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Silver dollar sleepers: Some Morgan and Peace dollar picks
By Mark Benvenuto
February 16, 2017

Just about every serious collector likes a sleeper—that coin that is seriously undervalued and poised to go up in price. Perhaps it’s simply the part of us that likes a good deal, meaning the idea that we have purchased a coin at a decent price, but know that it’s going to sell for more in the future.


If there has ever been a problem with our collective love affair with undervalued coins, it’s that determining when the price will go up is a lot like playing roulette in Vegas—we never know when up is coming. Also, it’s not always that easy to determine whether or not a coin qualifies as a sleeper. Is it indeed undervalued, or is it always going to be at its current price?


Let’s take a look at a few coins from two series that are arguably the toughest in which to find sleepers. Let’s look at a couple of Morgan and Peace dollars, knowing that the attention lavished on these two silver dollar series means it’s questionable at best as to whether or not a coin could be sleeping in them in the first place.

 

1886-S Morgan dollar. Minted from 1878 to 1904, and then again in a massive final thrust in 1921, the Morgan dollar series has been a hot one for decades. In every year, at almost every mint, there were more than 1 million coins minted. In some cases there were more than 10 million. Thus, the 1886-S, with a mintage of 750,000, might at first glance appear to be some kind of sleeper.


The prices for any 1886-S Morgan from the lower circulated grades up to Mint State-60 don’t span too large a range, and thus we can quickly rule them out as a potential coin that will go up in value. Where some interesting possibilities exist are between a grade such as MS-63 and the scarcer MS-65.


An MS-63 specimen of this dollar costs just under $500. That’s not cheap, but it’s hardly a fortune. Yet when a person looks at an MS-65 example, the price rises to about $1,700. That’s a meteoric jump for just two points of difference. It’s also something of an affirmation of collector love for those hard-to-get upper grades.


Even though there are 750,000 of this silver dollar, the 1886-S just might be a sleeper in  MS-63 or -64.

 

1888-S Morgan dollar. For a second excellent example of a Morgan dollar that looks like it might have some sleeper potential, the 1888-S is worth a look. It will never be considered a common Morgan dollar with its mintage, yet it’s not amazingly rare either. There were 657,000 of them minted, and it can be imagined that many of them did see some use, and thus did not remain in mint state for too long.


With the 1888-S, the real jump in prices comes at the low to mid range of mint state. Something like $800 will land one of these in MS-63, yet it costs five times that much to jump up to MS-65.


So, is the 1888-S a Morgan dollar that is a sleeper in the lower numbers of mint state? It could be.

 

• 1927 Peace dollar. Almost every collector knows that the Peace dollar series has two desirable rarities within it, the 1928 and 1921 high relief. The 1921 is actually not the second rarest coin in the series, but our long-term love affair with it tends to keep this coin’s price up in all grades.


By the seventh year of the series, the Peace dollar output had declined rather dramatically. The 1927 saw an output of 848,000 coins, quite a drop from the 51+ million issued in 1922. That doesn’t make this coin particularly rare, as there are probably enough of them for the entire collecting community. But this coin makes some big price jumps, in this case from MS-63 to -64, and then again up to MS-65. In other words, the prices leap right at about the grades we’d most like to have.


The question for the 1927 Peace dollar then is: Is it asleep in a grade like MS-63? With a price tag of $175, that purchase won’t flatten a wallet. But is this coin poised to go up in price?

 

• 1927-S Peace dollar. The West coast version of the Peace dollars of 1927 has roughly the same mintage as its East coast sibling, but when an eager collector looks at the mint-state coin prices, sticker shock hits harder than a sledge hammer. Paying something like $175 for an example in MS-60 seems a bit high, until we look at the $9,000 price for the same coin in MS-65. Clearly, one is out of reach of most of us.


The grades that may end up being worth a serious look when it comes to the 1927-S are the MS-63 and -64. The current prices are $400 and $900 respectively, which may still seem like quite a bit, especially if you have always kept your purchases to a limit of something like $100 per coin. But is that MS-64 a sleeper? It very well could be, depending on how often and how quickly MS-65 specimens of the 1927-S disappear at auction.

 

• 1934 Peace dollar. The year 1928 was really the end of the Peace dollar series, or so it must have seemed for collectors of the day. There were five years of no mintages at all, and then in 1934 there was a reprise for the design.


Just under 1 million Peace dollars came out of the Philadelphia Mint, which makes them common enough for collectors, much like the other four coins we’ve looked at. Yet with this final example, we see a steady rise in prices that actually includes MS-65. An MS-60 costs just under $100, the MS-64 costs about $350, and the MS-65 rings in at $600.


Here it’s the MS-66 that goes into launch mode with a $2,000 price. And so the question we’ve been asking is a bit different here, as we must wonder whether or not it is the MS-65 with some sleeper potential.


As with our other four examples, the short answer about the 1934 being a sleeper in a grade such as MS-64 is, maybe.


Overall, it’s tough to find guaranteed sleepers in a series that is heavily collected, like our Morgan and Peace dollars. And finding them in any series that is not avidly collected means that while you may have some undervalued coins in hand, the chances are that they will indeed stay undervalued, possibly for decades.


The five silver dollars we have looked at here all do have some potential to rise in value. A person collecting them for that reason needs to know that he or she is taking a gamble.


The flip side of this is that if you are collecting simply for the joy of putting together an assembly of some great coins, there are far worse places to start than with this very good-looking quintet. Best of luck if you choose to go after these five and others like them.



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