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FLOWING HAIR SILVER DOLLARS (1794-1795)

1795 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, Silver Plugged

1795 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, Silver Plugged

1795 Silver Dollar Flowing Hair, 2 Leaves, Silver Plugged - The usual numismatic rules do not apply to coins such as this plugged silver dollar. When a plug is added at the Mint to add weight to a light planchet, the coin becomes one of the most eagerly sought Flowing Hair type dollars. The use of the plug shows the early Mint’s chronic shortage of high quality planchets. Its insertion was used to bring the planchet up to specifications. During the striking process, the plug was flattened but remained discernible because it tended to tone differently from the rest of the coin.

The BB-21 variety is identified by the five main curls of Liberty’s hair with a thin additional curl below the third curl. Liberty’s head is high on the coin and close to LIBERTY. The date is wide with more space between the 1 and 7 than the other digits. The 7 was repunched over a 1. Liberty’s head was deeply impressed so that it is in fairly high relief for the type. The reverse has two leaves under each wing. A leaf ends in the center of the first S in STATES and another just under the left upright of the E. The berries are large and the leaves are small. There are nine berries to the left and ten to the right. A large berry is below the right end of the I in UNITED. Another is below the left end of the I in AMERICA. There are two berries inside the branch near the eagle’s tail.

Chief Engraver Robert Scot designed the Flowing Hair 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 Augustin Dupre’s Libertas Americana 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 shows a perched eagle with wings spread looking to the right. 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, since 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.

Thomas Jefferson chose Robert Scot to be the first Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23, 1793. Scot was born in 1744 in Edinburgh, Scotland or England. (Documentary evidence is lacking as to where he was born.) He was trained as a watchmaker in England and learned engraving afterwards. He moved to the United States in 1777, where he worked as an engraver of plates, bills of exchange, and office scales. During the Revolution, he was an engraver of paper money. In 1780 he was made the State Engraver of Virginia. He moved to Philadelphia the next year. He was appointed Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23, 1793 by David Rittenhouse, Mint Director. His salary in 1795 was $1,200 per year.

The Mint Director received only $800 dollars per year more. Scot’s ability to make dies was limited, and he was advanced in years with failing eyesight. His work was somewhat less than that done in Europe at the time, and Scot was criticized for its poor quality. He was responsible for designs of most of America’s first coins. These include the Flowing Hair and the Draped Bust motifs used on the early silver coins, and the gold quarter eagle, half eagle and eagle. Scot also designed the 1794-1797 half-cent, the 1800-1808 Draped Bust half-cent, and the Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace Medal. Scot died on November 1, 1823 and was succeeded by William Kneass as Chief Engraver.

The early Mint in Philadelphia had many challenges. The designers, engravers, and press operators were men who had worked in other fields. They struggled to learn their new trade. Production was sporadic. For the new Mint to coin each of the mandated denominations, it took four years. Foreign coinage continued to circulate along with American coins for many years.

Record keeping in the Mint’s early years was fairly inaccurate. At the end of the eighteenth century Philadelphia had recovered from the British occupation and Revolutionary War. It was the second largest city in the English-speaking world, but it could do nothing to protect its citizens from the mosquito-borne epidemic of yellow fever. Its wealthy citizens went to the countryside to escape, and the poor grimly waited their fate. Of course these annual epidemics caused havoc with all manufacturing that required continuity, such as a coinage sequence. In addition to yellow fever, chaos at the Mint was also caused by chronic bullion shortages, coin dies that would wear out and had to be re-engraved because they were not taken out of production until they failed completely, and a Chief Engraver, Robert Scot, who was in his seventies and had failing eyesight.




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1795 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar - Silver Plugged Dollar

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