade it at a future date to XF for about $300 more.

Of those eight coins I identified as budget busters, I already own four. After those four coins, the prices begin to get steep. In VG the 1895-S goes for FMV $426, the 1889-CC for $620, the 1894 for $1050, and the granddaddy of them all the 1893-S at $2910! In fact, I tracked a VG-10 1893-S on E-Bay last week with a closing hammer price of $2650. Obviously, these will need a significant amount of financial planning and restraint from everything else that interests me in order to purchase them. So alas, I find myself in the all too familiar dilemma of infinite choices and finite resources. That said, in time, and with patience, I may yet complete this set.

For now, those coins can wait as I endeavor to collect all the MS coins first. When this set is complete, more than 50% of the coins will be in MS condition, and that?s not too bad for $200/coin. By the way, with 54 coins spanning all my Morgan sets my running average is $186/coin! Until next time, happy collecting!





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