The Flowing Hair
design appeared on the first United States Silver Dollars
in 1794, but only lasted until sometime in 1795, when it was
replaced with the Draped Bust design. The 1794 Silver Dollar
is a rare coin, represented by approximately 150-200 survivors.
The 1795 Silver Dollar is much more common, but the demand
from type collectors keeps the prices high.
Flowing Hair Silver Dollars - Scot’s
Flowing Hair Silver Dollar 1794-1795. Chief Engraver
Robert Scot designed the Flowing Hair Silver Dollar.
It was issued from 1794 to 1795. It showed a portrait
of Liberty facing right with her hair loosely tied
behind her head. This feature evolved from the Flowing
Hair Liberty portrait that was featured on Joseph
Wright’s Libertas Americans Medal of 1783.
Over time Liberty was turned to the right and was
shown without the liberty pole and cap. However,
the basic idea of Liberty’s hair free flowing
is similar to the earlier concept. Above her head
is the word LIBERTY, and the date is below. There
are fifteen stars in accord with the number of states
that made up the Union in 1794, eight to the left
and seven to the right. The reverse, which is similar
to the Flowing Hair Half Dime and Half Dollar, shows
a perched eagle with wings spread looking to the
A wreath tied with a bow encircles
the eagle. The legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is
in an arc around the eagle. Except for its edge
lettering, the coin has no denomination-- something
that might appear as a sign of ineptitude on the
part of early Mint employees to someone familiar
with United States coinage of the 21st century.
The omission was intentional, however, as United
States coinage was new to the world market of the
18th century and the term “Dollar” would
have been unfamiliar to merchants of the day. Like
European coinage of the time, silver and gold pieces
were valued by their weight and fineness so the
denomination was largely irrelevant. Prior to the
issuance of silver coinage, only copper coins were
made because neither the Chief Coiner, Henry Voigt,
nor the Assayer, Albion Cox, could post the $10,000
bond required to be responsible for gold and silver.
Thomas Jefferson recommended to President Washington
that this bond requirement be reduced. Washington
agreed, and in 1794 Scot was able to produce a die
for the cent, half dollar, and the dollar coins.
Since there was no standardized hubbing, individual
punches were used for numbers, letters, the stars,
and leaf punches. The edge was lettered HUNDRED
CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT with decorative designs
in between the words.
It is estimated that about 140
to 150 examples of the 1794 Flowing Hair Silver
Dollar survive out of the 1,758 dollars that were
struck on a hand-turned screw press at the Mint
in Philadelphia. The only day of production for
dollar coins that year was October 15th. They were
made from silver provided by David Rittenhouse,
the Mint Director, who wanted production to begin
as soon as possible. The early United States Mint
was dependent on private deposits of precious metals.
Rittenhouse deposited $2,001.34 worth of silver
on August 29, 1794 so that silver dollar striking
could begin. Using Rittenhouse’s bullion and
one set of dies, 2,000 silver dollars were struck.
Of these, 242 were found unacceptable and were either
remelted or used as planchets for the next year’s
run. All 1,758 dollars were delivered to Rittenhouse
on October 15th, and it was his responsibility to
distribute the coins since he had deposited the
Even those 1794 and 1795 Flowing
Hair dollars that were acceptable for distribution
show many of the difficulties the early United States
Mint had with coinage operations. Virtually all
of the known examples are softly struck to one degree
or another at the left-obverse and reverse border.
This is due to the Mint’s use of a press that
was intended for smaller-size coins, as well as
the fact that the dies eventually “slipped”
and became misaligned in the press. Additionally,
many 1794 and 1795 Flowing Hair dollars display
adjustment marks that represent the Mint’s
filing down of overweight planchets to make them
confirm to the legally specified weight range for
this issue. While these adjustment marks are often
innocuous, as on the present coin, they are sometimes
so numerous as to severely compromise one or more
elements of a coin’s design.
Coin Collectors have pursued the
1794 silver dollar from the earliest days of the
hobby. It is the most important and one of the rarest
silver dollars. An example of this date was featured
in the first all coin auction sale held in this
country, the Roper Sale (M. Thomas and Sons, February,
1851), lot 22, item number 4. The charisma of this
coin cannot be overemphasized. Many collectors choose
this date over the much less expensive 1795 dollar
when putting together a type set. Of course its
position as first-date-of –issue is but another
reason for advanced collectors to obtain this date.
Regardless of striking quality or level of preservation,
a 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar is extremely important
in numismatic circles, and the ownership of even
a low-grade and/or impaired example is the mark
of an important collection. Somewhat more common
are the Flowing Hair Dollars of 1795 with the original
mintage of 160,295. Varieties include Two Leaves,
Three Leaves, and the Silver Plug.
Before the Revolutionary War, coins
from many European nations circulated freely in
the American colonies along with decimal coinage
issued by the various colonies. Chief among these
was the Spanish silver dollar coins (also called
pieces of eight or eight reales) minted in Mexico
and other colonies with silver mined from Central
and South American mines. These coins, along with
others of similar size and value, were in use throughout
the colonies. They remained legal tender in the
United States until 1857. The dollar was intended
to replace the Spanish, English, Dutch and French
coins that dominated the commerce of the Confederation
era. It was authorized on April 2, 1792 in an act
that also created the United States Mint and our
nation’s coinage. Because it was the Unit,
the silver dollar was the most important coin created
and the basis of the nation’s monetary system.
All other coins struck, and all paper money as well,
are either fractional parts or multiples of the
dollar, and the Flowing Hair Silver dollar was the
first one made.