Early Silver Dollars

The history of the United States silver dollar is a rich tapestry that weaves through time, reflecting the nation’s evolution, economic challenges, and diplomatic efforts. The story of the American silver dollar begins in 1794 when the U.S. Mint, established by the Coinage Act of 1792, struck the first silver dollar coin. This initial silver dollar, known as the “Flowing Hair” dollar, was a product of its era. On the obverse side of the coin, Lady Liberty graced the coin with her presence, her visage symbolic of the ideals that the young nation held dear. The reverse side featured an eagle, the embodiment of freedom and strength.

The “Flowing Hair” design, while historically significant, was relatively short-lived. It was replaced in 1795 by a more refined depiction of Lady Liberty known as the “Draped Bust” design. This transition marked the evolution of American coinage, reflecting a maturing nation and the desire for a more sophisticated and elegant representation of its core values.

The early history of American silver dollars was marked by fluctuations in production. In 1804, the U.S. Mint halted the production of silver dollars due to a lack of demand and financial challenges. However, this hiatus was not to last indefinitely. In the late 1830s, the United States government employed a novel approach to promote trade and diplomatic relations with foreign governments. Diplomatic gifts were sent to foreign heads of state, and among these gifts were U.S. coins, including the silver dollar. These particular silver dollars, known as the “Gobrecht dollars,” were struck in limited quantities and have since become revered as rare numismatic treasures.

The year 1836 saw the U.S. Mint resume regular production of silver dollars, ushering in the era of the “Seated Liberty” design. This design featured a seated figure of Liberty on the obverse side, embodying a sense of tranquility and grace. On the reverse, the majestic eagle made its return, symbolizing the nation’s strength and resilience. The “Seated Liberty” design endured until 1873 when it was succeeded by the “Trade Dollar,” a coin explicitly crafted to facilitate trade with Asian nations.

In 1878, a legendary coin was born—the “Morgan” silver dollar. This iconic coin was named after its designer, George T. Morgan, and featured a profile of Lady Liberty on the obverse side. The eagle, with its wings outstretched, graced the reverse. The Morgan dollar quickly became a favorite among collectors and the public alike. It was minted until 1904 and experienced a revival in 1921.