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Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

Updated on July 22, 2011
This copper struck test coin is a national treasure.
This copper struck test coin is a national treasure. | Source
The copper pattern struck to determine worthiness of the die.
The copper pattern struck to determine worthiness of the die. | Source

The first official United States silver dollar.

In 1794, two years after Congress had approved the production of silver and gold coins, the first official United States silver dollar was struck at the Philadelphia mint. The law stipulated that the coin containing 371 grains of silver and weigh a total of 416 grains (about an ounce), the difference being made out of copper. This was based on the fact that the Spanish dollar was in common use throughout the United States at that time. The United States government commissioned a study to determine the silver to copper ratio in Spanish dollars, and then instituted that same ratio in the dollars that they minted. The ratio in the study, .8924 fine (in other words, 89.24% silver), was transcribed into law. The study was in error though, and the Spanish dollars were actually .9028 fine. The director of the mint, probably unaware of the actual weight of the Spanish dollars, determined that coins with a .9000 fine would last the best.

The person who designed the coin was a man by the name of Robert Scot. He was born in Scotland in 1744, and immigrated to the United States in 1777. An engraver, he illustrated many banknotes. Scot was commissioned by the Philadelphia mint to create the images for this historic coin. Congress, after debating whether George Washington (still the president of the United States at this time) should be on the obverse–that is the front, or face of the coin–determined that the allegorical figure of Liberty should have that honor. Further, they stipulated that an eagle would grace the back (reverse) of the coin. Scot rose to the occasion, creating a memorable and beautiful silver dollar. Another person, Frederick Geiger, was responsible for the lettering on the coin; including that imprinted on the edge (neither the face or the reverse, but the coin's edge): HUNDRED CENTS, ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT.

In addition to the depiction of Liberty with Flowing Hair on the front of the coin, there is also the date. The coin was only minted for two years, 1794, and 1795. The date is underneath the bust of Liberty, and above her is the word LIBERTY. Additionally, there are 15 stars on the front of the coin. These stars represent the 13 colonies, as well as Vermont and Kentucky. These states represented all of the states of the United States at the time of the coins production. On the back of the coin there is an eagle with open wings, whose head is in profile and gazes to the right. Around the bird, is a wreath, and around the wreath, are printed the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Value of the coin.

This is one of the most valuable coins of all time. In fact, in May 2010, a very well preserved (specimen striking) 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar sold for 7.85 million dollars, more than any other coin in the history of man. There were only 1758 coins minted in 1794. Only some of them entered general circulation. In 1795 about 160,000 coins were produced and circulated freely. The coins in the first year of production generally range in price now from about $1500, for a coin in good shape–that is with a fair amount of wear and tear–up to about $400,000, for coins that are uncirculated. Coins from 1795 are less expensive, ranging from about $1000 at the low end to about $100,000 to the most expensive ones. These coins are significant pieces of numismatic history. They are worth much more than the mere silver weight in them (about an ounce).

A coin for the ages.

The birth of the United States was a historic event whose ramifications are still being felt today. At the time that the Flowing Hair silver dollar was minted there were only 15 states, and George Washington was still the president. Foreign currency, including the Spanish dollar, were the prevalent means of exchange at that time. The founding fathers wanted to create an iconic coin that would impress foreigners, dignitaries and make a mark on the future. With this coin they succeeded. It is a call to freedom, liberty and unity. They were a symbol for a new country, and force, to be reckoned with in the world.

Further Reading.

I've published articles about all the "true" silver dollars here on hubpages.

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