United States silver dollars are big and heavy coins. The beautiful artistry and world-class craftsmanship bring life to these otherwise ordinary pieces of silver. It's for this reason, coin collectors love them and will pay handsomely to add them to their collection.
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#15 1803 Proof Draped Bust Silver Dollar
Over 85,000 silver dollars were minted in 1803. A nice-looking collector coin can be obtained for under $3,000. However, none of these silver dollars received special handling, on specially prepared planchets, using a high-quality coin dies to produce Proof coins for collectors. Regardless, four Proof specimens exist while records from the United States Mint state that none were produced.
Proof silver dollars made between 1801 and 1804 are known to coin collectors as novodels. The word novodels originates from Russian numismatics and describes a coin as a "restrike." Although this coin is dated 1803, researchers believe that United States Mint workers in the 1870s used retired dies to restrike coins from the past.
The mint employees struck these coins especially for coin collectors in clandestine business deals. Researchers believe that the obverse die was made around 1834 and the reverse die was made in the early 1830s. There are between three and five Proof 1803 silver dollars that are known to exist. This level of rarity lends itself to a very high price.
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#14 1889-CC Morgan Silver Dollar
Grade: PCGS MS-68
Sold: August 2013; Stack's/Bowers, ANA World's Fair of Money, Chicago, IL
Louis E. Eliasberg was the only person ever to complete a coin collection of at least one specimen of every United States coin and mint mark combination ever made. When a coin from his collection crosses the auction block, it is sure to bring a high price. This 1889 Morgan silver dollar minted in Carson City, Nevada also has a high grade of MS-68. Experts have only graded nine coins higher than this grade at MS-69. This lofty grade makes this otherwise common silver dollar extremely valuable.
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#13 1795 Draped Bust Silver Dollar, Off Center
Grade: NGC MS66★
Sold: November 2013; Heritage Auctions, Eric P. Newman Collection Part II, New York, NY
The United States first minted silver dollars in 1794. The design consisted of an allegorical figure of Liberty on the obverse with her hair flowing in the wind. Coin collectors at the time remarked that she looked "frightened." The mint changed the design in 1795 to a buxomer interpretation of Lady Liberty.
Mint records indicate that 203,033 1795 silver dollars were minted. However, mint employees used coin dies until they broke. Therefore some 1795 dated coins were also minted well into 1796. Numismatic researchers believe that an estimated total of 390,000 silver dollars were struck with a 1795 date. Although this coin has a patch of rainbow-colored toning on the obverse, it's low mintage, and high grade combines to create a nearly $1 million coin.
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#12 1802 Proof Draped Bust Silver Dollar
Grade: PCGS PR-65 CAM
Sold: April 2008; Heritage Auctions, CSNS U.S. Coin Auction, Rosemont, IL
Here is another example of a novodel or restrike United States Proof silver dollar. Numismatic researchers believed that the mint struck approximately one dozen 1802 Proof Silver dollars around 1832. They believe that only four of these coins still exist today. The amazingly sharp detail and its high level of preservation bring this coin to be one of the most sought-after silver dollars.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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#11 1884 Proof Trade Dollar
Grade: PCGS PR-65
Sold: January 2014; Heritage Auctions, FUN U.S. Coin Signature Auction, Orlando, FL
Although Trade Dollars are about the same size as regular issue United States silver dollars, they were never intended to circulate in the United States. The United States minted these coins from 1873 until 1885 and merchants successfully used them in the China export trade business. Coins made for commerce ended in 1878 with the introduction of the Morgan silver dollar. From 1879 until 1885 the United States Mint only made Proof coins specifically for coin collectors. U.S. Mint records indicate that only ten Proof Trade Dollars were minted in 1884. The 1884 Proof Trade Dollar is the second lowest mintage of any Trade Dollar.
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#10 1885 Proof Trade Dollar
Grade: NGC PR-62
Sold: November 2004; David Lawrence, Richmond Sale, Part II
The 1885 Trade Dollar is one of the rarest issues in all U.S. coinage. The U.S. Mint produced only five of these Proof coins. Numismatists discovered their existence approximately twenty-five years after they were minted. Researchers believe that these coins were not struck in 1885 as indicated by the date. They believe that the coins were minted sometime in the early 1900s from coin dies taken from storage. However, mint records do not indicate exactly when these coins were produced. Although professional numismatists value this coin at over $1 million, there is one other specimen valued at over $3 million and graded MS-65.
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#9 1795 Draped Bust Silver Dollar
Grade: PCGS SP-66
Sold: May 2016; Stack's/Bowers, The D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part IV, Sotheby's, New York, NY
In 1795 only 42,738 silver dollars were made with the Draped Bust design. This coin must have been specially made at the United States Mint as evidenced by its mirror-like reflective fields. However, numismatists do not consider it a Proof coin. Therefore, it has received an "SP" designation on its grade to indicate that it was a "special" strike. It's almost immaculate condition lends itself to be the most expensive Draped Bust silver dollar.
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#8 1870-S Liberty Seated Silver Dollar
Sold: May 2003; Stack's, Public Auction 2136, Legend Collection of Mint State Seated Liberty Dollars
Records at the United States Mint indicate that there were no 1870-S Liberty Seated silver dollars made. However, approximately twelve coins are known to exist. Historians speculate that the twelve silver dollars may have been struck as mementos of the laying of the cornerstone of the new San Francisco Mint on May 25, 1870. Others speculate it may have been unscrupulous mint employees producing the coins in the middle of the night. If the coins were struck as mementos, it is most likely that they would have been Proof strikes.
