The Morgan dollar was minted mainly because of the Bland-Allison act (which was probably lobbied for by the Western Silver mining groups) that mandated the purchase of two to four million dollars' worth of Silver every month and make coins out of them.
The Morgan dollar was never popular in it's days and was called the 'buzzard' after the puny Eagle in it's reverse and a 'cartwheel' for it's bigger than normal dimensions. But it's now one of the most sought after by collectors, as it's possible to collect it in different ways. Some collect it as short sets; like the Carson city Morgan dollars (1889-CC, 1882-CC, 1883-CC, 1884-CC); some collect rare date sets like the 1893-S, 1889-CC, 1901, 1884-S and 1893-O; some collect other readily available coins of common dates; some collect varieties within a particular date. To know more about the Top 10 Morgan dollars to collect click here.
The 1878 7/8 Tail Feathers Morgan dollar is an interesting variety to collect and can be found in circulated and uncirculated conditions quite readily.
1878 8 Tail Feathers (8TF)
1878 was the first year the Morgan Dollars were released and the reverse Eagle had 8 Tail feathers between the arrows and the branches as George T. Morgan had designed it initially. But there was a small imperfection. Till then Eagles depicted in US coins used to have odd number of tail feathers. Mint Director Lindermann pointed out this imperfection and it was decided to change the number of tail feathers to 7. But by then an estimated 749,500 coins were minted with the 8 Tail feathers. This variety of the Morgan dollars holds a special place among collectors as they were the first coins to get minted and the only ones to have such a unique reverse design. An MS-65 8 TF coin costs around $1500! Around 500 of the 8 TF coins were minted in the Proof format and could cost you around $3500.
1878 7/8 Tail Feathers (7/8 TF)
The 7 over 8 Tail Feathers Morgan dollars or 7/8 TF as they are called came into existence because of an economic move to reuse the earlier 8 TF dies. All the 8 TF dies were modified to show 7 Tail feathers. But the underlying 8 feathers still showed through. These were called the 'Double Feathers' as they showed another layer of feathers beneath the top ones. Some of the 7/8 TF coins showed the 'Double Feathers' clearly and were called 'Strong 7/8 TFs' and some weren't clearly visible to the naked eye and called the 'Weak 7/8 TFs'. The Strong 7/8 TFs are more common than the Weak 7/8 TFs. MS-65 of a Strong 7/8 TF could be had at around $2500!
1878 7 Tail Feathers (7TF)
In the latter part of 1878, new dies were made to show just the 7 TFs for the Reverse Eagle. There are varieties within this variety; the 'second reverse' in 7 TF shows parallel top 2 arrow feathers and a concave breast of the Eagle while the 'third reverse' shows a slanting top arrow feather and a convex breast. Across all versions of the 7 Tail Feathers the mintage was 9,759,300. A 7 TF 'third reverse' goes for around $2750 in MS-65. Around 250 Proof 7 TFs were released in all and 'third reverse' 7 TF Proof coins could cost a whopping $16,500 !