Before the introduction of the paper dollar bill, Americans carried the dollar coin in their pockets. US dollar coins, which served as the nation’s primary medium of exchange for centuries, have since become sought-after collectibles, partly due to a decline in production and the difficulty in locating the earliest examples.
In this article, we look at the evolution of the US dollar coin, some of its most valuable variants, and some of the features that make a US dollar coin valuable enough to collect.
1794-1804: The First US One Dollar Coins
While various coinage was in use in North America before 1792, it wasn’t until this year’s Coinage Act that the US dollar coin concept emerged. Two years later, these silver dollar coins were put into circulation. The obverse of each coin featured a portrait of Liberty. Some dollar coins, known as “Flowing Hair” coins, showed Lady Liberty with hair that appeared to be moving in the slightest breeze. Some dollar coins with the designation “Draped Bust” have the same profile but a lower cut that reveals hints of the fabric of her classically-inspired outfit. On their reverse, both had an eagle’s side profile.
These early US dollar coins have survived to the present day, so their auction prices can be extremely high. In 2013, an auction at Stack’s Bowers Galleries set the price record for a dollar coin with “Flowing Hair” at $10 million.
1836-1885: Seated Liberty US Dollar Coins
The US silver dollar variants from earlier times differed slightly from the 1836 “Seated Liberty” coin. On these coins, Liberty is seated on a rock, holding her staff in her left hand and guarding her shield, resting on the ground to her right. She is also looking behind her.
The “Gobrecht” silver dollar coins, which were produced for a brief period between 1836 and 1839, are one of the US silver dollar coin types developed during this time that continue to entice collectors. The coin was named after designer Christian Gobrecht, whose name is proudly displayed in the design. Another well-liked coin was the “Trade Dollar,” produced in anticipation of increased global trade.
Trade Dollar coins weighed 420 grains, or about 1 ounce, and were 90% silver (as stated on these coins’ inscriptions). Due to this composition, the millions of trade dollar coins produced were subsequently melted down, leaving only a small number of coins on the market right now.
While these were the two most common types of dollar coins in use at the time, it’s important to remember that the US dollar coin was first introduced in 1848, at the height of the Gold Rush. These coins, produced in batches until 1889 from 90% pure gold, reused the previous Liberty profile image.
1921: The Advent of the Peace Dollar
A push for peace following the horrors of World War I led to a competition to update the design of this coinage. After a brief hiatus in production in the early twentieth century, the US silver dollar made a triumphant comeback in 1921 with a new representation of Lady Liberty. Anthony de Francisci, who returned to Liberty’s profile format, created this new “Peace Dollar” coin, which was also 90% silver (and 10% copper) in composition. Francisci’s Liberty also had a spiked diadem fastened in a loose bun rather than among waves of flowing hair.
To represent the forthcoming hopeful era of peace, the eagle on the coin’s obverse was also redesigned to appear triumphantly perched over the rays of a new dawn. Less than twenty years later, when World War II broke out, that peace would end. Still, the Peace Dollar coin would be discontinued sooner because the Great Depression’s 1929 arrival drastically reduced minting numbers. It wasn’t long before the US silver dollar came to an end. The last minting of silver dollar coins occurred in 1935, owing to a coinage surplus on the market.
The 1970s: From Eisenhower Dollars to Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coins
It wasn’t until 1971 that the US dollar coin was brought back to life with the introduction of the “Eisenhower Dollar” coin, which was intended to honor President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s accomplishments as a military leader in World War II and the White House.
The Eisenhower Dollar was in circulation until 1979 when the “Susan B. Anthony” dollar coin was introduced. Susan B. Anthony coins were created to honor the achievements of the accomplished suffragist, but they were only produced for two years (except for a short return in 1999).
The 2000s: The “Golden” Years of US Dollar Coins
While the US Mint no longer produces dollar coins for circulation, they did begin minting several styles of commemorative US dollar coins in the early 2000s. For instance, the release of the Sacagawea Coin signaled the start of the new millennium. These brass-covered copper coins gave rise to the Native American $1 Coin Act, passed in 2009. They commissioned several coins featuring images of various important Native American figures to be featured on the obverse of Sacagawea coins.
The Presidential $1 Coin Program, introduced in 2007, is another well-liked celebratory “golden” series. The Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 authorized the production of this coin series, which features the Statue of Liberty on the reverse and portraits of former American presidents on the obverse. The American Innovation $1 Coin Program is the most recent of these commemorative series. It released its first coin in 2018 and will continue to do so through 2032. These 50 coins will honor significant scientific and technological advancements in every 50 states.
What Makes a US Dollar Coin Expensive
Think again if you believe that every US dollar coin is only worth $1; a number of factors can cause the price of vintage US dollar coins to soar to unimaginable heights. These consist of the following:
A few of the most sought-after US dollar coins were produced in extremely small quantities. One example is the “1804 Coin” (though it was struck in the early 1830s). President Andrew Jackson ordered it specifically to be used as gifts for diplomats. Since fewer than 20 of these elusive coins were ever produced, so their value can reach $1 million when they surface.
