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
The record price for a coin was achieved by a silver dollar with a 1794 “Flowing Hair” specimen that was potentially the first dollar ever to be struck by the US Mint in Philadelphia. The coin, which derives its name from the appearance of Lady Liberty on one side, sold at auction for over $10 million in 2013.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
With entry prices as low as $20, silver dollars offer an attractive entry point into coin collecting while the possibility to unearth a rare gem in mint condition keeps collectors dreaming of making a fortune.
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