GSA Morgan dollars are silver dollars that were minted between 1878 and 1921. The GSA stands for Government Services Administration, which is the part of the government that made the coins publicly available.
They’re still widely publicly available to this day, and are one of the most popular coins in the world when it comes to collecting. Most if not all coin shows will feature an abundance of GSA Morgan dollars, so they’re far from a rarity.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be disregarded when it comes to investing. Historically GSA Morgan dollars have been sold at substantial prices, and have generally performed well as investments. So should you be stocking up on Morgan silver dollars?
The following will outline the pros and cons of investing in this popular coin.
Why Are GSA Morgan Dollars So Popular?
There are several reasons why GSA Morgan Dollars are so popular. The first reason is that most of the 3 million dollars in the hoard are Carson City Morgan dollars (otherwise known as CC Morgan dollars). Carson City Morgan dollars are exceptionally popular with collectors, because they’re reasonably scarce, and because their origins in Carson City (Nevada), a silver-mining mecca back in the 19th century, give them heaps of historical value.
But not all GSA Morgan dollars are Carson City mint Morgan dollars. 125,000 of the hoard are from other mints, as well as the extremely rare GSA Peace dollar, which was minted between 1921 and 1935. The sheer amount of opportunities that GSA Morgan dollars boast for collectors are a large part of why they’re so renowned by the community.
Another reason is their Old West roots, which give them a great deal of historical value. GSA Morgan dollars were first made during the height of westward expansion into the Pacific coast and the Rockies back in the late 19th century.
This is where the dollars were most widely circulated. They are featured in a wide array of Western movies and TV shows, and over the years they were targeted by many high-profile robberies. Nothing screams Wild West vibes more than a Carson City Morgan dollar.
GSA Morgan dollars are also inherently guaranteed to be authentic by the United States government. There are an endless assortment of collectable coins on the market these days, most of which are going for reasonably high prices despite being common and of subpar quality. GSA Morgan dollars, on the other hand, are mostly uncirculated, lending them even more of that historical charm.
Back in the 70s, GSA Morgan dollars hit quite the peak. While the majority of United States mint coins were either proof sets (early samples of a coin issue that were produced for the purpose of archives, as well as for checking the dies) or base-metal uncirculated sets, the GSA’s sale of 90% silver dollars prompted a boost in the collector base that had otherwise gone off US mint coins.
Another reason GSA Morgan dollars are so popular is because they often bring premium prices if in their original packaging. GSA Morgan dollars are usually packaged in pliable cellophane or rigid cases. Some collectors naturally want to obtain Morgan dollars in their iconic packaging, while other collectors are hoping that upon purchasing the coin in its original packaging it will receive a favorable grade once submitted to a coin grader.
So, even before factoring in their liquidity and impressive price performance over long periods of time, GSA Morgan dollars are certainly one of the most popular coins in the collector community.
Are GSA Morgan Dollars A Good Investment?
GSA Morgan dollars are highly sought after and widely collected, more so than most other silver coins minted by the United States. Demand is constant, which makes for downside price protection (which essentially just means you’re protected against a decrease in value) and true value. So there’s very little risk in buying GSA Morgan dollars.
Carson City Morgan dollars in particular are one of the very few collections of United States coins from before 1933 that can actually be completed by the average collector. This is just one more reason why they’re so sought after, and another reason why they’re so worth spending money on.
Which GSA Morgan Dollars Should I Invest In?
When investing in GSA Morgan dollars, you should only be investing in those coins of the highest grade you can afford. Proof Morgan dollars have historically performed very well when it comes to investments, followed closely in performance by MS-65 coins. These tend to be a lot more expensive than coins graded as MS-60 through MS-63, but they’re the most likely types of GSA Morgan dollars to make you a significant amount of money in the long run. This is, naturally, because of their notable rarity.
Consider The Source
When investing in any rare coins, the source for getting your coins graded is a very important factor to consider. Not all grading services have the same standards when it comes to grading coins. For example, the difference in price between an MS-63 GSA Morgan dollar and a MS-65 one is massive, so you need to know you’re getting the right price.
Coins in slabs from either NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Company) or PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) tend to be worth more than slabbed coins from other lesser known grading services.
The main reason these prices are so different is because the Numismatic Guaranty Company (an international third-party grading service that are based in Sarasota, Floria) and the Professional Coin Grading Service (an American third-party service, owned by parent company Collectors Universe) are known for having standards for grading that are of the utmost consistency. They’re also completely non-subjective in their approach to grading.
Understanding The Range Of GSA Morgan Dollars
If you’re considering investing in GSA Morgan dollars, it’s important that you know as much as you can about all the different types- because there are many. Differences mostly include key surface characteristics, such as the strike.
This refers to the minting process that was used to strike the planchet, of which there are three basic types: Circulation Strike, Proof Strike, and Special Mint Strike (SMS). Other key surface characteristics to read up on include luster (sometimes referred to as ‘Mint Luster’ or ‘Coin Luster’, this is the name for the sheen or reflective effect you see on a coin’s surface), and contact marks (usually the result of any foreign objects that might have struck the coin, but can also occasionally be scratches from the striking process itself).
The best way to go about learning up on all these differences, and on all the different branch mints and different years they could have been minted, is by going through experts, particularly ones who have been studying these coins for a number of years.
While getting in touch with experts for consultations and spending years studying the coins are both rather unrealistic options, there’s no stopping you from accessing the literature.
The most prevalent writer in regards to coin collecting is probably Q. David Bowers. Bowers wrote the Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars (published by Whitman), which is at the time of writing in its fifth edition. Bowers is considered the ‘Dean of American Numismatists’, and he’s written more than 50 books.
He’s known for appraising (and selling) some of the most well known coin collections in history, including the Eliasberg collection and the Garrett collection. Just in case you’re somehow still not impressed, he’s also the only person in history to have owned a complete collection of United States coins.
Types of GSA Morgan Dollars
There are multiple types of GSA Morgan dollars, so to give you an idea of their rarity and value in general, below is a list of just a few of them.
1889 Carson City Morgan Dollar
The original mintage number of the 1889 CC Morgan was 350,000, but just 9,000 survived. Their recommended grade range is between XF-40 and AU-58, and their estimated price range tends to go from $4,200 to a whopping $19,000. This is one of the rarest Morgan Dollars of any mint.
1884 Carson City Morgan Dollar
The original mintage number of the 1884 CC Morgan was 1,136,000, and 82,000 survived. Their recommended grade range is between MS-63 and MS-66, and their estimated price range is usually between a modest $325 and $1,100. This makes them an ideal entry point for new collectors.
So, are GSA Morgan City dollars good investments? Certainly. The more common Morgan dollars, namely the ones in Uncirculated grades, probably aren’t worth your time, but if you can afford to spend a little more cash and you’re willing to read up on their history and gradings, then you could be looking at a safe bet in the long run.