Silver Dollar Pieces
AMERICAN SILVER DOLLARS – US $1 SILVER
The silver dollar was authorized by Congress April 2, 1792. Weight and fineness were specified at 416 grains and 892.4 fine. The first issues appeared in 1794 and until 1804 all silver dollars had the value stamped on the edge: HUNDRED CENTS, ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT. After a lapse in coinage of the silver dollar during the period 1804 through 1835, in 1836 coins were made with plain edges and the value was placed on the reverse.
The weight was changed by the law of January 18, 1837 to 412 1/2 grains, fineness .900. The coinage was discontinued by the Act of February 12, 1873 and reauthorized by the Act of February 28, 1878. The dollar was again discontinued after 1835, and since then only the copper-nickel pieces first authorized in 1971 have been coined for circulation.
The word Dollar evolves from the German Thaler, the same name given to the first large-sized European silver coin. Designed as a substitute for the gold Florin, the coin originated in the Tyorl in 1484. So popular did these large silver coins become during the 16th century that many other countries struck similar pieces, giving them names derived from “thaler.” In the Netherlands the coin was called Rijksdaaler, in Denmark Rigsdaler, in Italy Itallero, in Poland Tolar, in France Jocandale, in Russia Jefimik. All these names are abbreviations of “Joachimsthaler.” Until the discovery of the great silver deposits in Mexican and South American mines, the mint with the greatest output of large silver coins was that of Joachimsthal in the Bohemiam Erzgebirge.
The Spanish Dollar, or piece-of-eight, was widely used and familiar to everyone in the English-American colonies. It was only natural therefore that the word “dollar” was adopted officially as the standard monetary unit of the United States by Congress on July 6, 1785.
Varieties listed are those most significant to collectors, but numerous minor variations may be found because each of the early dies was individually made. Blanks were weighed before the dollars were struck and overweight pieces were filed to remove excess silver. Coins showing old “adjustment marks” may be worth less than values shown here. Some Flowing Hair type dollars of 1795 were weight-adjusted by inserting a small (8mm) silver plug in the center of the blank planchet before striking the coin. Values of variations not listed depend on collector interest and demand.
Designer: Robert Scot Weight: 26.96 grams Composition: .8924 silver, .1076 copper Diameter; 39-40mm Edge: HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT with decorations between words
The two earliest dies of 1798 have five vertical lines in the stripes in the shield. All dollar dies thereafter have four vertical lines.
1804 First reverse, Original (Childs specimen sold for $4,140,000 in 1999,) 1804 Second reverse, Restrike (Adams specimen sold for $220,000 in 1989)
The 1804 dollar is one of the most publicized rarities in the entire series of United States coins. There are specimens known as originals (first reverse), of which eight are known, and restrikes (second reverse), of which seven are known.
Numismatists have found that the 1804 “original” dollars were struck at the mint in the 1834-1835 period, for use in presentation proof sets. The first known specimen, a proof, was obtained from a mint officer by Mr. Stickney on May 9, 1873, in exchange for an “Immune Columbia” piece of gold. Later, in 1859, the pieces known as restrikes and electrotypes were made at the mint to supply the needs of collectors who wanted specimens of these dollars.
Evidence that these pieces were struck during the later period is based on the fact that the 1804 dollars duffer from issues of 1803 or earlier and conform more closely to those struck after 1836, their edges or borders having beaded segments and raised rim, not elongated denticles such as found on the earlier dates.
Although the mint records state that 19,750 dollars were coined in 1804, in no place does it mention that they were dated 1804. It was the practice in those days to use old dies as long as they were serviceable with no regard in the annual reports for the dating of the coins. It is probable that the 1804 total for dollars actually covered coins that were dated 1803.
Suspension of silver dollar coinage was lifted in 1831; however, not until 1835 were steps taken to resume coinage. Late in that year Director R.M. Patterson ordered Engraver Christian Gobrecht to prepare a pair of dies from designs by Thomas Sully and Titian Peale. The first obverse die bore the seated figure of Liberty in the obverse with the inscription C. GOBRECHT F. (F. is the abbreviation for the Latin word Fecit or “made it”) below the base of the Liberty. On the reverse was a large eagle flying left surrounded by twenty-six stars and the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ONE DOLLAR. Criticism nay have forced Gobrecht’s name to moved to the base of Liberty on a new die and, with this, pieces were struck in late 1836 on the 1792 standard of 416 grains.
In early 1837 the weight was lowered to 412 1/2 grains and pieces were struck o the new standard in March, 1837, using the dies of 1836. To distinguish the 1837 coinage from that of 1836, the reverse die was oriented in “medal” fashion.
Between 1855 and 1870 the Mint produced restrikes to satisfy collector demand. Mules (mismatched combinations of dies) were also struck in the demand. Restrikes and mules are seldom seen in worn condition.
