1881 Morgan Silver Dollar Value (Errors, Mint Marks & More)

An old 1881 Morgan silver dollar might not be as rare as a Gold dollar, with its 3-city mintage, but it is known for being one of the first designer-made coins in America!

In fact, most of its motifs align with the national policy, depicting the states and ideals of the US! And apart from the national value, collectors love this dollar for its mint marks, errors & intricate obverse, portraying ‘Lady Liberty.’

So, just don’t go by the coin’s 1$ face value. Explore this value guide, and check if your 1881 Morgan dollar is worth more than its denomination!

Key Takeaways

  • A mint state, uncirculated, and MS 65 grade Morgan silver dollar can value up to $600.
  • Old Morgan dollars have four types of mints: no-mint, cc-mint, o-mint & s-mint, of which the ‘cc-mint’ coins cost more due to their limited make.
  • The most expensive Carson City dollar, graded MS 66+ by the NGS, was sold for $13,000 in an auction!
  • 1881 Morgan coins had three casting errors – Double die, weak strike & eccentricity that make them rare & more collectible.

Quick Historical Timeline of the 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar

The 1881 Morgan dollar, designed by a famous US mint engraver George T. Morgan, was circulated from 1878 – 1904, during which it went through an interesting historical journey as follows:

  • 1878: The United States Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act that forced the US treasury to buy bullions of silver and circulate them as coins. And though President Rutherford opposed this act, Congress overrode it on Feb 28, 1878.
  • 1880: Morgan dollars were produced extensively, about 9,163,000 by its first mint in Philadelphia, but weren’t circulated due to the already available dollar types. 
  • 1881: The first Morgan dollars, the ones with no mint marks from Philadelphia, were circulated. These had reeded edges, with a composition of 90% Silver & 10% Copper, giving it a melting value of $18.85.
  • 1885: The Congress established three more minting facilities at Carson City, San Francisco & New Orleans. And all of them used different mint marks like ‘CC’ for Carson City, ‘O’ for Orleans & ‘S’ for San Francisco.
  • 1918: The government passed the Pittman Act, melting about 2 million 1881 Morgan dollars to raise money for WW1.
1881 Morgan Silver Dollar Key Facts
Material CompositionSilver (90.0%) & Copper (10.0%)
Minting LocationPhiladelphia, Carson City, New Orleans & San Francisco
Year of Minting1881
Face Value$1.00
Weight26.730g
Actual Silver Weight (ASW)0.7734 oz
Diameter38.1mm
Thickness2.4mm
DesignerGeorge T. Morgan
Mint Marks‘CC’ for Carson City, ‘O’ for New Orleans & ‘S’ for San Francisco on the coin’s reverse
Total Mintage27,927,000 coins
1881 Morgan Silver Dollar History

Design Details of 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar

Designed by a famous mint engraver, George T. Morgan, the 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar features prominent national integrity symbols & inscriptions as follows:

1. Obverse (Front) Design:

You can identify an 1881 Morgan silver dollar’s obverse (head design) with the help of the following features:

  • A large, left-side view of Lady Liberty, wearing a Phrygian (conical) cap
  • The minting year ‘1881’ is written right below the profile or the truncation line
  • Flowing hair & a calm expression on the lady’s face
  • Arranged flowers and the word ‘LIBERTY’ on the lady’s cap
  • 13 stars representing the thirteen US states around the coin’s other edge
  • The words ‘E PLURIBUS UNUM’ that translates to ‘Out of Many, One’ inscribed on the upper edge

2. Reverse (Back) Design:

The reverse (tails) design of an 1881 Morgan silver dollar has the following features:

  • A huge bald eagle with spread-out wings and a left-side head in the center
  • A group of arrows in its left claw and an olive branch in the right
  • ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’ engraved along the upper, outer edge
  • A ‘One Dollar’ denomination inscribed below the eagle
  • The words ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ raised above the eagle’s motif
  • A typical, raised circular laurel vine design around the eagle

3. Coin Composition & Measurements:

In general, all of the 9,163,000 Morgan silver dollars minted in Philadelphia used a 90% silver & 10% copper composition. And though the coin weighs about 26.7g, the actual silver weight translates to 0.7734oz, leaving the rest to copper and minor zinc and nickel impurities.

Apart from that, the coin has a fineness level of 0.900, with a 38.1mm (1.5 inch) diameter and 2.4mm thickness. Also, the coin has a reeded edge with approximately 118 reeds that might vary as per the coin’s edge and condition.

4. Unique Mint Marks & Identifiers

1881 Morgan Silver Dollar Mintage
  • 1881 CC Morgan Silver Dollar (Carson City Mint): In 1885, the Carson City mint minted about 296,000 coins, all of which have a small case ‘cc’ mint mark under the arrows on the reverse side. And since this coin has the rarest mint, it often costs up to $425, in very fine condition.
  • 1881 O Morgan Silver Dollar (New Orleans Mint): About 5,708,000 1881 O Morgan Dollars were minted in New Orleans alone. And you can identify them by a crude ‘O’ mark on the dollar’s tail side below the arrows.
  • 1881 S Morgan Silver Dollar (San Francisco Mint): All of the 12,760,000 coins minted in San Francisco have a small-case ‘s’ mark, which you can spot on the coin’s reverse side, right above the ‘1$’ denomination value.

