GSA Morgan Dollars have been a prized part of numismatists’ collections for several years now. Often known as the ‘GSA Hoard’ named after the Government Services Administration, the branch of the government that was in charge of dispersing the coins.
In the 1960’s, the government was slowly stopping the exchange of silver certificates for silver dollars. After the program ended in 1964, the government had a large supply of original mint sealed bags of silver dollars. The hoard included over 3 million coins, most of which were minted at the Carson City Mint in Nevada. Until the discovery of this hoard, CC dollars were thought to be relatively scarce in high grade. The hoard was mostly CC dollars but around 125,000 coins were discovered to be from other mints. These coins ranged in condition. The uncirculated non CC GSA coins were sold in a plastic holder, labeled as “United States Silver Dollars” instead of the standard “Carson City Silver Dollar“. There were only 27,980 of the mixed uncirculated non-CC dollars in the hard plastic case and only 84,165 in the soft pack cellophane. The GSA hoard contained up to 84% of the entire mintage of some CC dollars. In the table below you can see the mintages of the dates found and the percentage of the total mintage discovered in the hoard. Table courtesy of GSADollars.com.
The Government Services Administration decided that between October 31, 1972 and June 30, 1974, they would have five mail bid sales. These sales limited to only being able to purchase one of each date per household. The 1879, 1890, and 1891 coins sold out and the rest of the coins met little enthusiasm. As of the last sale date in 1974, the US government still had about one million CC coins left. The remaining coins were left untouched for several years until in 1979 the president signed legislation to authorize the sale of the coins, this time at a set price. Originally, the 1980 sale limited the amount of coins per customer to 500 pieces. However, thirteen days before the sale began, the number was dropped to 35 coins per customer.
With the coins being widely accessible for a handful of years, they began to infiltrate many collections and coin shows. It was common for the coins to be cracked out of their original holders by coin dealers because they seemed too bulky to transport between shows. At this time, there were so many coins on the market that the original holders weren’t considered to have much value. It was said that the sounds of dealers breaking coins out of the holders could be heard at most major shows, as dealers begun to pack for their trips home. It was also reported that people saw trash cans full of broken GSA holders at shows as the dealers packed. With the introduction of third party grading, even more coins were cracked out of their original holders and sent in for encapsulation.
Coin collectors are like all collectors, and like the fine details that separate a coin from another. Soon, with the destruction of the original GSA holders, collectors started seeking the original packaging. It was a big enough search that PCGS and NGC even responded in how they certified the GSA Morgan dollars. They no longer removed them from the original holders and instead would band the holder with the grade and certification. So far, this seems to be the perfect balance most collectors were looking for. Regardless of how they are packaged, GSA Morgan silver dollars are widely loved by collectors and offered a whole generation a way to have coins most people thought they would never own!
Special Thanks to Rodney Levingston for his expertise on this article!