The Silver Dollar Showdown

Deep-seated resentments. Petty jealousy. Nepotism. Contentious relationships and tension at work. At first blush, the story behind this Barbers’ Morgan Proof appears to have all the elements of a good soap opera.

Though the story has enough twists and turns to fill a book, in a nutshell, William Barber was the 5th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, and his son, Charles Barber, was the assistant engraver and heir apparent to the Chief Engraver position. William’s boss, U.S. Mint Director Dr. H.R. Linderman, feeling that the design team needed new blood, went behind William’s back and hired George T. Morgan, an engraver from Birmingham, England. This created tension at the mint for several reasons, not the least of which being that Morgan had more formal training than either Barber.

Let the Infighting Begin

William Barber showed his resentment of Morgan by making it difficult to do his job, refusing him office space in the mint building, and restricting him from using design equipment without prior permission. When William Barber and Morgan were both assigned to submit designs for a new Silver Dollar to be introduced as a result of the Bland-Allison Act, both men submitted designs that were well-received by members of the Treasury.

In the end, though, Morgan’s design was chosen over William Barber’s in 1877, and the first Morgan Silver Dollars were struck in 1878.

Like Father, Like Son

William Barber passed away in 1879, and though there was much debate as to whether Morgan was more qualified, Charles Barber became the 6th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, the first and only time in history the position has been held by both a father and son. In 1891, Congress looked at replacing the Morgan Silver Dollar. Among the submissions for a new design was a sketch from Charles Barber. The panel evaluating the new designs included Charles himself, U.S. Mint Engraver Henry Mitchell, and designer Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Eventually, it was decided that none of the designs were superior to that of Morgan’s Liberty and Eagle imagery, so the Morgan Dollar prevailed over a Barber design for the second time.

The Design that Could Have Been

Located in the famous Smithsonian® National Numismatic Collection is a sample of William Barber’s 1878 Silver Dollar pattern coin, as well as Charles E. Barber’s 1891 Silver Dollar design sketch. Now, for the first time ever, the Smithsonian® has authorized a limited striking of special medallic proofs that combine the elder Barber’s 1878 obverse with the younger Barber’s 1891 reverse—a fascinating look at what could have been a “Barber Silver Dollar” instead of a “Morgan Silver Dollar,” during this period. Perhaps if the two Barbers had collaborated on a new Silver Dollar design, their efforts they may have topped that of George Morgan.

The William Barber-designed obverse features a design very similar to Morgan’s—a left-facing Liberty with slightly coiled hair, her name emblazoned across a crown. Charles Barber’s reverse is a wide departure from the classic Morgan eagle reverse. Though a powerful eagle is presented, a shield takes center stage, flanked by two female allegorical figures with “Liberty” written across a ribbon at the bottom.

These limited edition Proofs were struck in the United Kingdom at the Commonwealth Mint. One of the buildings owned by this Mint was the former Birmingham Mint—the same Mint where George Morgan “cut his teeth” in coin engraving.

Struck in Pure Gold, Silver and Platinum

Available exclusively here, you can secure Barbers’ Morgan Proofs struck in one ounce of 99.9% Gold, two ounces of 99.9% Silver and one ounce of 99.95% Platinum.

Exquisite Proof Finish

Each piece features a beautiful proof finish that features frosty, precision-struck raised elements and flawless, mirror-like backgrounds.

Collectors Covet the Best of the Best Quality

Collectors want the “best of the best.” With proofs, quality is measured by grades on a 70-point scale, with a grade of 70 representing absolute perfection, even under magnification. There’s simply no better condition—and no grades are more coveted by collectors. That’s what you have here.

Your Chance to Get Flawless 1878/1891 Design Barbers’ Morgan Proofs is Here, Now!

Flawless PF70 UC grades, with a Smithsonian-branded label, including a numbered mint certificate of authenticity, a story card and a drawstring pouch. Availability is very limited, so do not drag your feet on this.

1878/1891 Barbers’ Morgan One Ounce Gold Proof


  • One Ounce 99.9% Pure Gold
  • Proof Finish
  • Perfect PF70 UC Grade
  • Custom Smithsonian-Branded Labels
  • Limited Availability

1878/1891 Barbers’ Morgan One Ounce Platinum Proof


  •  One Ounce 99.95% Platinum
  • Proof Finish
  • Perfect PF70 UC Grade
  • Custom Smithsonian-Branded Labels
  • Limited Availability

1878/1891 Barbers’ Morgan Two Ounce Silver Proof


  • Two Ounces 99.9% Fine Silver
  • Proof Finish
  • Perfect PF70 UC Grade
  • Custom Smithsonian-Branded Labels
  • Limited Availability

Each non-denominated Barbers’ Morgan Silver Dollar Proof is privately minted and officially licensed by the Smithsonian®.

William and Charles Barber would have been proud to see their creations produced in this way, and you’ll be proud to have these exquisite Proofs in your collection. Also available in set configurations and other options. 

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