1794 Flowing Hair Dollar, XF40
1794 $1 XF40 PCGS. B-1, BB-1, R.4. Bowers-Borckardt Die
State III. Silver dollars were coined for the first time in 1794,
although the Mint had been established two years earlier and
circulating copper coinage had been struck in 1793. The cause of
the delay was the $10,000 bond Congress required Chief Coiner Henry
Voigt and Assayer Albion Cox to pay before commencing
precious-metal coinage operations. Neither man could afford this
sum, a small fortune in the late 18th century. Fortunately,
Congress amended this requirement by 1794 and both Voigt and Cox
were able to post the lower surety, with the help of Mint Director
Classic First-Year Rarity, B-1, BB-1
Pleasing Surfaces, Strong Central Devices
The exorbitant bond was not the only problem encountered with silver dollar coinage, however. There was no large or dependable source of silver in the United States at that time and the Mint was dependent on deposits of foreign coins, silverware, and scrap, which came in all different degrees of fineness. Cox found it extremely difficult to assay and refine this raw material to the statutory .89243 fineness Congress had mandated for silver coinage. Without seeking authorization from Congress, Rittenhouse and Cox decided to raise the fineness to .900, which Cox found easier to attain. The entire mintage of 1794 silver dollars was thus produced to an illegal standard, cheating consignors out of approximately 1% of their silver. This caused serious legal problems for the Mint when the facts were made public a few years later.
Another difficulty was encountered with the screw press used to strike the coins. The largest press the Mint possessed was designed to strike half dollars, and it lacked the necessary force to fully bring up the design details on larger coins. In addition, the dies were apparently spaced improperly when the dollar coins were struck, and virtually every example seen is softly struck on the lower-left obverse and the corresponding area on the reverse. Most of the coins were struck on slightly overweight planchets, and many examples show heavy adjustment marks caused by filing off enough metal to bring the weight down to the prescribed standard. Despite all these difficulties, Mint personnel struck approximately 2,000 Flowing Hair silver dollars in 1794, with 1,758 pieces deemed acceptable and released into circulation and the rest melted for recoinage in 1795. Possibly 125-150 specimens survive today in all grades.
The present coin is a delightful example of this classic rarity, with a pedigree that traces back to the 19th century. It first appeared in lot 53 of the Edwin B. Wight Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 2/1885):
"1794 So far as circulation and wear are concerned, this is one of the best 1794 dollars that I have ever seen. The planchet is perfect; the obverse shows only slight marks of wear on the hair and cheek; 'Liberty' and the date are perfect, except the top of L and I are lightly struck; the stars are as struck, the impression weak as it always is; the reverse is better than the obverse but for this peculiarity-outside of the eagle and the wreath a series of radiating lines, which would at first be taken for drift marks in the planchet, but which I think were intentionally made by a former owner, will be observed; these leave every portion of the inscription and device distinct except T in STATES. This dollar must be rated as one of the best known; extremely rare. For both sides see plates."
Strangely, Woodward seems to have been unfamiliar with planchet adjustment marks, which are seen with frequency on early U.S. coins of most denominations.
This coin is one of the most representative examples of the date we have ever seen, as it shows the adjustment marks and soft peripheral strike that characterize the issue, but it also displays the sharply impressed central design elements to good advantage. To Woodward's enthusiastic description we would merely add that the present coin has developed a pleasing patina of lilac, gray, and golden-brown, and the lightly marked surfaces retain traces of original mint luster. Housed in a green label holder. Population: 10 in 40, 14 finer (11/13).
Ex: Edwin B. Wight Collection (W. Elliot Woodward, 2/1885), lot 53; John Colvin Randall Collection (Woodward, 9/1885), lot 227; Numismatic Gallery (privately) in the early 1950s; Alex Shuford Collection (Abe Kosoff, 5/1968), lot 1436; Austin Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 5/1974), lot 1; Greater New York Numismatic Convention Auction (Stack's, 4/1987), lot 867; October Sale (Superior, 10/1990), lot 3711.
From the collection of Donald E. Bently, sold for the benefit of the Bently Foundation.(Registry values: N10218) (NGC ID# 24WY, PCGS# 6851)
View all of [The collection of Donald E. Bently, sold for the benefit of the Bently Foundation ]
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