Which dollar coins are rare?

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Rare dollar coins

The Dollar Coin

The United States Mint has been producing dollar coins since its inception over 225 years ago. During that time it has minted billions of dollars.

To give an idea of the quantities involved here, the current coin press produces 720 coins per minute, so the Philadelphia Mint produces 46,800 coins per minute if all of its 65 presses are operational. Even the old presses could produce 100 coins per minute. We’ll leave you to do the math!

With such vast numbers – even though the early minting machines were run by steam, rather than electricity – the scope for coin values to be high are relatively rare. The one dollar coin is simply iconic and because of this, there are an awful lot of them floating around.

The one dollar coin has taken on many forms across the years. The US Mint coin program has produced silver dollars, gold dollars, and dollars of amalgams of various metals – the most common of these being the fabled Morgan silver dollar, which is 90% silver and 10% copper.

All of the US one dollar Coins have been struck at one of these mints:

  • C: Charlotte (Gold only, 1838-1861)
  • CC: Carson City (1870-1893)
  • D: Dahlonega, Georgia (Gold only, 1838-1861)
  • D: Denver (1906 to date; easily distinguishable from Dahlonega because of the different timeframes in which the mints operated)
  • O: New Orleans (1838-1909)
  • P: Philadelphia (Silver “Nickels” 1942-45; Dollar coins 1979 to date; other coins except cents 1980 to date. Although the Philadelphia mint has been operating continuously since 1793, most Philadelphia coins do not have a mintmark)
  • S: San Francisco (1854 to date. Now mints collector coins only. The last circulating coin to bear an ‘S’ mintmark was the 1980-S SBA Dollar)
  • W: West Point (1983 to date; collector coins only)

Each coin carries a “mint mark.” These mint marks take the form of a small letter or two struck into the form of the coin. These marks are not obvious unless you know where to look – but they are sometimes the key to the value of a coin.

We have designs on your dollar

The dollar coin has seen many combinations of style and pattern during its history. At least a dozen different designs have been in everyday circulation – and many more gold coins and silver coins have been issued. These celebrate commemorative events such as the Apollo moon landing, the bicentennial and particular presidents. The presidential dollar is always a favorite with coin collectors.

When Congress initially decided to print dollar bills It became clear that there was still a need for some kind of dollar coin for vending machines and toll booths which could not accept paper money. The Eisenhower dollar or “President Dwight” was the first attempt. Unfortunately, this coin was too big and cumbersome to carry around with ease and was unpopular with the public.

As a result it was decided to design a smaller and lighter coin, And the Susan B. Anthony dollar was minted. In 2000, the Sacagawea dollar (also known as the “golden dollar”) was introduced into general circulation. On this dollar coin, Sacagawea is portrayed as a Native American.

Even though this coin was deemed to be unpopular with the general public, in 2007, president George W. Bush signed an act called the Native American Dollar Coin Act. The aim of this act was to show images of “the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States.”

Since then the dollar has had a specific new design each year. In addition, the date has been removed from the coin and the Latin phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM” has been moved from the obverse of the coin to the edge – Along with the mint mark.

The final design of the coin is selected each year by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Native American Caucus and the National Congress of American Indians.

When did dollar coins start?

Dollar coins have actually been around since 1794. This is when the first silver coins were made in the US – although these were not in general circulation. It was not until the coinage act of 1873 that the US stopped silver dollar coins being freely produced and put them under the umbrella of the US Mint for countrywide circulation.

This act also introduced the gold standard and was applied to all subsequent coins as a means of measuring their relative value.

Obviously, the current day worth of the one dollar coin, of this period, is far more than its original face value. In fact, the highest price ever paid for a one dollar coin was $10 million. 

This was for a 1794/5 “Flowing Hair” Silver/Copper Dollar. This price was fetched, at auction, in January 2013. This was the first dollar ever issued by the United States Federal Government – after the foundation of the Federal Mint. It is not even solid silver – but 90% silver and 10% copper. This was to cut down on the wear and tear of the coin in everyday use.

The fact that such coins have survived intact to this day is a testament to the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the original designs – and the way in which they were manufactured.

Charles Thorngren

Charles Thorngren

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The Morgan Silver Dollar is an essential part of American History. The first was released in 1878 and became an immediate success. We have sourced 3 different versions of this iconic coin. These will be an investment as well as a family heirloom for generations to come.

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