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The History Behind Carson City Morgan Silver Dollars in GSA Holders

The History Behind Carson City Morgan Silver Dollars in GSA Holders

CC Silver Dollars GSA

It has been 144 years since the first Morgan silver dollar was produced and even after all these years, it is still considered to be one of the most highly collectible US coins today. To add to the desirability, the Carson City Morgan Dollars are considered the elusive unicorn when it comes to coin collecting. Morgan silver dollars that were minted at the Nevada Carson City Mint from 1878 – 1885 and again from 1890 – 1893 are some of the most highly sought-after numismatic coins in the industry. This is in part due to the limited number of silver dollars that were minted by the Carson City Mint and the relatively poor condition of most Carson City silver dollars. Fun fact, many of these coins were commonly used in Las Vegas slot machines thus the challenge in finding them in mint or uncirculated condition.

However, there were a few coins found to be in uncirculated and mint condition in a hoard discovery. Of those coins, only the Carson City silver dollars discovered were encapsulated in special Government Services Administration, aka – GSA, holders.

Because these coins are difficult to find in high-end condition, Carson City silver dollars in GSA holders are of particular interest, as these coins are sealed in hard plastic holders and are guaranteed by the U.S. Mint to be authentic.

In addition to the hard plastic case, these coins, which were auctioned off by the Government Services Administration (GSA) in the early 1970s for approximately $30 per coin, include a hinged black box and certificate of authenticity.

Continue reading to learn a bit of history as to how GSA Carson City silver dollars came about, the number of coins discovered by year at the New York Federal Reserve, the rarity of the coins, as well as their value and slight nuances that can affect the price associated with these highly collectible coins.


Why are GSA Holders only for Carson City Silver Dollars?

Carson City silver dollars in GSA holders were not necessarily a planned event.  In fact, most of these coins were thought to have been melted or lost and were only discovered following the end of the U.S. Mint’s redemption of silver certificates for silver dollars, which ceased in 1964.

Following the end of this program, the Federal Reserve came across a large hoard of silver dollars that were previously unknown to exist.  The hoard was estimated at 3,000,000 coins and consisted of approximately 84% of Carson City silver dollars! For math lovers, that means there were close to 2.5 million Carson City Morgan dollars found. For readers interested in learning more about how coin hoards affect the value of coins, be sure to check out this article.

The percentage of Carson City silver dollars found in the hoard relative to the total number of Carson City coins minted varied from .17% to 84.6%, but because many Carson City silver dollars were believed to have been melted in response to the Pittman Act of 1918, the flood of new coins on the market undoubtedly had an impact on existing coin prices.

History of GSA Holders

We’ve spoken with several coin dealers or former coin dealers who were in business during the 1970s to learn what it was like when this substantial hoard was discovered. Because of the large number of coins that were issued in GSA holders and the substantial amount of real estate they took up, many dealers who purchased these coins actually cracked open the Carson City silver dollars out of the cases and discarded the cases!

We would like to think that most of the coins cracked out of the holders were from 1882 – 1884, which were the most common coins. That’s our hope anyway. However, the reality is that there were likely a number from years that had a smaller representation in the hoard that today could have sold for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more.

Thankfully, these days you’re not likely to find the same type of coin dealer practices, even though these coins still take up a considerable amount of room with their cases and black boxes. In fact, the only holders likely to make the trash can these days are those that house lower-quality coins, which we’ll address in further detail next.

Number of Coins by Year

1891 CC Morgan Dollar GSA
1891 CC Morgan Dollar GSA
  • The 1890-CC Morgan Dollar:

    As we’ve mentioned, Morgans produced out of the Carson City mint are far rarer than most other mints that produced these coins.

    Ironically, the fewest number of Carson City silver dollars uncovered in the hoard was from 1890, totaling 3,950 coins. While more Carson City silver dollars were produced in 1890 than any other year, at a total of 2.3 million, the mere 3,950 coins of the 1890 Carson City silver dollars discovered make these coins relatively valuable and in high demand when encapsulated in GSA holders. Remember, it’s challenging to find any Carson City coins in good or better condition thus making these coins rare for 1890.

  • The 1884-CC Morgan Dollar:

    While the discovery increased the value of some of the 1890 Carson City Morgan dollars, the opposite actually happened to the 1884 coins. The 1884 Carson City silver dollars, which were originally thought to be relatively rare prior to the hoard discovery, were found in the largest number totaling 962,000 coins.  This accounts for nearly 85% of the total number of 1884 Carson City silver dollars produced making these more common than originally thought!

    Needless to say, existing owners of 1884 Carson City silver dollars must have been devastated to find that nearly one million of these coins flooded the market in the early 1970s, making these the most common and least valuable of the CC silver dollars. In fact, they’re so prevalent that they don’t trade much above raw uncirculated specimens. Ouch!

So we’ve now covered both ends of the spectrum and the impact this hoard caused both positively for the 1890 coins and negatively on the 1884 coins, but there are many coins that fall in between these two extremes. In fact, a substantial number of 1882 and 1883 Carson City silver dollars were also found and identified, which not surprisingly, now trade at similar rates to the plentiful 1884 silver dollars.

