The History of the Morgan Silver Dollar

1878 Morgan Silver Dollar

In the 1870’s the United States had just passed through a silver panic that had caused the price of silver to plummet. Old coins that had been hoarded because of their silver value were now worth more as “ordinary money” at face value, so a flood of old and worn coins were now making their way into circulation.

In Congress a new law was about to be passed that was intended to benefit the struggling silver mines of Nevada and other western states, and the U.S. Government was about to be required to purchase between two and four MILLION dollars worth of silver every month and convert it into silver coins.

Morgan Silver Dollar — Reverse Side

1878 Morgan Silver Dollar

  • The bird on the reverse side of the coin is an American eagle with outstretched wings. In one talon it holds an olive branch, in the other talon it holds arrows, symbolizing that the United States is a peaceful nation but will defend itself if necessary.
  • The motto (in English) “In God We Trust” is printed above the eagle’s head. Above that are the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

Morgan Silver Dollar — Obverse (Front) Side

1878 Morgan Silver Dollar

  • The profile on the obverse (front) side of the coin is Lady Liberty. Her liberty cap includes a ribbon inscribed with the word “LIBERTY” and two cotton blossoms and two heads of wheat to represent American agriculture.
  • The thirteen stars around the border represent the original thirteen colonies at the time of the American Revolution.

Quick Facts About the Morgan Silver Dollar

1878 Morgan Silver Dollar

  • Officially named the “Liberty Head dollar”
  • Designed by George T. Morgan, then an Assistant Engraver at the U.S. Mint (later the Chief Engraver)
  • A Philadelphia schoolteacher named Anna Williams was the model for Lady Liberty