When was the first dollar coin made? The history of money in the United States is filled with fascinating stories about early forms of currency and the origins of coins and paper money that we still use today. If you’re wondering when the first dollar coin was minted in America, read on for a deep dive into the rich history of U.S. coinage.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: the first dollar coin was minted in the United States in 1794 under the authorization of the Coinage Act of 1792 during George Washington’s presidency.

The Colonial Era and Early American Coins

Barter and Foreign Coins in the Colonies

In the early colonial period, colonists relied on the barter system to acquire goods and services. However, barter was inefficient for larger transactions, so foreign coins like Spanish dollars, British pounds, and Dutch ducats circulated widely.

By the mid-1700s, there were thousands of different foreign coins in use, causing confusion and hindering trade.

The Continental Currency and Other Early Paper Money

To fund the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress issued paper currency called Continental dollars or Continentals starting in 1775. Unfortunately, the Continental lacked solid backing and rapidly depreciated.

After the war, the new U.S. government issued notes and bonds to pay war debts, but these also devalued quickly. This taught early Americans the importance of financial prudence and honesty.

The U.S. Mint and Coinage Act of 1792

To create a uniform currency, the Coinage Act of 1792 established the U.S. Mint and authorized the production of coins like the iconic copper penny and silver dollars featuring Lady Liberty. The Act demonstrated the federal government’s authority over currency and laid the foundation for the stable monetary system we enjoy today.

The first U.S. Mint building opened in Philadelphia in 1792 with coin production starting soon after.

The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar of 1794

The Design and Specifications

The Flowing Hair dollar, designed by Robert Scot, was the first dollar coin ever minted by the United States. The obverse features a profile portrait of Liberty with long, flowing hair with the word “LIBERTY” above her. Thirteen stars represent the 13 original states.

The reverse displays an eagle surrounded by wreaths, with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” around the rim. These early dollars are about 39-40mm in diameter and contain a fineness of .8924 silver, weighing 416 grains.

Low Mintage and Survival Rates

Only 1,758 Flowing Hair silver dollars were minted in 1794, according to U.S. Mint records. They were produced at the first United States Mint in Philadelphia. This low mintage makes these coins rare and valuable today.

In fact, it’s estimated that only 120-130 of the original 1794 Flowing Hair dollars still exist. Many of those surviving coins are in poor condition, having suffered damage or wear over the last 200+ years.

High Value and Notoriety Today

Despite their small numbers, Flowing Hair dollars hold an important place in history as the young nation’s first attempt at producing its own silver dollar. Today, these rare coins command extremely high values.

In 2013, an example graded Specimen-66 sold at auction for over $10 million – setting a record price for any coin sold at auction! Clearly, early American numismatic rarities like the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar will likely always be sought after by serious collectors.

Dollar Coins Throughout U.S. History

Early American Silver Dollars (1794-1935)

The very first silver dollar coins were minted in the United States in 1794 after Congress passed legislation authorizing the new coins just years prior in 1792. These original silver dollars are known as the Flowing Hair type, named for the hair depiction of the allegorical Liberty on the obverse side of the coins.

The famous Seated Liberty silver dollars, perhaps the most iconic American coin design, were minted from 1840 through 1873. These coins had a higher purity of 90% silver content than earlier dollar coins, setting the standard.

In total over 150 million Seated Liberty dollars circulated during this period.

One of the rarest of all U.S. coin types is the 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar, which despite its date was actually struck during the 1830s. Only 15 examples are known to exist today, making them hugely valuable collector’s items.

From 1878 to 1921, the Morgan silver dollar was produced in massive quantities. The 1921 design marked the last year of the silver dollar coin until further issues resumed in 2021.

The Peace Dollar (1921-1928; 2021-2035)

In 1928 after a seven-year run, production of the iconic Peace silver dollar coin halted along with most other U.S. silver dollars. These coins, featuring a front-facing eagle clutching an olive branch, would be absent from circulation for nearly a century.

In late 2021, the U.S. Mint began producing 2021-dated Peace dollars for collectors only, the first such silver dollars struck since 1935. Mintage is limited to 250,000 coins per year from 2021 through 2025.

The Eisenhower Dollar (1971-1978)

With the rising price of silver bullion, the United States Mint changed compositions and began minting dollar coins in a copper-nickel clad instead, beginning with the Eisenhower dollar in 1971.

The obverse depicted the late president and WWII General Dwight D. Eisenhower. These large dollar coins were minted through 1978 and intended to replace paper $1 notes in circulation, but failed to gain widespread public acceptance.

The Susan B. Anthony Dollar (1979-1981; 1999)

In 1979 the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin became the first circulating coin to honor a female figure. The new small-size dollar coin featured a portrait of suffragette Susan B. Anthony. However, it too failed to circulate widely.

In 1999 a special proof version of the coin was issued to help launch the U.S. Mint’s new product subscription. Only 750,000 proof Anthony dollars dated 1999 were struck.

The Sacagawea Dollar (2000-Present)

Seeking another chance to bring back the dollar coin with a new design, the U.S. Mint launched the successful Sacagawea dollar in 2000 featuring Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who assisted Lewis and Clark. These coins remain in production today.

Collectible versions of the Sacagawea dollar also include special finish coins as well as Native American series dollars with “reverse proof” designs starting in 2009 through 2016.

The Presidential Dollar (2007-2016)

From 2007 through 2016, the U.S. Mint issued innovative $1 coins featuring portraits of former Presidents in order of their service, four per year. The series included golden-colored coins for four of the former Presidents.

Coins were issued honoring President Washington through Reagan. At the conclusion of the Presidential Dollar coin series in 2016, no further standard circulating versions have been produced.

When Was The First Dollar Coin Made – Conclusion

As you can see, the history of the dollar coin stretches all the way back to the earliest days of U.S. minting and coinage in the 1790s. While many other denominations were struck before the first dollar, the 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar holds an important place in history as the young nation’s first crown-sized coin.

And over the last 200+ years, several other iconic dollar coins have come and gone as well.

So there you have it – the quick answer is that the first U.S. dollar coin was minted in 1794, with the Flowing Hair design overseen by the nation’s first Mint Director, David Rittenhouse. But there’s so much more to the story behind those early silver dollars and the many other interesting dollar coins that have been produced since then.

Hopefully, this outline gives you lots more context and details to dive into further as you explore this unique aspect of American currency history!

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