Dollars issued in circulation in 1836, 1837, and 1839 are found with many different die alignments. The “original” issue of December 1836 has the normal “coin” alignment with eagle flying upward. These coins were usually made on heavy weight (416 grain) planchets. The special issue of 1837 (made from dies dated 1836) is different than the 1836 issue in that the dies are oriented in a “medal” alignment. Those coins were made from either heavy or light planchets because the change in standards that occurred in 1837, and because some of the coins minted in 1837 used planchets held over from the previous year.
Restrikes incorporated both “medal” and “coin” turns, and use the same die combinations as originals, but with the eagle flying level when rotated. Mules with wrong edge or die combinations also exist and are all rare.
Starting in 1840 silver dollars were issued for general circulation, but by spring 1853 the silver content of such pieces was worth more than the face value, and later issues were not seen in circulation but were used mainly in export trade. This situation continued through the late 1860s. The seated figure of Liberty device was adopted for the obverse, but the flying eagle design was rejected in favor of the more familiar form with olive branch and arrows used for the other silver denominations.
The 1866 proof quarter, half and dollar without motto are not mentioned in the Director’s Report, and were not issued for circulation.
Designer: Christian Gobrecht Weight: 26.73 grams Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper Diameter; 38.1mm Reeded edge Mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans, Carson City, and San Francisco New weight: .77344 oz.
This coin was issued for circulation in the Orient to compete with dollar-size coins of other countries. It weighed 420 grains compared to 412 1/2 grains, the weight of the regular silver dollar.
Many of the pieces that circulated in the Orient were counterstamped with Oriental characters, known as “chop marks”. These are generally valued lower than normal pieces. When first coined they were legal tender in the United States to the extent of $5.00, but with the decline in price of silver bullion Congress repealed the legal tender provision in 1876 and authorized the Treasury to limit coinage to export demand. In 1887 a law was passed authorizing the Treasury to redeem, for six months, all Trade dollars that were mutilated.
The Trade dollars of 1884 and 1885 were unknown to collectors generally until 1908. None is listed in the Director’s Report and numismatists believe that they are not a part of regular mint issue. After 1878, strikings were specimen proofs only.
The law authorizing Trade dollars was repealed in February, 1887.
Designer: William Barber Weight: 27.22 grams Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper Diameter: 38.133 Reeded edge Mints: Philadelphia, Carson City, and San Francisco Net weight: .7874 oz. Pure silver
The coinage law of 1873 made no provision for the standard silver dollar. During the lapse in coinage of this denomination the gold dollar became the unit coin, and the trade dollar was used for our commercial transactions with the Orient.
Resumption of coinage of the silver dollar was authorized by the Act of February 28, 1878, known as the Bland-Allison Act. The weight (412 1/2 grains) and fineness (.900) were to conform with the Act of January 18, 1837.
George T. Morgan, formerly a pupil of Wyon in the Royal Mint of London, designed the new dollar. His initial M is found at the truncation of the neck, at the last tress. It also appears on the reverse on the left-handed loop of the ribbon.
Coinage of the silver dollar was suspended after 1904 when the bullion supply became exhausted. Under provisions of the Pittman Act of 1918, 270,232,722 silver dollars were melted and later, in 1921, coinage of the silver dollar was resumed. The Morgan design, with some slight refinements, was employed until the new Peace design was adopted later in that year.
Sharply struck, “proof-like” coins have a highly reflective surface and are very scarce, usually commanding substantial premiums.
Designer: George T. Morgan Weight: 26.73 grams Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper Diameter: 38.1mm Reeded edge Mints: Philadelphia, New Orleans, Carson City, Denver, and San Francisco Net weight: .77344 oz. pure silver
The dollar issued from 1921 to 1935 was a commemorative peace coin, which might easily have been a half dollar. The Peace Dollar, in fact, was issued without congressional sanction, under the terms of the Pittman Act, which referred to the bullion and in no way affected the design.
Anthony De Francisco, a medalist, designed this dollar. His monogram is located in the field of the coin under the neck of Liberty.
The new Peace Dollar was placed in circulation January 3, 1922. 1,006,473 pieces were struck in December, 1921.
The high relief of the 1921 design was found impractical for coinage and was slightly modified in 1922 after 35,401 coins of that date were made and melted at the mint. The rare matte and satin finish proof specimens of 1922 are of both the high relief style of 1921, as wells as of the normal relief.
Legislation date August 3, 1964 authorized the coinage of 45 million silver dollars, and 316,076 dollars of the Peace design dated 1964 were struck at the Denver Mint in 1965. Plans for completing this coinage were subsequently abandoned and all of these coins were melted. None were preserved or released for circulation.
Designer: Anthony De Francisci Weight: 26.73 grams Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper Diameter: 38.1mm Reeded edge Mints: Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Net weight: .77344 oz. pure silver