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HomeUS CoinsFlowing Hair Dollar, 1794-1795 | CoinWeek

Flowing Hair Dollar, 1794-1795 | CoinWeek

Left: The Famous Lord St. Oswald-Norweb 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar. Right: The Taffs-Miles-Blue Moon 1794 Dollar Reverse. Both Images Courtesy: Stack's Bowers.
Left: The Famous Lord St. Oswald-Norweb 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar. Right: The Taffs-Miles-Blue Moon 1794 Dollar Reverse. Both Images Courtesy: Stack’s Bowers.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
The Mint Act of April 2, 1792, authorized the production of half cent and one cent copper coins, silver coins in denominations of half dime through dollar, and gold coins in denominations of $2.50 (quarter eagles) to $10 (eagles). The United States Mint struck copper coins first, as problems with the law prohibited the coinage of silver and gold coins until Mint employees posted an adequate bond. The excessive regulation required a bond of $10,000 apiece for the chief coiner and assayer, each of whose pay was $1,500 per year. Mint Director David Rittenhouse, a well known mathematician and astronomer, worked with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to convince Congress to lower this requirement. Congress lowered the requirement in late 1793, and the production of silver coins began in 1794, with gold coin production starting in 1795.

Production of America’s first silver dollar commenced in November 1794. The dollar coin was meant to be a prestigious coin promoting the American Experiment at home and abroad and to serve as the standard U.S. monetary unit. Slightly larger and heavier than later Morgan Dollars and Peace Dollars, which collectors more frequently encounter, Flowing Hair Dollars were intended to circulate at par (the same value) with the more common and familiar Spanish and Mexican dollars, or pieces of eight, which were legal tender at the time.

How Were Flowing Hair Dollars Made?

To make a coin, a coiner must apply significant pressure to impart the images from the coin dies onto the blank. Blanks for Flowing Hair Dollars were weighed before the coins were struck, and blanks that were too heavy were filed to remove excess silver. These adjustment marks, often still visible, remind us of the history of early coin production. Some underweight blanks were adjusted using a small silver plug in the center of the planchet, an easier and less expensive fix than melting unacceptable coins and starting over. Limitations in the ability of the Mint to produce a coin of this size resulted in mostly weakly struck coins for 1794, some of which were rejected for circulation.

Furthermore, these early dollars were produced from handmade dies, which explains the existence of the varieties found in the surviving examples.

At least one 1795 coin is known to have been struck on a 1794 dollar, so some of the rejected coins were likely reused as planchets. Dollar production stopped after 1,758 coins were minted for 1794, resuming in May 1795, after the Mint procured a press capable of producing more completely struck pieces.

How Much Are Flowing Hair Dollars Worth?

Fewer than 140 1794 Flowing Hair Dollars have been certified by CAC, NGC, and PCGS, including a remarkable few as Gem or finer. Although estimates for the total number of coins extant is about 150, according to some sources, the certified population likely includes some redundancies as coins routinely cross from one service to the next, or are submitted for regrading without the services being notified that an old certification number is no longer in use.

In contrast to the 1794 Dollar, over 4,300 1795 issues are listed in the third-party grading services’ population reports, with some pieces classified as Prooflike.

All 1794 Flowing Hair Dollars are very expensive to prohibitively expensive, with select pieces selling for a million dollars or more. Dollars of 1795 are also expensive at all grades but are the more “affordable” option for type set collectors. This issue sees dramatic price increases as coins approach the About Uncirculated grade and beyond.

The 1795 Silver Plug version is the most coveted of all 1795 Flowing Hair Dollar varieties, and the 1795 Two Leaves variety is scarcer than the Three Leaves variety in all grades.

No Proof examples of the Flowing Hair Dollar are known, but there is one 1794 coin with reflective surfaces and a full strike from properly aligned and undamaged dies. This piece contains a silver plug and is referred to more recently as the “Cardinal Dollar.” It is considered a Specimen and is believed by some to be the first silver dollar struck by the U.S. Mint.

Date-by-Date Analysis by CoinWeek Notes

Flowing Hair Dollar Coverage on CoinWeek

CoinWeek contributor Greg Reynolds analyzes the finest known 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar offered as part of the Stack’s Bowers sale of the Pogue Family Collection.

The above page includes several video interviews about the sale of the finest known 1794 Dollar, including Martin Logies, Curator of the Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation; Laura Sperber, Legend Numismatics; and Chris Napolitano and Melissa Karstedt of Stack’s Bowers.

 

The video above includes all of the interviews featured in the previous link plus further CoinWeek coverage of the sale.

Gold coin specialist Doug Winter offers his thoughts on the topic.

Varieties

Several known ones include the 1794 Silver Plug (unique), 1795 Two Leaves and Three Leaves (the number of branch leaves below each of the eagle’s wings), the 1795 Silver Plug, and other, more minor, die variations.

Design

Obverse:

On the obverse, a youthful Liberty faces right, head held high and long hair flowing unfettered down the back of her neck. The word LIBERTY is centered at the top inside a dentilled rim, with the date centered at the bottom. Fifteen six-pointed stars split eight to the left, seven to the right along the rim between the top and bottom text, the number representing the states then in the Union.

Reverse:

The reverse displays UNITED STATES OF AMERICA along the edge of the coin inside a denticled rim. Just inside the legend is an encircling pair of olive branches, crossed and tied at the bottom but slightly separated at the top. In the center, a right-facing eagle with outstretched wings rests on a surface, perhaps a cloud or a rock. The left wing (viewer’s right) is in front of the olive branch wreath, and the right is behind it. No denomination or mintmark appears on the coins; all were minted in Philadelphia.

Coin Specifications

Flowing Hair Dollar
Years Of Issue: 1794-95
Mintage: High: 160,295 (1795); Low: 1,758 (1794)
Alloy: 89.24% silver, 10.76% copper
Weight: ±26.96 g
Diameter: ±39-40 mm
Edge: Lettered: HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT, with decorations or ornaments between the words
OBV Designer: Robert Scot
REV Designer: Robert Scot

 

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References

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Guth, Ron, and Jeff Garrett. United States Coinage: A Study by Type. Whitman Publishing.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Yeoman, R.S. and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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