Question: Can you give me some information about the 1879-CC Morgan dollar? I know there are different mintmark varieties, and have heard different names like “perfect” mintmark, “capped” mintmark, “large mintmark,” “CC over CC” mintmark, and “clear CC” mintmark. How many different varieties are there and which is rarer?
Answer: There are two mintmark varieties for the 1879-CC Morgan dollar. Terminology changes, and what used to be called the 1879-CC “Capped Mintmark” is now called the 1879-CC over CC in the most recent (2015) Guide Book. As for the other variety, it is now called 1879-CC Clear CC in the Guide Book, but in the past was known as the “Perfect” mintmark or sometimes “Large CC.”
In 1878 the Carson City Mint struck Morgan dollars using small CC mintmarks, composed of two separate tiny C letters punched close to each other. The dies were made at the Philadelphia Mint — where all dies, even those for the branch mints, were and still are manufactured. On Carson City coins from 1870 onward, tiny CC mintmarks were used.
In the silver dollar series it was decided to increase the mintmark size in 1879 and new reverse dies were made with large CC mintmarks.
Meanwhile, a reverse die with a small CC was still on hand that had not been shipped to Carson City. At the die shop in the Philadelphia Mint, an attempt was made to efface the tiny CC, after which a larger CC was punched into the die. Traces of the earlier, smaller CC remained, together with die roughness in the area from the effacing process.
Today most 1879-CC dollars on the market are of the Clear CC variety, although in the past these seemed to have greater value, as the roughness from effacing found on the CC over CC variety is sometimes considered a defect. Today, both varieties are valuable. According to the Guide Book, the Clear CC is considered slightly more valuable in grades of About Uncirculated through MS-64, but at MS-65 (and presumably finer) the CC over CC variety becomes more expensive.