Do you have an old silver dollar?

If you have an old silver dollar, you may be interested in knowing what its value is. The price of silver is a big factor in the value of old coins, provided that they actually contain silver. Many coins, even old ones, do not have any silver in them at all. Instead, they are made of various other metals like steel, nickel, copper and others. Such metal, when used in coin production is known as "base metal". Knowing what you have is the key to finding out what your old silver dollar is worth.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of coins are really worth very little money at all. Even old American silver dollars may only be worth their face value of one dollar. That is because the various branches of the United States mints have produced many millions of old coins and they have generally used common metal, such as nickel, in the production process. For a coin to be valuable, it has to be rare, in great condition and/or made of a precious metal like silver or gold. Preferably, your old coin should meet all three of these factors.

There are coins made of base metal that are valuable. There are coins in poor condition that are valuable. There are new coins that are valuable. Conversely, there are old silver coins in great shape that are worth relatively little. There are certain realities that apply to coins which greatly affect values. Generally, however, the three factors that tend to increase the worth of a coin are rarity, condition and composition with age often having an impact as well.

Rarity is a key determination of a coin's value. Unfortunately, most coins were produced in huge volumes. Complicating the issue is the fact that collectors place a premium value on coins made at particular branches of the United State mint. This is due to rarity. In a given year, there may have been many, many more silver dollars produced at Philadelphia than there were at San Francisco. Thus, those produced at San Francisco would be worth more that those produced elsewhere. The difference could be significant.

How do you tell where your silver dollar was made?
The United States mint placed small mint marks on many of the coins produced at the various production facilities. The letter "S" on a coin denoted that it was made at San Francisco. A "D" indicated that the silver dollar was made in Denver. An "O" signified New Orleans. Strangely, those coins made at Philadelphia did not received a mint mark, at least in the distant past.

Where is the mint mark on an old silver dollar?
From 1878 to 1921, silver dollars had the mint mark located just about the words "ONE DOLLAR". The tiny marks found are:

  • None (Philadelphia)
  • CC (Carson City)
  • S (San Francisco)
  • O (New Orleans)
  • D (Denver)

From 1921 to 1935, the silver dollar was changed from the "Morgan" style to the "Peace" style. This silver dollar design shows the eagle standing above the word "PEACE". The mint marks on these coins were situated below the word "ONE" to the left of the eagle. The marks were:

  • None (Philadelphia)
  • S (San Francisco)
  • D (Denver)

Silver dollar production ceased between the years 1936 and 1970. When "Eisenhower" dollars were made in 1971, they were composed of base metal. The value of these coins remains at one dollar to this day, with rare exceptions. There were a small number of dollars made in San Francisco between 1971 and 1976 of 40% silver. These coins do have a premium over their face value. The mint mark "S" is found just above the date. Only those coins that came in a special collector set contained silver.

All standard issue dollars produced after 1976 contain no silver and are generally worth their face value, or one dollar. This includes the Susan B. Anthony dollars made from 1979 to 1999 and Sacagawea dollars made since 2000.

The rarity of a silver dollar can be a big factor in its value. As mentioned, however, the vast majority of American coins, including silver dollars, are not particularly rare. Most are only worth what the value of their silver content is on a particular day. The combination of the year of mintage and the mint mark determines the rarity of the silver dollar. Due to reduced mintages, those silver dollars made in San Francisco, Carson City and New Orleans tend to be rarer than those made in Denver or Philadelphia. Older silver dollars tend to be somewhat rarer as well due to the fact that more have been lost or melted down over the years.

The rarest Morgan silver dollars are as follows:

  • 1885-CC
  • 1889-CC
  • 1893-S
  • 1894
  • 1895
  • 1895-S
  • 1903-O
  • 1893
  • 1893-O
  • 1895-O
  • Any other "CC"

The rarest Peace silver dollars are as follows:

  • 1928
  • 1921

Since there is such a large variation in the price based on year and mint location, the web site should be consulted to find the actual value for your coin.

Bullion Value
This fluctuates depending on the price of an ounce of silver. Those dollars made with silver contain over three quarters of an ounce of the precious metal. This means that Morgan and Peace silver dollars are worth over $24 for the silver content if an ounce of silver is priced at $31. A silver Eisenhower dollar has about a third of an ounce of silver and is worth about $10 for silver at $31.

Silver Dollar Condition
The condition is the final silver dollar factor determining value. There is a scale ranging from 1, (poor), to 70, (perfect), used by collectors to specify the actual condition. Most old silver dollars register at the low end of the scale, below the mark of 30. Lower grades are worth less money. Those silver dollars which are heavily worn are graded as "Good" with a scale value of 4. These will be quite legible. If the letters near the edge are somewhat worn away, the coin will grade at 3 or less. If the dollar has sharp details in places like the eagle feathers, it will rate higher, say 20, 30 or 40. The extremely vast majority of coins in private hands grade below 40 and most grade below 25. Consult for further details.