One of the world’s most well-known and sought-after coins is the United States silver dollar. They appeal to coin collectors and investors because there is a price point for almost anyone interested in investing, collecting, or selling silver dollars. On the surface, silver dollars might not differ all that much from one another, but that is far from the truth.
Before making an investment or attempting to sell your silver dollars, it is crucial to understand the various factors that affect their value. In this article, we’ll highlight the various 90% silver dollars produced by the U.S. Mint and the four key variables that affect the cost of silver dollar coins.
Different Types of Silver Dollars
There have been many silver dollars produced over the years. Most of the changes in the design have been due to various Acts and Legislation intended to solve fiscal problems. Here is a timeline of the various silver dollar minted in the United States and brief history that influence each mintage,
Silver Supply and the Morgan Dollar
Silver mining in the United States, particularly the Comstock Lode (1859), was the catalyst for the heyday of silver dollar coinage. Before the country could reap benefits from this discovery, earlier legislation demonetizing silver had to be repealed. The Bland-Allison Act restored the weight and fineness of the standard silver dollar to those specified in the Act of January 18, 1837. (26.73 grams; .900 silver, .100 copper).
Because George T. Morgan designed it, this new coin would be known as the Morgan Dollar (who, from 1917-1925, would serve as a chief engraver). According to the specifications outlined in the Coinage Act of April 2, 1792, the coin’s reverse depicts a heraldic eagle, and the obverse depicts a profile of Lady Liberty.
The Philadelphia Mint first minted Morgan Dollar coins in 1878. Due to the facilities’ proximity to the western United States silver mines, they were also struck at Carson City and San Francisco that same year after some design changes. New Orleans joined in the following year, and through 1904, it produced Morgan Dollars alongside San Francisco and Philadelphia.
Silver Dollar Production Paused
The 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act’s passage resulted in another instance of legislation having an impact on the silver supply chain. Production of the Morgan Dollar was halted in 1904 at all U.S. Mint locations after demand and silver bullion supplies fell due to this legislation. From 1905 to 1920, there were no silver dollar coins issued in the United States.
Because the New Orleans Mint depended on silver coin mintage for revenue, it was eventually closed as a Mint facility. The Pittman Act of 1918 permitted the melting of millions of previously issued silver dollars following World War I. (primarily Morgan Dollars).
However, the Act also mandated the purchase of silver to produce new silver coins to replace the melted ones.
To comply with the Pittman Act, Morgan Dollar production resumed in 1921 in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver for the first time. The Philadelphia Mint began producing the Peace Dollar later that year. Since the law allows for design changes to any U.S. coins after 25 years, no special congressional authorization was needed for the change in design.
The Peace Dollar
The Morgan Dollar was replaced by the Peace Dollar in December 1921, thanks to Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. The Peace Dollar was a reminder of the American and German declaration of peace. The mint produced more than a million Peace Dollars in less than a month. The number of Peace Dollars produced after six months was nearly 25 million.
The Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) chose the Peace Dollar’s design from models that several well-known sculptors submitted. The CFA chose Anthony de Francisci, a well-known Italian American artist. The coin’s obverse features a woman’s head representing Liberty wearing a tiara made of light rays.
On the reverse, an eagle perched atop a mountain is shown watching the sunrise while holding an olive branch in its talons. The Peace Dollar was minted from 1921 to 1928 when demand for the dollar was low, and the Pittman Act’s silver supply had run out.
With the passing of what was known as the Silver Purchase Act of 1934, it was struck for the final time before World War II. The coinage was only in circulation from 1935 until then. The Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver Mints produced these last Peace Dollars.
The Eisenhower Dollar
After 1935, the mint stopped producing and circulating silver dollar coins. The lack of silver dollars nearly ended in 1964 when new legislation made it possible for the Denver Mint to produce Peace Dollars. But none were made available to the general public.
Simultaneously, legislation was being drafted to remove silver from coins due to the ongoing shortage. President Johnson signed the Coinage Act of 1965 on July 23, removing silver from circulation and allowing clad coins to be used for the half-dollar, quarter, and dime.
The amendments to the Bank Holding Company Act of 1970 were signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 31. Title Two of this Act and its numerous amendments authorized the Eisenhower Dollar Coin.
Ironically, the same law that created the country’s newest dollar coin also permitted the sale of 2.9 million Morgan Dollars (from Carson City Mint) kept in the vaults of the U.S. Treasury Department.
