1794 Flowing Hair Dollar, VF Details
1794 $1 -- Repaired -- NGC Details. VF. B-1, BB-1, R.4. The
silver dollars of 1794 are numismatic icons, from a tiny mintage of
1,758 pieces. The issue is prized by collectors in any grade, and
is considered one of the hallmarks of a major collection. Probably
no more than 130 specimens remain extant in all grades.
Untraced Since 1882
Although Mint personnel were prohibited from working with silver and gold coinage until the chief coiner and assayer had posted a bond of $10,000, much was learned in 1792 and 1793 working with copper coinage and patterns. At least two patterns for the silver dollar were produced in copper, one with no stars and another with 15 stars added. The 15 star copper pattern, Judd-19, first appeared in the John F. McCoy Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 5/1864), lot 1834:
"Trial proof impression, in copper, of the dies of the United States Dollar of 1794. This beautiful bronze proof, of unquestioned genuineness, and beyond doubt unique, is the finest existing impression from the dies of the earliest American Dollar. It is considered by the owner, not only as more desirable on account of its surpassing beauty, but much more valuable than any dollar of that date existing."
The coin sold to J.N.T. Levick for $78 and is now in the Smithsonian Institution.
Thomas Jefferson interceded with Congress to get the bonds for the chief coiner and assayer lowered, and silver dollar coinage began on October 15, 1794, using the press designed to coin half dollars, since no larger press was available. Despite the success with the copper pattern, which was satisfactory in every way, the press proved inadequate for an actual press run of silver coins. The dies quickly slipped out of alignment, and almost all specimens of the 1794 dollar are weakly struck on the bottom left obverse and corresponding area on the reverse. Some examples from the initial run were so weakly impressed that they had to be withheld. The remainder of the small mintage was issued to mixed reviews from the public, who blamed the engraver for the weak strike, thinking the detail had been insufficiently strong in the die. However, the exquisite copper trial piece clearly shows that the fault was in the other equipment.
The present coin is a mysterious example that matches the obverse plate of the Robert B. Chambers specimen in Martin Logies' definitive 1794 dollar reference. Logies was only able to trace this coin to two 19th century auctions conducted by W. Elliot Woodward, and no plate of the reverse was available for comparison. The coin may have been off the market for a considerable period. The strike is quite strong for a 1794 dollar, with much remaining detail in the usually weak lower obverse stars and date. A number of minor rim bruises and surface abrasions are present, but this remains an attractive example, despite the noted repairs.
Ex: Robert B. Chambers Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 2/1866), lot 217; Ralston Collection (Woodward, 10/1882), lot 53.
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