Where is the mint mark on a 1890 silver dollar? The 1890 silver dollar is a popular and valuable coin for collectors. With different mint marks indicating different mint facilities, properly identifying the mint mark location is key to determining the coin’s rarity and value.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: On an 1890 silver dollar, the mint mark is located on the reverse side below the wreath just between the letters “D” and “O” in the word “DOLLAR”.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know to locate, identify, and make sense of the mint mark on your 1890 Morgan silver dollar.
What is a Mint Mark?
A mint mark is a small letter or symbol that is stamped onto a coin to indicate at which mint the coin was manufactured. Mint marks help collectors and numismatists identify and attribute coins to their proper mint of origin.
Mint mark definition and purpose
The main purposes of mint marks on coins are:
- Identify the mint – Mint marks indicate which mint facility struck the coin. This allows collectors to attribute coins to their proper place of manufacture.
- Prevent counterfeiting – Including a mint mark helps prevent counterfeiters from replicating coins without knowing their mint of origin.
- Quality control – Mint marks helped mint officials track quality control issues to specific mint facilities if problems arose.
Most common US Mint marks in the 19th century
The most common mint marks that appeared on 19th century US coinage were:
- No mint mark – Coins with no mint mark were struck at the main US Mint in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was the first and main mint until 1838.
- O – New Orleans Mint. The New Orleans Mint struck coins from 1838-1909 when it closed.
- S – San Francisco Mint. The SF Mint opened in 1854 to accommodate the California Gold Rush coin demand.
- CC – Carson City Mint. The famous Nevada silver coin mint was open from 1870-1893.
- D – Dahlonega Mint. Dahlonega, Georgia minted gold coins only from 1838-1861 when it closed due to the Civil War.
- C – Charlotte Mint. This North Carolina branch mint opened in 1838 solely to process southern gold deposits into coinage.
So if you don’t see one of those mint marks on a 19th century US coin, it was most likely struck at the main Philadelphia Mint.
Where to Find the 1890 Silver Dollar Mint Mark
Mint Mark Location on Reverse
On Morgan silver dollars minted in 1890, the mint mark is located on the reverse (back) of the coin below the wreath, above the letter “D” in the word “DOLLAR.” This small letter indicates at which United States mint the coin was manufactured that year.
There are three potential mint marks to find on a 1890 Morgan silver dollar:
- No mint mark = Struck at the main Philadelphia mint
- CC = Struck at the Carson City, Nevada mint
- O = Struck at the New Orleans, Louisiana mint
- S = Struck at the San Francisco mint
According to the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the 1890 Philadelphia coins had a massive original mintage of 16,802,590. By comparison, the Carson City mint only produced 2,309,041 that year, San Francisco minted 8,230,373, while the New Orleans facility struck 10,701,000 before closing its doors.
No Mint Mark = Philadelphia Mint
If no mint mark letter appears below the wreath on an 1890 Morgan dollar, then it was produced at the main United States Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was by far the highest volume mint that year, striking nearly 17 million of that date.
According to the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), mint marks did not become a requirement until later in the 19th century. Up until 1879, coins from Philadelphia carried no indicator while those from branch mints like Carson City and New Orleans bore small distinguishing letters.
By 1890, coins from all three mints carried marks. So a standard silver dollar from that year with no letter below the wreath can reliably be attributed to Philadelphia.
As the main United States Mint and the holder of the original master dies, Philadelphia struck by far the most 1890 silver dollars. Today, coins from that prolific mint are generally the most common and available to collectors.
1890 Silver Dollar Mint Marks and What They Mean
Carson City (CC mint mark)
The Carson City mint in Nevada minted silver dollars from 1870 to 1893, before ceasing operations. Coins minted here have the distinctive “CC” mint mark on the reverse below the eagle. Only coins intended for commercial use left this mint, making the Carson City dollars popular with collectors today due to their rarity.
In total, the Carson City mint produced over 14 million silver dollars, but very few remain available for purchase now.
