book cover Introduction
The Grading Process
How To Grade Mint State Coins

Surface Preservation


Determining Grade
Is It Proof Or Business Strike?
Prooflike Coins
Grading Other Series
Why Won't They Grade My Coin?
High End vs. Low End; The Bust-Out Game
Computer Grading
About the Author

There are several parts of the minting process that could account for the sharpness, or lack thereof, of a coin's strike. The most important aspect is striking pressure. Striking pressure can vary tremendously from coin to coin during the minting process. In fact, some mints (particularly New Orleans, Charlotte and Dahlonega) were usually allocated the poorer condition presses and dies. Therefore these mints tended to produce a worse than average coin in terms of strike. In addition, the sharpness of the die needs to be considered. This may vary due to wear on the die, or on the master die from which the die itself is made. Finally, the consistency and quality of the planchet can affect the quality of strike.

 Below is a photograph of a fully struck mint state Morgan dollar:

Below are photographs of fully struck examples of some of the various sub-types of Morgan dollars, which show slightly different die characteristics:

It is important to note that Morgan dollars dated prior to 1879 (including some varieties of 1879-S) and after 1899, simply do not have all the same die details as most Morgan dollars. This variation in no way prevents those coins from being considered fully struck, as long as they possess all the details of their particular sub-type.

 Here are photographs of mint state examples of the 1879-1899 sub-type, graded by strike, 1 through 5:

Note that any coin struck with less detail than the coin in photo #1 must have the weakness of strike somehow noted in its final overall grade description. (For example: MS-63, weakly struck, or MS-60, typical strike for this notoriously weak date.)

 Here are photographs of proof examples of the 1879-99 sub-type, graded by strike, 1 through 5:

Again, any coin weaker than photo #1 (regardless of how poorly or well struck that particular issue is normally found) must have the strike mentioned in its overall grade description. Even if this is the case, you should still use the strike grade "1" when calculating the overall grade.

 Feel free to use intermediate grades (such as 3-1/2 or 2.6) when evaluating strike. Also, keep in mind that a coin might have more details than the corresponding photograph in some areas and less details in other areas. Occasionally, a coin may have weakness about the periphery (the outer areas). A good rule of thumb is that it is only about a third (1/3) as detrimental for a coin to lack peripheral detail as it is for the coin to lack the same amount of detail in the central portion.

 Here is a brief synopsis of the striking characteristics of each date and mint mark of Morgan dollar:


1878 8 TF -  Above average to bold. 1891 P -  Most weak.
1878 7/8 TF -  Average. 1891 O -  Typically soft and weak.
1878 7 TF -  Above average. 1891 S -  Variable, but most are sharp.
1878 7TF RB -  Sharp and bold. 1891 CC -  Above average.
1878 S -  Sharp and bold. 1892 P -  Many weak, but variable.
1878 CC -  Sharp and bold. 1892 O -  Almost always weak and soft.
1879 P -  Variable, but generally average. 1892 S -  Sharp and well struck.
1879 O -  Average to above average. 1892 CC -  Above average.
1879 S -  Sharp and bold. 1893 P -  Average to above average.
1879 CC -  Average. 1893 O -  Typically weak.
1880 P -  Average to above average. 1893 S -  Sharp when found.
1880 O -  Variable, but generally strong. 1893 CC -  Most are weak, especially P-L's.
1880 S -  Sharp and bold. 1894 P -  Usually well struck.
1880 CC -  Above average to bold. 1894 O -  Generally quite soft.
1881 P -  Above average. 1894 S -  Sharp and bold.
1881 O -  Average. 1895 O -  Weak and soft.
1881 S -  Sharp and bold. 1895 S -  Above average.
1881 CC -  Sharp and bold. 1896 P -  Sharp and bold.
1882 P -  Above average. 1896 O -  Weak and soft.
1882 O -  Average. 1896 S -  Usually average.
1882 S -  Sharp and bold. 1897 P -  Generally sharp.
1882 CC -  Above average. 1897 O -  Average, though some weak.
1883 P -  Above average. 1897 S -  Above average.
1883 O -  Average to a bit soft. 1898 P -  Sharp and bold.
1883 S -  Sharp and bold. 1898 O -  Above average.
1883 CC -  Above average, to bold. 1898 S -  Average to above average.
1884 P -  Above average to bold. 1899 P -  Above average to bold.
1884 O -  Soft to average. 1899 O -  Above average to bold.
1884 S -  Above average. 1899 S -  Above average.
1884 CC -  Above average to bold. 1900 P -  Average.
1885 P -  Above average. 1900 O -  Average.
1885 O -  Variable, but usually average. 1900 S -  Average.
1885 S -  Average. 1901 P -  Generally weak and soft.
1885 CC -  Above average to bold. 1901 O -  Average.
1886 P -  Usually sharp. 1901 S -  Most weak to average.
1886 O -  Weak and soft. 1902 P -  Variable, though usually well struck.
1886 S -  Usually well struck. 1902 O -  Average.
1887 P -  Usually sharp and bold. 1902 S -  Weak and soft.
1887 O -  Variable, often weakly struck. 1903 P -  Usually sharp.
1887 S -  Above average. 1903 O -  Above average.
1888 P -  Average. 1903 S -  Sharp and bold.
1888 O -  Average, though many are weak. 1904 P -  Average, though some a bit soft.
1888 S -  Average. 1904 O -  Average.
1889 P -  Average, though some are a bit soft. 1904 S -  Above average.
1889 O -  Generally quite weak and soft. 1921 P -  Average, though some a bit soft.
1889 S -  Typically sharp and bold. 1921 D -  Below average to average.
1889 CC -  Usually sharp and bold. 1921 S -  Weak and soft.
1890 P -  Average, though some are soft.
1890 O -  Generally weak and soft. P-L's usually above average.
1890 S -  Most sharp and bold.
1890 CC -  Above average.

Note: Any date listed as being normally softly struck, when found exceptionally well struck, may be noted as such in the overall grade description. (For example: MS-60, full strike; or MS-65, sharp strike.)

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