The 1895 Morgan Dollar is one of those enigmatic issues that is only known to exist in Proof format, struck specifically for collectors and not for circulation. It is placed in a relatively limited list which also includes both 1884 and 1885 Trade Dollars, the 1884 Double Eagle and a few others. But within this list the 1895 Morgan Dollar, without doubt, is the most famous and widely-known of the Proof-only coins struck by the United States Mint. The main reason for this appears to be the overall popularity of the Morgan Dollar, struck between 1878 and 1904, and again in 1921. In fact, together with small cents, it is often considered to be the most collected series within the full spectrum of American coinage.
Reasons for the Proof-only mintage of the silver dollar at the Philadelphia Mint in 1895 are not difficult to find. Since 1878, the Mint had struck enormous numbers of silver dollars despite relatively limited use within commerce. The Philadelphia Mint, per the records of 1895, had more than 50 million freshly minted silver dollars in their vaults, while the treasury building in Washington D.C. contained the amazing number of over 100 million silver dollars. The Branch Mints, located at San Francisco and New Orleans, and the former mint of Carson City also had millions of silver dollars in storage.
The Bland-Allison act of 1878 and later the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 were responsible for the excessive production of silver dollars and resulting buildup within government vaults. The act required that the United States Treasury bought a certain amount of silver each month and put it into silver dollars, which would then enter circulation. However, these silver dollars were unpopular in everyday commerce, and except for a few small and remote places (in particular in the Western United States) they did not circulate at a large scale.
The Panic of 1893 resulted in the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and a drastic reduction in the production of silver dollars. After an extremely low mintage in 1894, the Philadelphia Mint apparently struck no silver dollars for circulation in 1895. The limited mintage of 880 proof silver dollars from this year would eventually come to represent an iconic rarity with the series dubbed the “King of Morgan Dollars.”