What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

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RogerB
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What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by RogerB » Sat Jan 18, 2020 7:32 pm

The fact that 12,000 silver dollars were struck at the Philadelphia Mint on June 28, 1895 is well documented and beyond any reasonable dispute. But since then, not one circulation-quality coin has been discovered. All 1895-P dollars examined by experts, authentication companies and others have been revealed as circulated proofs – one of 880 proof dollars made that year for sale to coin collectors.

After completing my 2006 research article on manufacture of the coins, I attempted to determine the fate of these 12,000 pieces of silver. Initially the coins, in 12 canvas bags were placed at the front of a vault cage and promptly forgotten. Other dollar bags for 1896-1899 were packed on top and around the 1895s. Their only distinguishing mark was the notation “1895-P” printed in black ink on each bag.

In general, the US Mints did not segregate coins by date. It really did not matter what date was on coins in a silver dollar vault and cage, only that there was a specific dollar amount of money present in silver dollars. This value was attested to by a special vault seal that listed the contents of a vault and was dated and signed by several mint officers. Breaking the seal required permission from the Superintendent and Mint Bureau Head Quarters.

Initial storage thus created an orderly jumble of coin dates – a confusion in which 12 lonely bags could easily get ignored. But a much greater problem occurred.

A New Philadelphia Mint building was scheduled to open in 1901/2 and as soon as basement vaults were complete in September 1901, transfer of silver dollars from old to new building began. In addition, many of the old coin bags had deteriorated and millions of coins had to be sorted, counted and put into boxes. The new mint has a single large “Silver Vault” where all silver coins would be stored. Silver dollars were in a separate part, but not sorted by anything except whether they were in boxes or bags.

When transfer began, approximately $1.2 million in dollars was moved per day. Some days these were boxed dollars; some days they were bagged coins; some days a mixture. Extant letters comment that coins were taken from “Vault C” in the old mint to the “Silver Vault” in the new mint. The result was to completely jumble any old mint organization of silver dollars by date, and create a large mixed mountain of silver dollars.

When dollar coins began to be rolled out during implementation of the Pittman Act in spring 1918, no attention was paid to dates of bags or boxes. It is likely here, or during one of the smaller silver dollar meltings that the few 1895 silver dollars vanished.

The only 1895-P dollars with a chance of survival were the ten pieces sent to the Annual Assay Commission. Unused coins were routinely put into circulation through the Philadelphia Cashier’s office. There is no record of any 1895-P dollar being sent from the Philadelphia Mint for any other purpose except Special Assay on June 19, and those coins were always destroyed during testing.

I hope this lengthy comment will help collectors better understand the 1895 dollar situation and the likely fate of the coins.

collectinsince65
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Re: What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by collectinsince65 » Sat Jan 18, 2020 8:48 pm

Interesting read Roger. Thank you.

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CascadeChris
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Re: What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by CascadeChris » Sat Jan 18, 2020 9:31 pm

Good stuff Roger. I wonder though, if the bags were on the bottom or near so to speak in the old vault, and due to that, during the transfer, they were then put at the "top" of the pile or shelves etc could they have been the first to go due to Pittman, and being only 12 measly bags all were sacrificed to the British commonwealth 🤔
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RogerB
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Re: What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by RogerB » Sat Jan 18, 2020 11:41 pm

CCris - We have no way of knowing. However, with about 1.2 million coins transferred per day, plus repackaging of millions of coins in 1899, the likelihood of substantial mixing was great. In the new building, silver dollars were stacked in large piles - some as tall as 12-feet. The new mint vaults were larger than in the old mint, so there was room to pile and then deal with the pile later

The "Silver Vault" was soon altered to break down large piles and create better access to subsidiary silver and minor coins. (I have a diagram made twenty years later that has a more normal arrangement of vaults and cages - but this was after Pittman.)

The "Gold Vault" had more elaborate storage using an array of vaults and cages.

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ljs123
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Re: What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by ljs123 » Sun Jan 19, 2020 1:46 am

:)

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Prider358
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Re: What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by Prider358 » Sun Jan 19, 2020 11:25 am

Take a look on YouTube: Pawn Stars: Extremely Rare 1895 Morgan Dollar History.

A Guy walks into the shop trying to sell his NGC Graded PF 64 CAMEO 1895P. Worth a look. About the only time you'll ever see one. :lol:

vamsterdam
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Re: What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by vamsterdam » Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:42 pm

Thanks again for sharing more numismatic history with us.

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PacificWR
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Re: What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by PacificWR » Wed Jan 22, 2020 8:07 pm

I would be shocked if Roger knows about these letters. Looks like one of the first orders to move Morgan Dollars out of the old Mint vaults to the new Mint vaults (in the new Mint building} was as early as May 22, 1900. In addition, the Director of the Mint requested that the boxes or bags the Morgan Dollars were stored in (in the old vaults) to be tagged or stamped with the word "storage". Check out the letters below.

(Click image to view at higher resolution.)
Image Image
Image Image

RogerB
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Re: What happened to 12,000 1895-P silver dollars?

Post by RogerB » Thu Jan 23, 2020 2:17 am

Interesting letters. Note that dollars had been transport4d to the new mint vaults prior to May 1900. Extensive lists exist that include quantities, box and tracking numbers, etc. Unfortunately, coin dates are not mentioned.

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