Probably no other U.S. coins carry as much mystique and romance as Carson City Morgan silver dollars! Desperadoes stole bags of them from banks of the Old West, cowboys plunked them down in saloons and gamblers bet them in poker games.
Of course, as Morgans, they’re part of the world’s most collected classic silver dollar series. But because these particular coins were struck in a bustling Nevada mining town, they have a “Wild West” aura that collectors find irresistible.
In fact, most collectors would prefer to own a “CC” dollar (given equal rarity) than one from any other mint. And Carson City dollars are also more appealing from a strictly numismatic viewpoint as just 2% of total Morgans were minted there. The “CC” mintmark has always been and remains the rarest in the Morgan series.
The Discovery of Silver and Gold:
Between 1859 and 1882, the Comstock Lode in Nevada produced $292 million in silver and gold. The vast new supply of silver resulted in the introduction of U.S. Morgan silver dollars in 1878. These silver dollars had great buying power in their time — the average worker made only about $1 a day in those days and many were paid in silver dollars.
Story of the Mint:
The Carson City Mint was founded in 1870 to lessen the need to transport silver bullion on a hazardous 300-mile journey to the San Francisco Mint. But by the time the Morgan silver dollar was authorized in 1878, the Comstock Lode was already beginning to dry up. On top of this, the government decided to charge miners bringing silver to the Mint a fee equal to the cost of transporting the bullion to San Francisco!
So even before it got started producing Morgans, the rationale for the Carson City Mint was thwarted. That’s why so few Morgans were minted there — averaging only about a million each year. And because the new Mint had such a light workload — plus new presses — the quality of the coins produced there was excellent.
In addition to the lessened silver supplies, there were repeated allegations of scandal. It was discovered that some gold ingots processed at Carson City were underweight, and finally three employees were convicted of gold theft. Together with the low productivity, this was why the Carson City Mint was closed down in 1893.
Where to Go From Here:
Nowadays, the Carson City Mint’s problems are seen as a blessing in disguise by numismatists and collectors. The issues explain why Carson City produced such a small fraction of the total Morgans minted making these coins especially sought after today.
Adding a “CC” Morgan to your collection might be a challenge. Remember, just 2% of all Morgans were minted at the remote location and after melts and attrition, only a portion of those remain today. But the satisfaction you feel when you hold the big, historic silver coin in your hand makes it all worthwhile. Happy coin hunting!