4 Factors That Affect the Value of an 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar Coin

Now, let’s see how different factors like coin grading, rarity, and errors affect the value of your 1881 Morgan silver dollar:

1. Condition & Grading

In general, an MS – 65 grade Morgan silver dollar costs up to $600 in uncirculated, mint condition. But, if your Morgan dollar has visible damage, flattened hair, or blunt edges, it might not be that valuable.

So, get your coin graded from a professional service like PCGS, ANACS, or NGS, and check its values from the table below:

Coin’s Condition or Grade1881 Morgan Dollar (No Mint Mark)1881 CC Morgan Dollar (Carson City)1881 O Morgan Dollar (New Orleans)1881 S Morgan Dollar (San Francisco)
Good to Very Fine (VF25) $20 – 40$250 – 410$30 – 60$25 – 45
Extremely Fine (XF40) – Almost Uncirculated (AU58+)$40 – 80$300 – 900$35 – 600$30 – 65
Mint State (MS60 – MS62+)$40 – 260$400 – 700$40 – 150$100 – 230
MS63 – MS65+$85 – 1500$600 – 1,200$85 – 4080$100 – 1,100
MS66 & Above$1,000 – 28,000$1,200 – 50,000$1,500 – 34,000$250 – 49,000

Avoid getting ungraded or uncertified coins, as those might be cheaper and damaged than the graded ones.

2. The 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar Proof Coin

Apart from the original 90% silver dollars, the Philadelphia mint produced about 984 Morgan silver dollar proof coins in 1881 for collectors. And since these coins have a limited PR-63 mintage, they value more than the regular Morgan Dollars, from $3,000 – 4,000.

So, if you want to know if your 1881 Morgan silver dollar is a proof coin, check the following features:

  • No mint mark as all of them belong to the Philadelphia mint
  • Shiny, mirror-like finishes with a resurfaced edge
  • Artificially enhanced & brighter gray surfaces
  • Reeded, satin-like edges

Now, check the prices of a 1881 proof coin below:

Proof Coin Grade1881 Silver Dollar Proof Value
PR45 – PR55 $550 – 600
PR56 – PR60$600 – 2,100
PR61 – PR63$1,300 – 3,600
PR64 – PR66$3,000 – 7,600
PR67 – PR69$5,500 – $84,000

3. The 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar Mintage & Rarity

1881 Morgan Silver Dollar Value

Even though the 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar has a total mintage of 27,927,000 coins, it’s only the Carson City coins that value $400 or more, even in a used, damaged state. That’s because these coins have low mintage or double-die errors that make them rarer than others.

On the other hand, the markless Philadelphia coins or the San Francisco (Morgan S Dollar) don’t value that much because of their high mintage & low demand.

Here’s a list:

1881 Morgan Silver DollarsMintage
1881 – Philadelphia (No Mint Mark)9,163,000
1881 CC – Carson City296,000
1881 O – New Orleans5,708,000
1881 S – San Francisco12,760,000

4. 1881 Silver Dollar Minting Errors & Defects

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While the 1881 Morgan silver dollar has no inscription or inverted errors, it has some manufacturing die flaws that make it more collectible. Below is a list of some of those:

  • Double Die Error: If you see double letters or designs on the obverse side, or if the strokes look thick, it might be a double die error. Usually, double-die coins are punched twice – one by hand and one by machine, giving it a dual-glare appearance.
  • Off-Center Error: If the bald eagle on the reverse side isn’t exactly in the center, or if some part of the design is missing, it might be an off-center error. Remember, the more eccentricity, the more its value!
  • Weak Strike: This was a common error, in the earliest 1881 coins caused due to weaker stamping force or hard metal. You can identify these coins by their almost-flat designs & faint details. And such inconsistent strokes hike the dollar’s value due to their aged, hand-stuck designs.

How to Spot a Fake 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar?

Sadly, the market is filled with thousands of fake counterfeits of the 1881 Morgan Dollar, scamming coin collectors for the same value as the real one. But don’t worry! You can identify such bogus coins by checking the FAKE features below:

  • Raised lumps near all the letters & a crude edge
  • An elongated, incorrect shape or the absence of any mint marks
  • Different coin weight
  • Might have glued, drilled, or embossed motifs or mint marks
  • Different font or eagle head on the reverse side

What Makes a 1881 Morgan Silver Dollar Rare?

A standard, 90% Silver made at all its minting locations, a unique silver gray finish, reeded edges, and some unique double-die or casting errors make Morgan silver dollars stand out from the rest of the 1880s coins.

How Many 1881 Silver Dollars Were Minted?

About 2.7 million Morgan coins were minted from 1880 – 1885 in Philadelphia, Carson City, New Orleans & San Francisco. But, nearly 2 million coins were melted back into Silver during WW1.

Even with a high mintage, the 1881 Morgan silver dollar is worth collecting for its designer make and inscribed motifs of national integrity, just as this 1964 Kennedy half dollar, a tribute to the 35th US President. Just remember to observe the features, and stay away from a counterfeit!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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