New Orleans (O mint mark)
The New Orleans mint opened in 1838 and closed during the Civil War in 1861, reopening again from 1879 to 1909. This long operational history resulted in over 168 million silver dollars struck here, identified by the letter “O” mint mark.
New Orleans dollars are plentiful for collectors, but mint state examples still demand high premiums. Interesting tidbit – in 1855, the New Orleans mint produced the rare 1855-O silver dollar, of which only around 50 examples survive.
San Francisco (S mint mark)
As a key gateway city to the California gold fields, the San Francisco mint rightfully earned its status as a prominent producer of silver dollars since its 1854 opening. The “S” mint mark denotes dollars from this mint, where over 429 million Morgan and Peace dollars originated.
While San Francisco dollars are more common than the rarities from Carson City and New Orleans, they still retain collectability at the higher mint state grades. One standout issue is the 1895-S Morgan, now valued upwards of $4,000 in mint state condition due to its tiny mintage under one million coins.
Tips for Verifying the Authenticity of 1890 Silver Dollars
Determining if an 1890 silver dollar is genuine can be tricky for collectors. Here are some useful tips to authenticate these valuable coins:
Examine the Wear and Tear
An authentic 1890 silver dollar will show some slight wear on the high points of the coin design due to circulation. Examine the hair detail, feather tips, and other higher relief areas. Counterfeits often show too little or too much wear.
Check the Weight and Dimensions
A real 1890 silver dollar weighs 26.73 grams and has a diameter of 38.1 mm. Use a jeweler’s scale and caliper to check these specifications. Fakes tend to fall outside the expected measurements.
Look for an “S” Mint Mark
The 1890 Philadelphia issue does not have a mint mark, while the 1890 San Francisco issue features an “S” mint mark. This tiny letter is located near the wreath on the coin’s reverse. Its presence and correct position indicate authenticity.
Verify Surface Textures
Under magnification, a genuine old silver dollar exhibits expected die polishing lines and surface grittiness from decades of handling. Counterfeits often fail to capture these subtleties of texture, revealing their modern origins.
Use a Coin Dealer for Assessment
When still uncertain about an 1890 silver dollar after inspecting it, consult a reputable coin dealer like PCGS CoinFacts or NGC Certified Coins to aid authentication based on detail, wear, surfaces, and other factors.
The Most Valuable 1890 Silver Dollar Varieties
The 1890 silver dollar is a popular coin for collectors, with some rare varieties worth significant premiums over common versions. Here are some of the most valuable 1890 silver dollar varieties:
1890-CC Silver Dollar
The 1890-CC silver dollar, minted in Carson City, Nevada, is one of the well-known key dates of the series, especially the tail bar variety. On some 1890-CC dollars, a prominent line extends from the bottom of the R in DOLLAR down to the eagle’s tail feathers. Called the “Tail Bar” variety, an AU-50 example sold for $29,900 in 2004. Higher grade Tail Bars could potentially be worth six figures.
A well-struck example with strong details can sell for $3,000 and up these days.
1890-S Silver Dollar
The San Francisco Mint struck 2.3 million 1890-S silver dollars. While more common than the Carson City version, it’s still scarce in the highest Mint State grades. An MS-65 1890-S Morgan can trade for around $900.
1890-O VAM-4 Silver Dollar
This New Orleans Mint variety features one doubled die obverse. Nicknamed the “Scarface Injured Nose” variety for a mark that looks like a wound on Lady Liberty’s nose, it has traded for over $20,000 in top condition due to its popularity and rarity.
Where Is The Mint Mark On A 1890 Silver Dollar – Conclusion
We have covered the essential information about locating and understanding the mint mark on 1890 Morgan silver dollars. Properly identifying the minting facility using the mint mark is key to determining the coin’s rarity and collecting value.
With just a quick check of that tiny letter on the reverse, you can unlock the unique history and potential worth of your 1890 dollar. Happy treasure hunting!