Flowing Hair and Draped Bust Dollar Die Varieties (1794-1804)
In October of 1794, the United States mint commenced the coining of silver when approximately 2,000 silver dollars were struck, of which only 1,758 could be issued, due to the the inadequacy of the press.The remainder of the 1794 silver dollars were melted. These coins comprise the entire mintage of 1794 silver dollars, and production of this denomination did not resume until the following year, subsequent to the arrival of a superior press. The silver dollars of 1794, and most dated 1795, bore Robert Scot's Flowing Hair portrait of Liberty, which was combined with a reverse depicting an eagle within a simple wreath.
The design of the 1795 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar was replaced in the fall with the Draped Bust Dollar design. At that time the eagle was slightly remodeled and set atop a cluster of clouds. This Liberty portrait was used on the silver dollar through the end of regular coinage, the last pieces being dated 1803, though at least some were produced during the following year with the 1803 date. The 1798 silver dollar depicted a new design of the American eagle, based loosely on the Great Seal of the United States. 1798 was a transitional year for silver dollars, and the majority of pieces bore the new Heraldic Eagle reverse (also called the Large Eagle reverse), use of which continued through the end of the series.
All 1804 silver dollars were struck as proofs, decades after the date they bear, and were not intended for general circulation. The Class I coins were produced during the 1830s for diplomatic presentation purposes, while the Class II and Class III pieces were struck some years later to satisfy a demand from collectors. Also in this latter category are the proof novodel dollars dated 1801, 1802 and 1803. Silver dollars of these years, oddly, share a common reverse die with the Class I 1804 coins, while the Class II and Class III 1804 silver dollars have a distinctive reverse die.
Known to an earlier generation of numismatists as "Daddy Dollars," 1794 through 1803 silver dollars have long been collected by date. The number of persons seeking to complete a date series today is limited, owing to the rarity of the 1794 silver dollar issue, of which just about 120 examples are believed to survive. More common are collectors who desire to own just a single example of each of the three types.
1794-1803 silver dollars were coined from dies that required much hand punching of the supporting elements, such as the date, lettering, leaves, etc. Thus, each die is readily distinguishable, a fact made easier by the large size of these silver dollars. Until recently, the collecting of early silver dollardie varieties did not enjoy a large following, despite the publication of Milferd H. Bolender's book in 1950. A more substantial reference work by Q. David Bowers and Mark Borckardt was published in 1993 and made the attribution of silver dollar die varieties much easier. This has led to a slow but steady increase in the number of collectors, and the scarcer die varieties now command greater attention.
NGC will assign both Bowers-Borckardt (BB) and Bolender (B) numbers to all 1794 to 1803 silver dollars. While many veteran collectors of this series still have a sentimental attachment to Bolender numbers, the Bowers-Borckardt book has superior photo plates to any edition of Bolender's book and to the Jules Reiver reference that utilized Bolender's numbers.
The Bowers-Borckardt numbering system is sequential for the entire series of silver dollars and their die varieties. In other words, each date picks up the numbering where the previous date left off, though a few numbers are left unused to allow for new discoveries. For example, 1795 silver dollar varieties end with BB-52, while 1796 dollar die varieties begin with BB-61. Gaps are used elsewhere between design changes, such as between the last 1795 Flowing Hair Dollar (BB-29) and the first 1795 Draped Bust Dollar (BB-51).