The Great Silver Dollar Meltdown—The 1918 Pittman Act
By | February 24, 2017

Front and back of a pre-1921 90% silver Morgan Dollar in About Uncirculated condition.Pre-1921 90% Silver Morgan Dollar (1878-1904) About Uncirculated

Precious metals like silver play an important part in international trade, and when Great Britain’s silver reserves were seriously depleted by a German-inspired run on British silver in India during World War I, the kingdom found itself in need of more of the metal to pay for its wartime imports. Fortunately for them, the United States decided to step in and help an ally.

Nevada Senator Key Pittman’s Pittman Act

Whether it was altruistic or due to his state’s position as the nation’s leading source of silver, Senator Key Pittman of Nevada introduced a bill to authorize melting down up to 350 million silver dollars and the sale of the recovered bullion to England at one dollar per ounce—roughly the market value of the metal at the time. The act also called for minting silver coins to replace those dollars once the war had ended—presumably using Nevada silver.

Over 270 Million Silver Dollars Melted

Over 270 million silver dollars were eventually melted under the Pittman Act, accounting for nearly half of the dollar coins in circulation at the time and creating an artificial shortage of Morgan silver dollars compared to their mintage numbers. To get an idea of how many coins that was, consider that if they were stretched end-to-end, they would be over 6.400 miles long—more than 2½ times the distance between New York and Los Angeles. Looked at another way, they would form a wall as high as the Empire State Building (1,463 feet tall) and 178 feet wide, enough to nearly cover the building’s entire 5th Avenue face.

The stories behind coins and other forms of money can be fascinating, and collecting them is a great way to be part of that history. The Great American Coin Company® is proud to offer an array of Morgan Silver Dollars to supplement your coin collection!

We also have an extensive selection of coins and currency from around the world as well as collectible U.S. coins and paper currency. We keep adding unique collectibles as they become available, so be sure to visit us frequently. And while you’re there, be sure to visit our blog for interesting and timely articles about currency and precious metals.

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