Collecting Vintage U.S. Dollars
For experienced investors and beginning hobbyists alike, collecting vintage U.S. dollars is an exciting and rewarding venture. The history of American coinage has seen a multitude of twists and turns, adding value and unique beauty to nearly every series that has been struck. From Morgan Silver pieces to the intricate designs of Saint-Gaudens, collectors can easily find worthwhile opportunities among vintage U.S. dollars.
Morgan Silver Dollars
Morgan Silver Dollars are perennially popular and readily available. From online marketplaces to coin shows of all sizes, you can easily obtain uncirculated examples at competitive prices. Some people prefer to collect Morgan Dollar coins with a bright white finish, while others enjoy colorful rainbow-toned pieces and pay top dollar for examples with uniquely beautiful coloring. The vibrant colors on certain Morgan Silver Dollar coins were caused by the original canvas bags in which they were stored at the U.S. Mint, with varying levels of intensity based on humidity and temperature variations.
The Morgan Silver Dollar value varies significantly, depending on the beauty of the finish. A shiny coin with no coloration in Very Good condition can be purchased for under $100 while a colorfully finished example from the same year could potentially sell for over $1,000. The 1904 Morgan Silver Dollar struck in New Orleans, with a mintage of 3,720,000, is very popular and has a value of approximately $70.
Carson City Morgan Dollar
Because of the unique history associated with the short-lived Nevada branch of the U.S. Mint, the Carson City Morgan Dollar is a much sought-after vintage coin. The mint was in operation intermittently from 1870 until 1893 and struck a relatively small number of coins compared to other branches of the mint. Only a tiny percentage of Morgan Silver Dollars were made in Carson City, making them a rare find for collectors.
Because almost all coins minted in Carson City were made from Silver mined in the Comstock Lode, these coins carry an extra level of historic importance for collectors interested in the Wild West. Investors drawn to owning a Carson City Morgan Dollar occasionally purchase them for less than $150 but will find higher quality examples with a value of $500 to $1,000.
Seated Liberty Dollar
In 1836, an engraver named Christian Gobrecht created a coin design featuring Lady Liberty in a seated position rather than as a bust, which was most common at the time. But the Seated Liberty Dollar wasn’t introduced for circulation until 1840. Interestingly, the Seated Liberty design was added to dimes and half dimes in 1837, quarters in 1838 and half dollars in 1839 before finally being used on the denomination for which it was intended. This coin was the last Silver Dollar series to be made before the Coinage Act of 1873, which suspended production for several years. A Mint State Seated Liberty Dollar from the first year of issue can have a value of up to $10,000, while Very Good examples from later years can be found for as low as $300.
American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens was at the height of his popularity at the beginning of the 20th century. Born in Ireland, he was an immigrant with significant prominence in the United States. Among his fans was President Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1905, commissioned Saint-Gaudens to redesign every coin made by the U.S. Mint. The most famous vintage coin designed by Saint-Gaudens is the $20 Liberty Standing, a Gold piece many describe as the most beautiful of all American coins. Released in 1907, the year of issue on this coin initially appeared in Roman numerals and was changed to standard digits in coins struck from late that year and onward. Known to investors today as the Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagle, Mint State examples typically have a value between $1,500 and $2,000, depending on the year of issue.
Indian Gold Half Eagle
A vintage coin that did not receive much attention for many years is the Indian Gold Half Eagle. Minted from 1908 until 1929, this $5 Gold piece was not widely circulated at the time but has become highly collectible in today’s market. The intricate design of a Native American chief is seen on the obverse, with a stately eagle on the reverse. Indian Gold Half Eagles are significant because they are one of only two coins ever struck by the U.S. Mint utilizing sunken relief within the imagery. Many of these coins were melted back into bullion during the Great Depression, making them a rare piece of American history. Indian Gold Half Eagles with a grade of Almost Uncirculated can be found today for less than $500.