Around the World in 80 Coins

An introduction to a series of posts that will explore various coins from around the world.

Mat Garriott

10/29/20233 min read

The name Jules Verne may sound familiar to most people, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Time Machine are two of his most popular book titles. Far fewer people will recognize Elizabeth Jane Cochran. She wrote under the pseudonym of Nellie Bly for the New York World newspaper in the 1880s. Elizabeth suggested to her editor that she turn another Jules Verne novel, Around the World in 80 Days, into a real-life story that she could report back to the newspaper so the world could read about her journey.

In the same spirit, I am going to travel around the world in 80 coins. But instead of physically traveling around the world, I will travel in 80 coins, each from a different country. Some of the guidelines I have set for myself in this series is that each coin I write about will be in my collection, I will write about the coin, where it was minted, and a bit about what major events were happening in the country at the time the coin was minted. My ‘path’ of travel will not be a direct Easterly route of quickest circumnavigation around the world, but I will try to make my path as logical as possible.

Elizabeth’s journey around the world started when she left the United States in 1889, so my journey will start in 1889 too, with the 1889 Morgan Silver Dollar minted in Philadelphia.

The Morgan Silver Dollar owes its existence to the Bland-Allison Act passed by Congress in 1878. The Act required the United States Mint to purchase between $2 and $4 million dollars of silver each month from mines in the Western United States. The Morgan dollar is named after its designer, United States Assistant Mint Engraver, George T. Morgan and production began in 1878. The model for the Morgan dollar was Anna Willess Williams, a writer and teacher from Philadelphia.

To meet the monthly quotas for production of the new silver dollar, the Philadelphia mint stopped producing any other coin and worked overtime. As with many new coin patterns there was an adjustment to the dies early in production.

During the second week of production, it was discovered that the high relief pattern on the coin was causing the dies to have a short lifespan. Along with the lowering of the relief, a second adjustment was made to change the number of tail feathers on the bald eagle from eight to seven.

Traditionally, the bald eagle on the reverse side of US coins has had an odd number of tail feathers. Production at the Carson City and San Francisco mints was delayed by a month due to dies only being made in Philadelphia.

By the end of 1878 nearly 22.5 million Morgan Dollars had been minted. New Orleans added to the mintage in 1879, seeing a total yearly mintage of over 27.5 million Morgan Dollars. 1921 was the only year that Denver would mint Morgan dollars, for a yearly total of 86.7 million silver dollars minted. For collectors the key date for the Morgan Dollar series is the 1893 S with a mintage of only 100,000. But with a much smaller overall total, a Carson City or ‘CC’ Morgan Dollar would be a prize for most Morgan collectors.

1889 Morgan Dollar Obverse - Photo by Bend Coin Club
1889 Morgan Dollar Obverse - Photo by Bend Coin Club
1889 Morgan Dollar Reverse - Photo by Bend Coin Club
1889 Morgan Dollar Reverse - Photo by Bend Coin Club

Above: 1889 Morgan Dollar Obverse, Photo by Bend Coin Club

Above: 1889 Morgan Dollar Reverse, Photo by Bend Coin Club