100 Greatest U.S. Coins Series: 1776 Continental Dollar

As we are a fifth of the way through this blog series, there have only been two other occasions where we have covered top ten picks. This next entry happens to be number ten and it is a doozy. Ties to Benjamin Franklin, possibly the first circulating United States dollar coin, and the date 1776 all make this pick worth exploring in full. With help from author Jeff Garrett in this Whitman Publishing 100 Greatest United States Coins list, we will take a closer look at this coin and its incredible history.

#10 - 1776 Continental Dollar

Coming off newfound independence fought for during the Revolutionary War against Great Britain, the United States initiated a plan to show the world who they were by producing their own money as a sovereign nation. This led to the preparation of dies for a new coin by engraver Elisha Gallaudet. This new coin was to replace the $1 Continental Currency notes that were rapidly depreciating. Using recycled designs and adding recommendations from Benjamin Franklin and eventual first director of the United States Mint, David Rittenhouse, Gallaudet would come up with a silver dollar for the replacement.

Patterns were struck in brass, copper, tin, and silver although circulating coins would be produced in a pewter-like alloy. While the composition was less than desirable and offered little to no intrinsic value, it was more stable than paper. Wanting to make coins from silver, the United States were not able to secure a loan from France to do so if that was the route chosen. While independence was won and politics were formidable, the economy within the States did not live up to expectations. Many say that the remaining 1776 Continental Dollars still in existence today are the “remnants” of the economical dream post war.

If examples of the dollar are found, they are very worn. Few silver examples are known to exist as there are fewer than 10 in brass and between 1,000 and 2,000 of the pewter. Historical value in 1960 of the 1776 Continental Dollar in Uncirculated condition is placed at $300. The fourth edition of this publication from 2015 now places it at $100,000.