Draped Bust Dollars, 1795-1804

Draped Bust Dollars, 1795-1804

Designed by: Robert Scot

Issued Date: 1795-1804
Composition: 0.8924 parts silver, 0.1076-part copper
Diameter: 39 to 40 mm
Weight: 416 grains
Total Business strike mintage: 1,153,709*
Total Proof strike mintage: None originally; some restrikes

Although the dollar was adopted as the standard U.S. monetary unit in 1785 and Continental dollars had been struck in 1776; the silver dollar was not authorized as a federal issue until April 2, 1792. The first dollars, with a flowing hair obverse and small eagle reverse, appeared in 1794 and 1795. Later that year, a draped bust obverse was adopted, and in 1798 a larger, heraldic eagle was substituted for the small eagle reverse. Robert Scot designed all three types.  In uncirculated conditions, all early dollars can legitimately be called rare.
  • 1795-1798 Draped Bust, Small Eagle Reverse Type
  • 1798-1804 Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle Reverse Type

The 1795 Draped Bust dollar represents the initial appearance of this design in American coinage. In the silver dollar series the obverse motif was continued through pieces dated 1804 (business strikes last made in 1803), while the reverse motif was employed through early 1798. The obverse features a portrait of Miss Liberty as just described, with LIBERTY above, the date below, and eight stars to the left and seven to the right. The reverse shows a small eagle perched on a cloud within an open wreath. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds.

Among early silver dollars, the Draped Bust obverse combined with the Small Eagle reverse may be the scarcest type. Specimens exist in all grades with those most frequently encountered apt to be in Very Good to Fine preservation. Very Fine pieces can be readily located, Extremely Fine coins are scarcer, and those in AU or better preservation are decidedly rare. A strictly Uncirculated coin would be considered a prime rarity. Examples often show parallel mint-caused adjustment marks. As these coins were produced strictly for utilitarian purposes, no attention was paid to striking them carefully.

This style continues the Draped Bust obverse as preceding, except that the stars have been standardized to seven left and six right, the only exception being a scarce variety of 1799 with eight left and five right. The reverse is similar to that used on the dime of the year and is adapted from the Great Seal of the United States.

Examples of this motif were minted from 1798 through 1803. In later years, restrike pieces were produced dated 1804 and were Proof restrikes from new dies bearing the dates 1801, 1802, and 1803. Among business strikes, examples most often encountered are apt to be dated 1798 or 1799. Those dated 1800 are scarcer, while those dated from 1801 through 1803 are considerable scarcer, although they are not rarities. Grades found usually range from Very Good through Very Fine. Extremely Fine coins are fairly scarce, while AU pieces are scarcer yet. Strictly Uncirculated coins are great rarities. In keeping with other early silver issues, pieces often display mint-caused planchet or adjustment marks and areas of light striking.

Hundreds of thousands of Early Dollars were coined yet only a small percentage survives today. This is mainly due to the fact that profit-minded bullion dealers would exchange them for heavier Spanish or Mexican dollars. These foreign pieces would then be brought to the Philadelphia Mint to be recoined and the process would begin all over again. In an attempt to stop this endless chain, silver dollar production was suspended in 1804, not to be resumed until 1840.

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