Some of the finest quality surviving Morgan Dollars are scarce and rare date San Francisco Mint coins.
You might take a moment to thank LaVere Redfield, the most famous potato farmer in Numismatic history, for their existence!
Redfield may have passed himself off as a potato farmer, but in fact he was much more than that. He was born in Utah in 1897. While clerking in a department store in Idaho, he met and married his wife, Nell, and the couple moved to Los Angeles where he made a fortune as a securities broker, somehow surviving the crash of 1929. By the late 1930s he was a millionaire, much of his money in real estate, including his farm and 51,000 acres near Reno, NV.
Over the years, as his investments grew, he saved over 400 sealed-bags of Silver dollars, purchased from banks that had received them directly from the mint. The grand total in 1974 came to 407,000 silver dollars, mostly Morgans, and mostly (351,259 to be exact) in mint condition. It is famous as the largest hoard of silver coins ever found in one place.
Redfield was able to supply most of his needs from Reno banks, which gobbled up huge numbers of Silver dollars for the local casinos. In addition, he travelled all over the country buying more bags. Some came from as far away as Pennsylvania! And all were carried back to his coal bin in the bed of his old pick-up truck. He saved most of his money, but he was no miser. He just preferred hard money. He drove that old pick-up and wore tattered overalls, but he and his wife led a good life, and contributed generously to charities.
Their big-old house had once been equipped with a coal fired furnace, and a coal chute. It was down that chute that most of those dollar bags went. And there they stayed, until he was robbed of about 100,000 in 1963. After that, he built a cement wall sealing off the rest. The survivors remained there, until they were found after his death in 1974. Many had acquired beautiful toning over the years from the coal sulphur residue in the basement, and possibly fumes from Nell’s peach canning! Rumor has it that Redfield had left a note describing the hiding place, with instructions “not to tell the IRS.”
What became of the hoard? It went for a mere $ 7.3 million. There were a lot of silver dollars on the market in those days. It is hard to imagine buying 11 tons of silver at one time; not many people had that kind of loose cash laying around. Still, the price paid was probably about a third of the real wholesale value of those beautiful coins.
It’s fun to speculate whether the Morgan Dollars in your collection could have once been part of the Redfield Hoard.