Of the twelve coins known, this is the only uncirculated example known to exist. It is mystifying why such a low mintage coin was allowed to circulate in everyday commerce. Any collector of Liberty Seated silver dollars will have to pay handsomely the next time this coin comes to auction.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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#7 1796 Draped Bust Silver Dollar, Small Date, Small Letters
Grade: NGC MS-65
Sold: April 2013; Heritage Auctions, CSNS U.S. Coin Signature Auction, Chicago, IL
Although records at the United States Mint indicate that the mint produced almost 80,000 silver dollars in 1796, numismatic researchers believe the number is far less. At that time in history, artists at the mint sculpted the coin dies by hand. Mint workers use the dies until they deteriorated or broke. The records indicate the number of coins produced for the year, not necessarily the year that appears on the coins. Q. David Bowers estimates that the number is far less than that. Additionally, this die variety has a small date, small letters in the motto and is the rarest of all 1796 Draped Bust silver dollars
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#6 1866 Proof Liberty Seated Dollar, No Motto
Grade: NGC PR-63
Sold: January 2005; American Numismatic Rarities, The Kennywood Collection, Wolfeboro, NH
The United States Mint in 1866 minted 725 Proof Liberty Seated silver dollars. These silver dollars had the motto "In God We Trust" on the reverse of the coin. Researchers believe that in 1869 or early 1870 mint workers used archived dies to make this fantasy coin for collector Robert Coulton Davis. The reverse die that they used did not have the motto. They also minted an 1866 quarter and half dollar that is also lacking the motto on the reverse of the coin. Only two specimens are known to exist without the motto. One specimen resides in a museum. Therefore, this is the only specimen that is available to a collector of rare coins.
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#5 1795 Flowing Hair Dollar, 3 Leaves
Grade: PCGS MS-66
Sold: December 2005; Coinhunter, Catherine Bullowa Collection
This particular coin is a lesson learned in a rare coin investing. Mint records indicate that over 160,000 of these coins were minted. This number was an extraordinary amount of coins given the antiquated coin minting technology of the time. This coin is the finest known specimen of all 1795 Flowing Hair silver dollars. Stack's/Bowers & Sotheby's sold this coin in September 2015 for $822,500. That is a loss of $442,500 to the person who originally purchased this coin in 2005!
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#4 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar, Class III, Adams-Carter Specimen
Grade: PCGS PR-58
Sold: April 2009; Heritage Auctions, CSNS U.S. Coin Auction, Cincinnati, OH
The 1804 silver dollar was called the "King of the U.S. Series" by the Chapman Brothers coin dealers as early as 1885 and to this day is known as "The King of Coins." There are fifteen known specimens of the 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar categorized into three different classifications. It is well-known that the U.S. Mint produced these coins in 1834 or later for presentation pieces or as special favors to high-profile coin collectors. Through expert marketing and promotion, demand for these few coins increased and drove the price to new astronomical records.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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#3 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar, Class I, Watters-Childs Specimen
Grade: PCGS PR-68
Sold: August 1999, Bowers & Merena, Walter H. Childs Sale
This 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar is the finest known specimen across all fifteen known coins. Pres. Andrew Jackson originally ordered the striking of these silver dollars as presentation pieces to foreign leaders and dignitaries. This particular coin can trace its origins all the way back to the Sultan of Muscat who received it in 1834. The coin was offered for sale again in May 2016 at the D. Brent Pogue Collection auction by Stack's/Bowers & Sotheby's. The coin was bid all the way up to $10.81 million (which includes the 17.5% buyer's fee), but the bid did not meet the consignor's minimum reserve. Unfortunately, this coin could have been the world's most valuable coin!
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#2 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar
Grade: PCGS MS-66+
Sold: September 2015; Stack's/Bowers, The D. Brent Pogue Collection, Part II, Sotheby's, New York, NY
The United States Mint first started producing coins in 1792. It wasn't until 1794 that the mint first produced silver dollars. The coins were big, and the equipment used to produce them could barely generate enough pressure to strike the coins properly. Engravers at the mint crafted each coin die by hand in crude and amateurish style. However, the 1,758 silver dollars produced was a monumental achievement for a fledgling new country. It is likely that a mint employee saved this coin as a special remembrance and preserved it in its pristine condition for future generations to enjoy.
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#1 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar with Silver Plug
The inexperienced artist and workers at the United States Mint were struggling to make coins to power the economy of a new country. The machines were crude, and laborers performed a majority of the tasks by hand. The coining presses were crudely made and were powered by strong men. The blanks were hand-fed into the presses and a skilled pressman could center the blank every time.
Mint workers weighed each coin blank before it was struck to ensure that had the proper amount of silver in it. If it was overweight, some metal was scraped off with a file. If the coin was not struck hard enough, these adjustment marks would be left on the surface of the finished coin. If the blank was underweight, a small silver plug was placed on top of the coin blank before it was struck to bring it up to a standard weight.
Since the composition of this coin was 90% silver and 10% copper, the alloy was created by hand and some impurities were left in the metal, it created different qualities of silver. The silver plug struck into this coin was created from a different batch of silver than the blank that was used to create it. Therefore, it is obvious since two different shades of silver exist on the surface of the coin.
Of the original 1,758 silver dollar struck in 1794, this is the only one known to exist that has a silver plug struck into it. The United States Mint used to strike silver dollars was originally engineered to only strike coins no larger than half dollar. Since this coin has sharp detail and is almost in pristine condition, some numismatic experts believe this is the first silver dollar ever struck in the United States. Its low mintage, unique history, and pristine condition combine to make this the most valuable coin in the world!