The Flowing Hair Dollar

History of the Flowing Hair Dollar

In 1792, the first ever Mint in the United States was established thanks to the Coinage Act of 1792. This very act made by the Congress on April 2, 1792 created our standard unit of money, the US Dollar. It aims to create a coinage system consisting of dimes, cents, dollars, half-denominations, and eagles. The coins struck that same year were only seen as patterns. By 1793, cents and half cents were minted – all made of copper and by 1794, the first silver dollar and half dollar coins were issued.

The Coinage Act was created in 1792 but it was only in the year 1794 that the US Mint was authorized to create first silver dollar coin which was the 1794 Flowing Hair. It has the same design as the half dollar, but since the Mint considers the dollar to be more reputable, the silver dollar was struck first. There were coined in the Philadelphia Mint.

The US Mint has already started the production of the Silver Dollar months before they were authorized to do so. Robert Scot, the US Mint Engraver who prepared the models for the Flowing Hair dollar already had the designs ready. The Congress wanted the silver dollar coin to have a symbolic portrait of Miss Liberty to which Scot obliged.

United States Mint, Smithsonian Institution, Flowing hair dollar, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Obverse was taken from a 1792 25-cents pattern created by Joseph Wright. It features Miss Liberty’s profile bust facing right, with her hair flowing freely behind her. It symbolizes freedom and to which the coin was named Flowing Hair Dollar. The word LIBERTY is inscribed above her profile bust and the date below her. 15 stars are on either side of her symbolizing the number of states the US had at that time.

United States Mint, Smithsonian Institution, Flowing hair dollar reverse, size by Bonnie Mattie, CC BY-SA 4.0

For the reverse, an Eagle is seen perched on a rock has its wings spread while being surrounded by laurel leaves. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds the Eagle and the laurel leaves. It is made of 90% Silver and 10% Copper. It weighs approximately 27g and is 40mm in diameter. It has a lettered edge with the words HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT. This design only lasted for two years – from 1794 to 1795 until it was replaced by the Draped Bust Dollar.

The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar only has four regular strikes and one special strike:

1794 Flowing Hair Dollar – 1,758 coins minted

1794 Special Strike Flowing Hair Dollar – coins minted not available

1795 3 Leaves Flowing Hair Dollar – 160,295 coins minted

1795 2 Leaves Flowing Hair Dollar – 160,295 coins minted

1795 Silver Plug Flowing Hair Dollar – 16,029 coins minted

The 1795 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar has three varieties – the 3 Leaves, the 2 Leaves, and the Silver Plug variety. The 3 Leaves variety can be distinguished by the three leaves found on either side of the Eagle, just below its wings. The 2 Leaves variety only has 2 leaves under each wing. The Silver Plug can be determined by faint circular outlines made by the plug used to strike found on the center of either side of the coin.

Collecting Flowing Hair Silver Dollar Coins

Flowing Hair Silver Dollar Coins are well-loved and sought after by coin collectors Aside from its rarity, it is a very short series that is also a significant piece of the US Coinage History. According to the PCGS, Flowing Hair Silver Dollar Coins are worth $1,500.00 up to S5,000.00, depending on the rarity and variety for the regular series and $10,000,000.00 for the Special Strike 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar Coins. One can check for the price set by PCGS-graded coins here.

On January 24, a 1794 Special Strike Flowing Hair Silver Dollar Coins was sold at an auction at $10 million dollars and bought by Legend Numismatics.The most expensive in the regular series being the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar Coin. It is said that only 150 pieces are known to exist nowadays despite having 1,758 coins minted. It was believed that since the coins were rejected, most were melted.  

When collecting Flowing Hair Silver Dollar Coins, the places to look for wear are Miss Liberty’s hair found just above the forehead, her cheeks, and shoulders. For the reverse, look for signs to tear on the Eagle’s head, breast and the top of his wings.

References:

PCGS, PCGS Coin Facts, NGC Coin, USA Coinbook, Reuters