The Stamp and Coin Place Blog: connecting the past and present of stamp and coin collecting, and looking to the future.

The Design of Morgan Silver Dollars

A 1901 Morgan Silver Dollar (Via Mike Warot on Flickr)

From 1878 to 1904, and also in 1921, the United States minted the Morgan dollar.

The Seated Liberty dollar had come before, but the Coinage Act of 1873 got rid of the coin, and the Liberty was not missed. The U.S. government instead moved to reenact the standard silver dollar.

The Bland-Allison Act was passed, which required the U.S. Treasury to buy a certain amount of silver and put it into circulation.

The obverse of an 1879 Morgan Dollar.

The obverse of an 1879 Morgan Dollar. Find your own Morgan Dollar here!

The act led to the creation of the Morgan dollar, so named for the coin’s designer, George Morgan, who agreed to work at the Philadelphia Mint for six months or more to draft a coin design. Morgan worked under the Chief Engraver William Barber.

Anna Willess Williams in 1922.

Anna Willess Williams in 1922.

Morgan was determined to represent an American woman instead of the typical Greek woman’s profile on the coin. Eventually Morgan found Anna Willess WIlliams, whose profile Morgan claimed to be the most perfect he’d seen in England or America. She modeled for Morgan five times on the condition that her identity would be kept secret, but she soon let her identity slip, citing her modeling as an “incident of my youth.”

A stereoscopic view of the Philadelphia Mint coining press.

A stereoscopic view of the Philadelphia Mint coining press.

The Director of the Mint preferred Morgan’s designs over those of the Chief Engraver, and the coins with Morgan’s designs were first produced in 1878.

The last Morgan coins were produced in 1921.

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