Coins that are more valuable than those produced from 1882 – 1884, but that trade at similar rates to each other are the 1880-cc, 1881-cc, and 1885-cc silver dollars. These coins were all found in similar quantities ranging between 131,000 and 148,000. However, there were some years that increased in value following the hoard discovery.

  • The 1878-CC Morgan Dollar:

    These coins trade at slightly higher rates than some of the other years we’ve highlighted, thus far, even though a total of 2.2 million of these coins were produced. As part of the hoard, 60,993 coins were uncovered, which account for just slightly less than 3% of the total number of coins produced.

  • The 1891-CC and 1879-CC Morgan Dollar:

    Other especially low finds include the 1891-cc Morgan silver dollar at 5,687 coins and the 1879-cc Morgan at 4,123 coins. Because of their rarity, these coins, when in GSA holders, trade at fairly substantial premiums over coins not encapsulated. Even though the number of 1879 Carson City silver dollars exceeds the 1890 figure, it still sells for substantially more, regularly trading at nearly twice the rate of 1890 GSA silver dollars.


Slight Differences in Holders & COAsGSA Morgan Dollar Case

For years, collectors assumed that all GSA silver dollars were essentially the same, but as years have gone by, they have come to realize that there are slight nuances that affect the value.

Not all Carson City silver dollars found as part of the GSA hoard are in brilliant uncirculated condition. In fact, quite a few showed evidence of substantial bag or handling marks, unsightly toning, and overall didn’t have the same aesthetics as some of the other coins.

As a result, the GSA separated the coins into two categories. On the high-end coins, they were encapsulated in a holder which reads “Uncirculated” and for the lower condition coins, there’s no mention of the condition. Furthermore, a numbered COA was issued with each of the higher-end coins while a blank COA was issued with the lower-quality coins.

As you would expect, these two categories of coins trade at different price points. In fact, some collectors have become so particular that they will only invest in coins that include the “uncirculated” version.

Do COAs Matter?

CC Morgan GSA CoA Example
Example of a Carson City Silver Dollar CoA included with coins in GSA holders

With most collectibles, certificates of authenticity, or more commonly referred to as “COAs” are important to maximize the value of your investment. The same holds true for GSA Carson City silver dollars but in some cases, the COA matters more than for other coins.

Because the number of GSA Carson City silver dollars in 1878 and from 1880 – 1885 were fairly prevalent, it’s less important that they are accompanied by a COA. While these COAs are still preferred than not, the discount for not having a COA for these dates is nominal. Expect offers of $10 – $25 less for coins from these years if they are missing COAs.

On the other hand, COAs from 1879, 1890, and 1891 are extremely important and can affect the value of your GSA coins by up to $450. On the surface, the absence of a COA shouldn’t result in such a large discrepancy in pricing, but this is an indication of how important it is for collectors to have the original government packaging when acquiring these coins.

What this means is that you should hold on to your COA even if you submit your coin to NGC or PCGS to be professionally graded. While it will remain separate from the coin holder, a serious collector is most likely going to request this seemingly inconsequential piece of paper before moving forward with a purchase.

Certified GSA Carson City Silver Dollars

Certified GSA Carson City silver dollars can add value to the coin, but typically only at the MS64 grade or higher. Most ungraded GSA silver dollars trade at similar rates to those that have received a grade of MS63 or less.Certified and Graded CC Morgan Silver Dollar

In the past, PCGS would crack the coins out of the case and note on the label that the coins were from the GSA hoard. NGC had a much better approach to certifying these coins. They left the case intact and included a “band” around the case with the number and letter grade. These coins are commonly referred to as “NGC banded” silver dollars. More recently, PCGS has developed special cases which house the coins in the holders to prevent any damage to the case.

As we mentioned above, even when sending your GSA silver dollars in for certification, it’s important that you keep the COA, as certified coins without a COA will trade at a discount; especially those produced in 1879, 1890, and 1891.



In summary, we’ve addressed the fun history of the hoard discovery, the impact the discovery had on the original value of many Carson City coins as well as the many different aspects of GSA Carson City Morgan silver dollars that help to shed some light on these highly collectible coins. We also provided a bit of history on how these were distributed to the public and the general dislike of the cases by the coin dealer community in the 1970s.

Plus, we shared general figures on each year of the Carson City silver dollar uncovered in the hoard including those that were found in large quantities that now tend to trade at lower rates.

We then discussed slight nuances with the holders and COAs, the importance of COAs, especially on the lower minted coins, and how certified coins can add value to these already highly desirable coins.

Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers is an expert in all Carson City silver dollars, especially, the GSA variety. We have bought and sold thousands of these coins over the years and have the expertise to help you realize more for your coins. When the time comes to sell your Carson City silver dollars, contact us for the best rates and industry-leading customer service.

Give us a call today at 678-498-6165!

Happy Treasure Hunting!

Atlanta Gold and Coin Buyers

Tony Davis
Tony Davis
Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes. Tony frequently writes on various economic and numismatic related topics affecting the coin and bullion markets and has been published on some of the industry’s leading websites, including Coin Week, the American Numismatic Association, Coin Collector, Coinflation, and Coin Auctions Help, just to name a few. Visit Atlanta Gold & Coin’s website at to obtain additional information on the products, services and educational resources offered by his company. Tony can be reached at or at 404-236-9744
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