100 Greatest U.S. Coins Series: 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

With the silver dollar as important to the history of numismatics perhaps more than any other denomination, it is imperative to know how and when they all got started. With a new nation recognized and a brand-new Mint open for striking United States coinage, the first ever silver dollar is extremely significant. It is no surprise that it has made not only the top 100 of Whitman Publishing’s fourth edition of the 100 Greatest United States Coins compilation, but the top ten as well. Author Jeff Garrett clues us in on the incredibly rare coin that faltered at the time but became highly sought after later.

#9 – 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

The 1794 silver dollar was the first coin of this denomination ever issued by the United States Mint. Almost 230 years later, there have still been just 125 to 150 examples discovered and known to the public. Its inception began just a few years earlier in 1792 as the United States government was pondering its first coinage system. It was not long before they decided that the silver dollar and the gold eagle would be the mainstay to which the system was built around.

However, there was a major issue: large amounts of silver were not available at that time not to mention that the Mint did not have the funds to pay for it. The Mint would end up relying on depositors that would bring raw silver or foreign silver coins to the Mint for converting into U.S. silver coins. This meant that each batch was to be done individually and the long process of melting, rolling, etc., was kept separate from others. After this, the depositor would receive their U.S. silver coins in the same amount equal to the value of the silver they originally contributed.

On October 15, 1794, 2,000 silver dollars were struck, but 242 were rejected due to lack of details and poor strikes. The Mint had used the same coin press for the silver dollars as they used to strike the cents and half dollars. After the striking of the silver dollars, that press proved to be deficient in striking large silver dollars. Of the 1,758 that passed the quality inspection, some are still incredible weak meaning that a well-struck silver dollar from 1794 is difficult to come by.

In 1960, the historic market value from the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar in Extremely Fine condition was $6,500. By this fourth edition (2015), it was $275,000.