Rarest Silver Dollars in History
If you’ve watched popular TV shows like American Pickers and Pawn Stars, you likely already know just how valuable certain collectable coins can be. While most of the silver dollars you find on the street or receive as change aren’t worth anything at all, certain coins can be worth millions.
Throughout its history, the United States has produced a number of valuable silver coins. Until 1965, American silver dollars contained actual silvers. Following a short five-year minting run of silver coins containing .90 silver, the U.S. government stopped including silver in their silver dollar coins entirely.
Still, it might be fun for investors to learn about some of the rarest silver dollars in history. And there are quite a lot of rare silver dollars in America’s long history of coinage. In today’s Hero Bullion blog, we’re walking readers through 3 of the rarest silver dollars in history.
Are Silver Dollars Rare?
Are silver dollars rare? In the modern coin community, actual silver dollars are a bit rarer than the copper alloy coins that are now minted for circulation. However, not all silver dollars are rare. If you’re going to learn more about the rarest silver dollars in history, you first need to understand how silver dollars are priced.
Silver Dollar Values Explained
Are silver dollars worth anything? Some silver dollars are worth millions of dollars. If you’re wondering about the rarest silver dollars in history, you probably already know that some coins are worth astronomical sums.
What makes a silver dollar valuable, though? Rarity, silver content, and historical context all play roles in determining the value of an American silver dollar. The most expensive coins are extremely rare. In fact, we’ll cover a couple of coins in our guide that are believed to have fewer than ten surviving specimens.
This is mind-boggling. Imagine a coin that was minted thousands of times, distributed into the general public, and then used to purchase goods and services.
Then, over two-hundred years later, fewer than ten coins still survive in the hands of dedicated collectors. Could you imagine holding onto some of these historical relics? This is the story of the rarest silver dollars in history.
Are Silver Dollars a Good Investment?
Silver dollars can be a good investment, but they might not be right for every stacker. For the most part, rare silver dollars are sold for numismatic value. For the uninitiated, numismatic value just means that these coins are valued for more than just their precious metals content. In fact, even coins with no silver can be extremely valuable to collectors.
If you’re planning on investing in the rarest silver dollars in history, you should expect to pay quite a bit more than the silver in your coin is worth. Is this a good investment choice for your portfolio? This depends, of course, on your own goals, preferences, and budget.
For investors who really want to invest in some of the rarest silver dollars in history, we recommend starting with some of the valuable Morgan and Peace silver dollars that we have in our inventory. We offer competitive pricing on these collectable coins to help you stack silver with confidence.
When Were Silver Dollars Minted?
Silver dollars have been minted throughout the history of the United States. In fact, silver dollars were some of the first circulation coins distributed by the U.S. Mint.
To get a better idea of the rarest silver dollars in history, we need to start with a brief primer on the history of silver dollar coinage. Our journey will begin with the earliest days of the newfound United States, and the tradition of silver coinage continues even today.
The Early Days of U.S. Silver Dollars
Like we mentioned above, silver dollars were some of the first coins made by the brand new U.S. Mint in the beginning days of the United States government. We won’t cover the actual first silver dollars produced in the U.S.
Many of these early coins were distributed by small, local mints and don’t really fall under the category of United States silver dollars as we know them today. Instead, let’s start with one of the first U.S. silver dollars, the Flowing Hair Dollar. Let’s take a look at some of the earliest silver coins, which are often considered some of the rarest silver dollars in history.
Flowing Hair Silver Dollar
This is the very first coin minted and issued by the United States government. The earliest releases of this coin date all the way back to 1794, and it was minted for just one year until 1795.
The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar is iconic for a couple of reasons. First, it laid the groundwork for the modern coin design elements that the U.S. Mint still uses today. On the obverse, you’ll find the bust of Lady Liberty with her hair flowing and thirteen stars surrounding her.
And on the reverse, a familiar sight appears. It’s the American bald eagle, of course, surrounded by a wreath and the name of the United States.
This coin didn’t have a long run as a currency in the United States, but it played an important role in establishing the United States Mint – and in beginning the coinage traditions we appreciate today. This coin is one of the earliest and rarest silver dollars in history.
Draped Bust Silver Dollar
The first attempt at a national silver dollar was replaced by the Draped Bust Silver Dollar. This coin boasted a much longer minting run than its predecessor. It was minted by the United States Mint from 1795 to 1804 and contained around 89.2% pure silver. After its initial minting run and success, the Draped Bust Silver Dollar was reintroduced for several decades.
Designs on this coin took notes from the original American silver coin, the Flowing Hair Liberty Dollar. On the obverse, we note an even more detailed and artistic depiction of Lady Liberty. Her hair still flows, and she has a drape over her chest.
The reverse side of this coin reimagined the American bald eagle. This time, the eagle appears to be proudly standing on top of its nest. The wreath makes a reappearance on this coin, encircling America’s national bird.
The Draped Bust Dollar is extremely valuable to collectors today. Its place in American coinage history is very important, and the classic design of Lady Liberty on the obverse makes it one of the rarest silver dollars in history.
