First Known 1878-S Specimen Morgan Dollar Authenticated by PCGS

by CDN Publishing | Published on August 7, 2018


Professional Coin Grading Service has authenticated and certified the only known specimen strike 1878 San Francisco Mint Morgan dollar. The VAM 58 variety is graded PCGS SP65.

“I knew it was special the moment I laid eyes on it,” said the coin’s owner, an East Coast collector who wants to remain anonymous. He revealed there are preliminary plans under discussion for a future public exhibit of the coin in California.

The collector purchased the coin at an auction in 2006 and recalled that during the lot viewing “it looked like a zebra among horses. Just too well made, it was struck like a Philadelphia Mint proof, and had obviously been handled with kid gloves.”

PCGS President Don Willis stated: “When this coin was submitted to us at the June Long Beach Expo we instantly knew it was something special. After careful analysis we are pleased to designate it as a Specimen!”

It is the earliest known specially-struck branch mint Morgan dollar. The unbroken pedigree of this coin dates back to the 1880s when it was the property of Bishop & Co. Bank in Honolulu, Hawaii, and then acquired by Samuel Mills Damon of Honolulu, a partner in Bishop’s Bank.

It remained in the Damon estate for more than 120 years until it was offered at auction by Doyle New York in 2006. It was described by the auction house as “1878-S, Morgan Dollar. Brilliant coin, possibly a presentation piece…”

There are clues about how the coin got to Hawaii in the 1880s. One of the dignitaries attending the April 1878 first striking ceremony for Morgan dollars at the San Francisco Mint was former California Governor Frederick Low, who was given the second coin struck. He moved to Hawaii in 1882 and became a banker there.

“The forensics for this coin are overwhelming,” said Willis. “It has a medallic strike from fresh, new dies of the correct variety, it’s fully struck with square rims and with prooflike surfaces, there are no reeding marks, and no clash marks as found on other coins of this variety struck later.”

The San Francisco Mint, often called “The Granite Lady,” has a history of creating special strikes, such as a specimen 1854-S $20 gold coin and an 1855-S proof $3 gold coin, both of which marked the beginnings of minting those denominations in San Francisco.

Since its founding in 1986, PCGS experts have certified over 38 million coins with a total market value of over $33 billion. For information about PCGS products and services, including how to submit your coins for authentication and grading, visit or call PCGS Customer Service at (800) 447-8848.

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Source: CDN Publishing

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