By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez, Editor
It seems GSA dollars are always in demand no matter what coin show I go to. I’ll find them at pretty much every booth – excepting, of course, those run by currency, ancient coin, and world coinage dealers. GSA dollars got their name from the General Services Administration (or GSA), which throughout the course of the 1970s sold these silver dollars, which had been leftover from a government hoard.
GSA dollars are a top want list item for countless collectors and enjoy a relatively robust pricing track record, even during more challenging periods in the marketplace. Most GSA dollars are of the Morgan type (1878-1921), but as you’ll see below it’s not “only” Morgan dollars that turn up in GSA holders. In all, GSA dollars are common in that there are several thousand available across the marketplace at any one time, though certain dates are scarcer than others, and high-grade specimens are always in demand.
Here are five reasons GSA dollars are so popular with collectors:
- They have that “Old West” story – Morgan dollars, which make up the bulk of GSA dollars, were made during the zenith of westward expansion into the Rockies and Pacific coast during the late 19th century, and this is where Morgan dollars circulated widely, too. Morgan dollars (often dubbed “cartwheels”) are seen or referenced in countless Western-themed television shows and movies, and they were the subjects of various high-profile robberies. Why, even the United States government advertised GSA dollars as “the coins Jesse James never got!”
- Most GSA dollars are Carson City Morgans, but… – Of the 3 million dollars in the GSA hoard, most are Carson City Morgan dollars which, as so many market analysts know, are extremely popular with collectors due to their overall scarceness and physical origins in Carson City, Nevada — a silver-mining mecca during the 19th century. These CC Morgan dollars are reliable sellers “raw” or slabbed, circulated or uncirculated. Yet, not all GSA dollars are CC-Mint Morgan dollars. In fact, about 125,000 GSA dollars come from other mints or Peace dollars (struck 1921-1935). That’s right – there really do exist GSA Peace dollars, much to the surprise of many collectors! GSA dollars therefore offer many opportunities to various types of collectors.
- GSA Morgan dollars were part of numismatic history – The GSA dollar sale of the 1970s was a big deal. At a time when copper-nickel clad coinage had taken over and United States Mint offerings were largely either base-metal uncirculated sets or proof sets, the GSA sale of classic 90% silver dollars energized a collector base that had grown somewhat despondent to what the US Mint was offering. The GSA dollar sales were well advertised and brought to light many Carson City silver dollar issues that were long thought to be rare in uncirculated condition.
- GSA Morgan dollars are guaranteed authentic by the US government – In a world where “as-seen-on-TV” coins in colorful plastic cases retail for multiples of fair-market value but often contain common, cleaned coins of subpar quality, GSA dollars are mostly uncirculated specimens and really do have an “historic vault” story. To borrow a 19th-century turn of phrase, quite appropriate given the subject of this post, GSA dollars are the “real McCoy.”
- GSA dollars frequently bring premiums in their original packaging – In many cases, GSA dollars carry a premium when they’re sold in their original plastic (rigid cases or pliable cellophane) packaging. The reasoning behind this varies from collectors who wish to obtain an example of a GSA dollar in its iconic GSA packaging to those who are essentially paying for the chance that the purchased GSA dollar may fetch a top grade if submitted to a third-party coin grader. Aware of the allure for GSA holders, Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) certify and grade GSA dollars while leaving the coins intact in their original government packaging.
There are additional reasons enthusiasts enjoy GSA dollars, including their long-term price performance and overall liquidity. But from the collecting standpoint, GSA Morgan and Peace dollars are excellent coins with a numismatically romantic story to tell, and there’s every reason to believe GSA dollars will remain popular for many years to come.