The mint issued copper- and silver-clad Eisenhower dollars in 1971. With the release of this coin, it became legal to put a presidential portrait of a U.S. president on a dollar coin in circulation. It was the first silver dollar coin in circulation since 1935.
Frank Gasparro, Chief Engraver at the United States Mint, designed the coin. The image of President Dwight Eisenhower is shown on the obverse of the coin. According to a change made to the law, the reverse design had to be symbolic of the Apollo 11 mission, which celebrated the achievements of our nation’s astronauts and the first moon landing. The coin’s reverse displays Gasparro’s interpretation of the Apollo 11 insignia, which features a bald eagle landing on the moon’s crater-pocked surface while holding an olive branch in both claws.
Between 1971 and 1974, the new dollar was produced in two different alloys: one for collectors that were “an alloy of 800 parts of silver and 200 parts of copper” and was produced at the San Francisco Mint; the other was produced for circulation that was “75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel” and was produced at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints.
Bicentennial Coinage and After
Silver dollars and other coins were redesigned in the mid-1970s in preparation for the nation’s bicentennial celebration. This was the first time in the history of our country that an anniversary of American independence would be commemorated by design on a circulated coin.
The Eisenhower Dollar’s obverse was similar to that of the 1975 and 1976-issued Bicentennial Dollar, with the addition of the dates 1776 and 1976. The coin’s reverse, however, underwent a more significant change. A Liberty Bell and moon combination were used in its design, which Dennis R. Williams, a student at Columbus College of Art and Design, created.
The Bicentennial Dollar, like its predecessor, was minted in two distinct compositions and struck at the Philadelphia, San Francisco Mints, and Denver.
After the celebration, the Eisenhower Dollar’s original design—a single date and an eagle reverse—became available once again. It was struck once more in 1977 and 1978, but only with the copper-nickel version this time.
0From 1979 to 2011, new versions of the dollar coin were released into circulation. Since 2012, only numismatic dollar coins have been produced and distributed. None have ever attained the legendary Morgan or Peace Dollars’ level of popularity.
What Makes a Silver Dollar Valuable?
Finding the value of a silver dollar involves much more than merely looking up the date on a few websites or eBay and assuming your coin is worth the most—or least—amount. There are several crucial factors to consider when determining the worth of your silver dollar. These consist of the following:
Getting the Date
When determining the value of your silver dollar, the date is crucial. Take a look at your silver dollar. The date can be found on the coin’s “heads side,” also known as the obverse. Although it might seem logical to some that older dates would be worth higher than more recent dates, this isn’t always the case. The 1804 dollar brings in millions, but not always because it is so old. Instead, it’s because only 15 of them were made, making them extremely rare.
There are more survivors on some dates than others. The 1879 Morgan dollar from Philadelphia Mint has a relatively high mintage. It is worth between $15 and $30 in well-circulated grades, whereas the 1928 Philadelphia Mint Peace dollar has a low mintage and can fetch up to $200 in the same condition. The rarity of the date is what determines value, not its relative age.
Understandably, people who don’t really understand what to look out for on silver dollars will occasionally only consider the date and claim to have “the” particular date silver dollar.
The problem is that there is another important equation to identifying a silver dollar, and it is not checking the date but also the mintmark, stating where that silver dollar was made. Before the 1840s, Philadelphia was the only mint where silver dollars were produced. They were all devoid of mintmarks, typically one or two letters identifying the location of the coin’s production.
The following mints produced silver dollars:
- Philadelphia – Before the “P” mintmark was used in 1979, dollar coins had no mintmark.
- San Francisco – Carries an “S” mintmark
- Carson City – Denoted by a “CC”
- New Orleans – Bearing the single letter “O.”
- Denver – Indicated by a “D”
- West Point – Accompanied by a “W” mintmark
While the mintmark will vary depending on the type of silver dollar, it can be found on the reverse (also known as the tail’s side) of all silver dollars produced before the Eisenhower dollar. Except for some current small-size golden dollars, which occasionally have the mintmark on the coin’s edge, the Eisenhower dollar’s mintmark and other dollar coins produced since can be found on the obverse.
Errors and Varieties
Before you start obsessively searching for coins with odd markings or other peculiarities, keep in mind that many, if not most, of the things that novice numismatists frequently mistake for errors or varieties, are actually post-mint damage.