Even some US dollar coins produced in the millions are still rare because so few have survived to the present day. Over time, a lot of one-dollar coins have been melted down or lost, leaving even fewer coins for collectors to find.
Given that US dollar coins were produced for everyday use, it is simple to understand how years of use could cause damage. Coins in good condition typically sell for more money than coins that have wear or damage (except for errors in production, which can make some coins even rarer).
Frequently, US dollar coins with particular designs are sought after by collectors. For instance, some people might look for a dollar coin featuring Susan B. Anthony because they admire her advocacy for women’s rights. In contrast, others might look for dollar coins featuring Gobrecht because they like how he changed the coin’s design. Others search for coins with specific flaws that make them stand out. On the auction market, US dollar coins with evidence of minting errors or missing text are frequently sought after by coin collectors.
Many vintage US dollar coins were made of silver, but other precious metals, such as gold, were also used, which can affect the price.
What Are The Most Valuable One Dollar Coins?
One of the most well-liked coin series in US history among coin collectors is the series of Morgan dollars. Some of these silver dollar coins have sold for more than a half-million dollars. The earliest Morgan dollar was produced from 1878 to 1904, and they were then struck once more in 1921. Any of these variations can be purchased for more than $100. According to Cointracker, the majority of Morgan dollars were created, kept, and then released decades later. Over time, the coin’s extremely low mintage has increased its value.
The following list includes some expensive dollar coins reportedly sold on eBay.
1798 Draped Bust Silver Dollar – $3,600
This dollar coin initially cost less than one dollar but quickly increased to $175. From there, the price skyrocketed to $450 and then continued to increase by the hundreds. Before selling for an astounding $3,600, there were 23 bids. The US Mint’s chief engraver Robert Scot created this Philadelphia-minted silver dollar.
In 1793, Mr Scot transformed the coin’s image into the ample Ms Liberty known as the Draped Bust under the influence of American painter Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of a society lady.
Except for a hair curl that was added in 1798, the year this coin was released, her likeness remained unchanged for several years.
With a few minor design modifications, the prices for all four coins fall between 1795 and 1798. These minor adjustments, though, have a significant impact on price.
The Draped Bust obverse and Small Eagle reverse are probably the rarest and most expensive early one-dollar coins, according to the PCGS. Although it was in use, this silver dollar maintained its excellent condition.
The price of some 1798 silver dollars ranges from $1,500 to $10,000, depending on the design, grade, and certification.
1879 CC Morgan Silver Dollar – $922
The Carson City Mint in Nevada, one of the less well-known mints, produced this rare dollar coin. The Morgan dollar was created in 1878 by the renowned George T. Morgan, the Chief Engraver at the US Mint. The mint mark determines the coin’s value.
This particular coin comes in two varieties: the rusted or “Capped Die” and the unrusted or “Capped CC.” The clear CC mint mark is visible on the reverse of this particular dollar coin, which is the unrusted variety. According to Professional Coin Grading Services, these Capped CC dollar coins are the most popular, with nearly double being produced.
According to USA Coin Book, these dollar coins typically start at just over $250 but can be worth anywhere between $4,660 and $33,975 depending on condition.
The price of this CC Morgan silver dollar coin was listed at just one cent, far below its actual value. It then increased from $3 to $32 and gained momentum quickly. The coin later sold for $921.50 after 69 bids.
1892 CC Morgan Silver Dollar – $1,025
This $1 CC Morgan coin was also struck in Carson City under Mr Morgan’s design. USA Coin Book pegged this year’s starting value at $290. The value of this year can range from $1,718 to $10,116, depending on its condition.
Only 1,352,000 of these coins were made, so this coin’s value comes from its low mintage. When this Morgan silver dollar coin was listed on eBay for one cent, there weren’t many bids above a dollar until someone saw its value and offered $36.
It then shot up to $50 and then quickly to $100. This unique CC Morgan silver dollar was sold for $1,025.01 after 40 bids.
1893-S Morgan Silver Dollar – $4,550
Because of its low mintage, excellent strike, and rarity, this coin is especially hard to find. Only 100,000 of this dollar coin, which also features Mr Morgan’s engraving, were made in San Francisco. The value of these coins is put at $4,512 by USA Coin Book. However, prices range from $134,449 to $662,419, depending on the condition.
This coin’s eBay price quickly increased from just under a dollar to $30. Then, it increased by hundreds with each bid, quickly reaching $100—the Morgan silver dollar sold for $4,550 after a frantic 55 bids.
Diving Into US Dollar Coins
Although we often consider coins to be little more than pieces of change in our pockets, the history of the US dollar coin offers an intriguing glimpse into the function of coinage throughout time. So, whether or not you are searching for one of these extremely rare US dollar coins, let this guide motivate you to examine the eye-catching details of your next dollar coin a little more closely.