Seated Liberty Silver Dollar
For new coin collectors, this coin might seem unfamiliar. It was produced for an impressive 33 years and features one of the most unique takes on Lady Liberty we’ve ever seen. On the obverse, note Lady Liberty as she sits on a rock. She holds both the shield of the United States and an American flag.
The reverse of the coin once again improves upon the earlier designs of the classic American bald eagle. This time, the eagle carries both an olive branch and a bundle of arrows. On its chest, you’ll find the shield of the United States.
This coin is one of the rarest silver dollars in history, as finding one in peak condition is nearly impossible.
Morgan Silver Dollars
With the Morgan and Peace silver dollars, we finally make it to the relatively modern era of American coinage. The Morgan Dollar is a certified classic, especially among numismatists. Having been minted continuously from 1878 to 1904, the coin made quite the impression on coin collectors at the time.
The obverse once again reimagines Lady Liberty, bringing us even closer to the modern depiction of America’s feminine personification. She wears a bonnet and a band that says ‘Liberty.’ Notably, Liberty’s hair changes on this coin. Instead of the long, flowing curls, her hair is not relatively neat and partially obscured by her bonnet.
The reverse is, once again, the American bald eagle. It holds the olive branch and bundle of arrows, paying homage to the coins that came before it.
The Morgan itself is not one of the rarest silver dollars in history, but certain low mintage and proof releases of the coin might fetch insane sums at auction.
Peace Silver Dollars
The Peace Silver Dollar is the last coin on our list of classic American silver dollars. This piece was initially designed and released to celebrate the U.S. victory in World War One. This is where the coin actually gets its name!
On the obverse, we find yet another new version of lady liberty. She wears a crown, and her hair once again appears to be flowing in the wind. The reverse takes our depiction of the bald eagle to a new level entirely. Instead of standing in place, the eagle now perches on top of a rock, overlooking a rising sun.
Because of its scarcity and historical significance, the Peace Silver Dollar can sometimes be considered one of the rarest silver dollars in history.
Rarest Silver Dollars in History
It’s finally time! Let’s take a look at the rarest silver dollars in history. For this list, we’ve chosen the 1794 Regular Strike Flowing Hair Dollar, 1794 Special Strike Flowing Hair Dollar, and the 1796 Draped Bust Dollar (Small Date, Small Letters).
1794 Flowing Hair Dollar – Regular Strike
This is clearly one of the rarest silver dollars in history. Part of the very early Flowing Hair Dollar series, we estimate the total mintage of these coins to be only 1,758. Because of how long ago they were actually released, this means that surviving specimens can be worth hundreds of thousands – even if they’re in poor condition.
1794 Flowing Hair Dollar – Special Strike
In addition to being perhaps among the rarest silver dollars in history, this coin holds the distinction of potentially being the first silver dollar ever minted in the United States. The coin’s mintage numbers are unavailable, as it’s rumored that one or two have ever been found.
In fact, this coin is so rare that it broke records when it sold for over $10 million dollars at auction! Is the 1794 Special Strike Flowing Hair Dollar the rarest silver dollar in history? Some numismatists think it very well might be.
1796 Draped Bust Dollar – Small Date, Small Letters
Compared to the other coins on our list, this piece is hardly the rarest coin in history. Still, it boasts a mintage number of just under 80,000 way back in 1796. What makes this coin unique is the tiny letters used for its date and inscriptions.
In the editions of this coin that followed, lettering sizes were increased. Remember, this is only the second attempt at a silver dollar executed by the U.S. Mint. This puts the 1796 Draped Bust Dollar in a unique position for coin collectors.
Even the lowest condition specimens of this coin tend to sell for several thousand dollars. But one of the highest grades given to this coin sold at auction for $23,500 in 2022. How much would a MS68 1796 Draped Bust Dollar be worth? It’s tough to say, but we’re confident that this coin is considered one of the rarest silver dollars in history.
Why Buy Silver Dollars?
We get it. It’s unlikely most collectors will ever have the opportunity to invest in the rarest silver dollars in history. Still, dealers like Hero Bullion offer a wide range of historically important silver dollars to help you build your portfolio with quality, numismatically valuable silver coins.
Silver dollars can add diversity to your coin collection. Instead of buying silver at spot price, coin collectors can build real numismatic value into their portfolios by investing in silver dollars from early American history.
Most Expensive Silver Dollars
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of some of the most expensive silver dollars ever sold at auction. We don’t think you’ll run across any of these million-dollar coins in the wild, but it’s still good to get an understanding of just how rare certain silver dollars can be.
|Auction Sale Record
|1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar – Special Strike
|1804 Draped Bust Original Proof
|1794 Flowing Hair Dollar
|1804 Draped Bust Restrike – Proof
|1795 3 Leaves Flowing Hair Dollar
Final Thoughts: Rarest Silver Dollars in History
What are the rarest silver dollars in history? Certain rare mintage editions of the Draped Bust Dollar and Flowing Hair Dollar have sold for millions at auction. Most of us will never get the chance to hold one of these million-dollar coins.
But for a lucky few investors, putting your money on beautiful numismatic silver coins from early American history can be a great way to build your stack and impress your collector friends.
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About The Author
Michael Roets is a writer and journalist for Hero Bullion. His work explores precious metals news, guides, and commentary.