It’s understandable to get excited about odd dents, odd-looking gouges, or even odd indents (such as Masonic symbols). Still, these are almost always the result of something or someone outside the mint and, in several situations, will decrease rather than increase the coin’s value.
However, there are a variety of errors and die varieties that can raise the value of your silver dollars, so it would be in your best interest to learn about them and develop the ability to identify them on your coins.
The Grade & Overall Condition
New collectors, let me give you the first piece of advice you should ever heed regarding the condition of your coins: do not clean them for any reason! Cleaning your coins won’t improve their appearance and will always lower their value—possibly by as much as 50%—unless done by a highly qualified coin conservation company.
Coin dealers and experienced numismatists prefer to keep their coins unaltered, partly because cleaning them removes all of the accumulated patina and even a tiny amount of metal that can never be restored or repaired. Ensure that you leave your coins where you found them by doing so!
Many other aspects of a coin’s condition, such as its wear-based grade, are important to consider when determining the value of your silver dollar. Coin grading is an intricate field of numismatics that takes years to master and know inside and out truly, and it cannot be taught in a few paragraphs.
It’s crucial to understand that coins are graded on a scale of 1 to 70, with 1 being the worst condition—worn nearly smooth—and 70 being the best—never used as money and virtually flawless—with no noticeable scratches, nicks, or other marks.
Uncirculated coins are those that have never been used as currency and still have all of their original markings, and they are typically the most expensive. Grading coins based on wear is a nuanced aspect of numismatic knowledge that you should become acquainted with.
5 Most Valuable Silver Dollars Worth Money
Since 1794, American mints have produced silver dollars, which have a $1 face value and are made of 90% silver. Since then, numerous types of silver dollar coins have been produced, but only a small number can fetch hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on the open market. This includes:
1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar
The first silver dollar ever minted by the United States is considered a 1794 Flowing Hair, which is considered the “holy grail” of all silver dollars. In 2013, coin dealer and numismatist Bruce Morelan paid $10 million for this absurdly rare coin. The coin has a Sheldon Scale rating of 66, which is almost perfect. The freshly struck coin was given to Edmund Jennings Randolph, who served as secretary of state then, and he referred to it in a letter to President Washington.
1885 Silver Trade Dollar
Only five 1885 Trade Dollar proof coins were ever made. In fact, it took 25 years after their mintage for these coins to even be discovered. According to USA Coinbook, the first to show up at auction was put up for sale in 1913 and marketed for $1,140. In one hundred years, these will likely be among the most valuable and rare silver dollars ever created. A PR66 fetched almost $4 million at Heritage Auctions in 2019.
1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar, Class I, Watters-Childs Specimen
The best example of the fifteen known silver dollars is this 1804 Draped Bust dollar. These silver dollars were initially struck on President Andrew Jackson’s order as gifts for dignitaries and foreign leaders. This particular coin dates back to 1834 when it was given to the Sultan of Muscat.
The coin was put up for auction once more in May 2016 by Stack’s/Bowers & Sotheby’s as part of the D. Brent Pogue Collection sale. The highest bid for the coin reached $10.81 million (including the buyer’s fee of 17.5%), but it fell short of the consignor’s minimum reserve. Sadly, this coin had the potential to be the most priceless coin ever!
1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar, Class III, Adams-Carter Specimen
Even as early as 1885, coin dealers Chapman Brothers referred to the 1804 silver dollar as “The King of Coins” and the “King of the U.S. Series.” There are fifteen known examples of the 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar, which have been divided into three groups.
These coins were produced by the U.S. Mint in 1834 or later as presentation pieces or special gifts for prominent coin collectors, as is well known. The price of these few coins reached new, astronomical heights due to skilled marketing and promotion that increased demand.
1866 Proof Liberty Seated Dollar, No Motto
The United States Mint produced 725 Proof Liberty Seated silver dollars in 1866. On the reverse of these silver dollars was the phrase “In God We Trust.” To create this fictional coin for collector Robert Coulton Davis in 1869 or the first few months of 1870, mint employees used archived dies. They didn’t use a reverse die that had the motto on it. They additionally struck quarters and half dollars in 1866 without a motto on the reverse. Only two specimens without the motto exist, and a museum houses one specimen. As a result, a rare coin collector can only obtain this specimen.