Silver dollars are the some of the most collectable and liquid in the coin market today, with sought after and rare examples selling for millions of dollars, including the most expensive coin ever sold.
Not bad for a coin that, on the face of it, is worth just $1!
What is a silver dollar?
The end of World War I saw the passing of the Pittman Act and resulted in the first new silver dollar, known as the Peace Dollar, being minted in 1921. This coin enjoyed a short production run before war once again intervened with no coins struck by the Mint for about 30 years until the creation of the Eisenhower Dollar in the 1970s. Since that resumption, dollar coins continued to be minted in a variety of designs until 2011. Coins produced from 2012 are no longer for general circulation and are purely commemorative made specifically for collectors.
The range of designs and the history behind each different coin is a key factor in why silver dollars are one of the most popular coins among collectors.
Why is a silver dollar called the silver eagle?
This 1-ounce coin is made of pure silver and has the Walking Liberty design on the obverse and the Bald Eagle, the national bird of the USA, on the reverse. Its weight, purity and content are backed by the US government helping make it the most widely traded silver coin in the world.
Although the eagles minted before 2012 have a face value of $1, the standard coins trade for a small premium over the spot price value of the physical silver they are made of. As ever with collectable items, more unusual or proof versions of the coins can sell for considerably more.
The most valuable silver dollars today
Only 1,758 silver dollars were produced by the Mint in its opening run meaning that any coins from that year still around today are highly sought after by collectors. There are estimated to still be about 130 still in circulation that would attract a multi-million dollar price tag should they ever come to market. One expert estimates that there are between 120 and 130 remaining 1794 “Flowing Hair” coins still in circulation that would attract a multi-million dollar price tag should they ever come to market.
After the Flowing Hair dollars, the next most collectable silver dollars are the Morgan Dollars and the Peace Dollars.
Morgan Dollars were minted from 1878 to 1904 and then again briefly in 1921. They were designed by George T. Morgan and are highly valued both for their comparative rarity and their beauty. The rare designs in mint condition can sell for between $100,000 to $550,00.
The short-run of the Peace Dollar, which was minted from 1921 to 1935 with a brief return in 1965, ensures the coin is popular with collectors due to its relative scarcity. Not only did the Morgan Dollar enjoy a longer mint run, it was also produced in far greater numbers. However, although the supply was smaller, the fact it was produced more recently than the Morgan dollar means the older coin is more desired among collectors.
Morgan Dollars have sold for impressive amounts, with one 1889-CC Morgan Silver Dollar coin selling for $881,250 in 2013. On the other hand, one of the highest-selling Peace Dollars, a 1922 Pattern Peace Dollar, sold for $325,000 in 2014.
Other coins to attract a high price include the 1885 Proof Trade Dollar of which there are only five known examples and which the US Mint has no record of ever producing it. One of the 1885 Proof Trade Dollar coins sold at auction for $1.32 million in 2020.
Seated Liberty dollars from the late 1860s and 1870s are also sought after with an 1866 version missing the “In God We Trust” inscription selling for over $1 million. The 1866 version lacks the “In God We Trust” inscription and one coin from this series sold at auction for $1,207,500 in 2005.
Such is the interest in silver dollars that they can easily be traded at bullion dealers and pawnbrokers. The dollars should be stored in air-tight containers or packets to reduce the risk of them being tarnished.
How to avoid buying fraudulent coins
Coin collecting is a popular hobby and can be a lucrative investment. As with most valuable goods, you must be cautious and watch out for fakes and replicas.
There is a lot of misinformation about coins circulating online, so you must do your due diligence before making a bid. Scammers have been known to take common coins and market them as rare, valuable coins at online auctions.
To avoid buying fraudulent coins, you can start by being aware of the traditional size of the coin you’re buying. Check the diameter, thickness, and weight of the coin. A counterfeit coin will likely be the wrong size or weight.
If you’re interested in buying a valuable or rare coin, look for certified coins that are verified by a third party that is experienced in detecting fake coins. You should only buy from reputable dealers, and remember: if a deal sounds too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is.
Warren Zivi, head numismatist and president of the American Rarities coin dealers in Colorado, recommends a book for collectors to read before buying coins. The book, A Guide Book of United States Coins by Jeff Garrett, helps people understand how rare their coins are and how much they may be worth.
This publication is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation, offering or recommendation of any security, commodity, derivative, investment management service or advisory service and is not commodity trading advice. This publication does not intend to provide investment, tax or legal advice on either a general or specific basis.