What is the oldest US dollar coin?

The oldest circulating dollar coin in the United States is the Flowing Hair dollar, which was first minted in 1794. This coin was the first dollar coin issued by the U.S. federal government. The Flowing Hair dollar featured a design of Lady Liberty with long, flowing hair on the obverse side. This coin was only minted for two years, from 1794 to 1795, before being replaced by the Draped Bust dollar.

When was the first US dollar coin minted?

The first United States dollar coin was minted in 1794. The Coinage Act of 1792 authorized the establishment of the United States Mint and the production of a national currency, including dollar coins made of silver. In 1794, the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia struck the first dollar coins, known as Flowing Hair dollars because of the depiction of Lady Liberty with long, flowing hair on the obverse. 1,758 Flowing Hair silver dollars were minted in 1794.

What were the key features of the Flowing Hair dollar?

The Flowing Hair dollar featured a portrait of Liberty facing right with long, flowing hair with the word “LIBERTY” above her and the date below on the obverse side. Thirteen stars representing the 13 original colonies surrounded the periphery. On the reverse side was an eagle surrounded by wreaths, with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” around the edge. These dollar coins were made from .8924 fine silver and were approximately 39-40 millimeters in diameter. They weighed 26.96 grams as specified by the Coinage Act of 1792. The edge of the coins had a decorative reeded pattern.

Where were Flowing Hair dollars minted?

All Flowing Hair silver dollars were minted at the first United States Mint located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time, this was the only mint operating in the U.S. The dollars were produced in a building on Seventh Street in Philadelphia along with other early American coins. The U.S. Mint remained at this location until 1833 when operations moved to a larger facility.

How many Flowing Hair dollars were produced?

The Flowing Hair dollar was minted for only two years from 1794 to 1795 before being replaced by the Draped Bust design. During this short period, a total of 160,295 Flowing Hair silver dollars were struck. Specifically:

  • 1794 – 1,758 coins minted
  • 1795 – 158,537 coins minted

1795 saw the highest mintage for the Flowing Hair dollar with over 158,000 pieces produced that year. However, both years saw relatively low mintages compared to later dollar coins. The limited number of coins struck makes Flowing Hair dollars rare and valuable for collectors today.

Why did the Flowing Hair dollar have such a short production?

The Flowing Hair dollar was only minted for two years for a couple key reasons:

  • The new U.S. Mint had technical issues with the coin dies that made it difficult to strike the Flowing Hair design consistently. Many 1794 dollars have weak details on the hair and stars.
  • There were criticisms of the artistic merit of the Flowing Hair portrait, prompting the replacement design in 1795.
  • Officials wanted to update the coinage with a more sophisticated, modern look starting in 1795.

Due to these reasons, the Flowing Hair design was short-lived on dollar coins and replaced by the Draped Bust motif in October 1795. However, the basic silver dollar specifications like diameter and weight established by the Flowing Hair coinage continued.

What is the Draped Bust dollar?

The Draped Bust dollar succeeded the Flowing Hair dollar starting in October 1795. It featured a revised portrait of Liberty facing right with curling hair draped around her neck and bust, hence the “Draped Bust” name. The word “LIBERTY” remained above her head and the date below. The eagle reverse side design also continued.

Like its predecessor, the Draped Bust dollar was minted in .8924 fine silver at the Philadelphia Mint. It maintained the same diameter, weight standards, and reeded edge established by the first U.S. Mint Act. Draped Bust dollars were minted from 1795 up until 1804 when production was halted. The total mintage was over 3 million coins, significantly higher than the Flowing Hair dollar.

How much are Flowing Hair dollars worth?

As the first dollar coins struck by the U.S. government, Flowing Hair dollars are highly prized by collectors and institutions today. Their value depends on their scarcity and condition:

  • 1794 Flowing Hair dollars – As little as 1,000-1,500 of the original 1,758 coins still exist. In low circulated condition, 1794 dollars are valued around $75,000-100,000. High grade mint state examples can fetch over $10 million at auction.
  • 1795 Flowing Hair dollars – Typically valued at $2,500-5,000 in worn condition and up to $100,000 for mint state coins.

Proofs and specially struck specimen coins are also known for 1794-1795 dollars, making them extraordinarily rare and valuable upwards of millions. Overall, Flowing Hair dollars are some of the most prized rarities and treasures in all of U.S. numismatics. Their significance as the first dollar coins adds historical allure.

Where can Flowing Hair dollars be viewed?

Due to their extreme rarity and value, most surviving Flowing Hair dollars are closely protected in museums or major private numismatic collections. Here are some places where these historic coins can be viewed:

  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History – The museum has six 1794 dollars on display along with other early American coins.
  • American Numismatic Association Money Museum – Located in Colorado, this museum has a 1794 dollar specimen on exhibit.
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York – The bank’s gold vault houses a 1794 dollar not accessible to the public.
  • Stack’s Bowers Galleries – This rare coin dealer occasionally exhibits Flowing Hair dollars at public auctions and shows.
  • Private collections – Wealthy coin collectors like Louis E. Eliasberg Sr. have acquired Flowing Hair dollars for millions as cultural treasures.

For most people, the Smithsonian provides the best opportunity to admire a 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar firsthand and appreciate its history and design.

Are any Flowing Hair dollars still found in circulation?

It would be essentially impossible for an original, circulated Flowing Hair dollar to still be discovered in loose change or circulation today. As antiques from over 225 years ago, all remaining examples are either preserved in museum collections or carefully handled by dealers and collectors as rare coin investments. Any Flowing Hair dollars found in everyday pocket change or transactions would be recent counterfeits. Authentication and metal analysis would easily identify fake Flowing Hair dollars not made from the 90% silver composition of originals. While extremely hypothetical, an authentic 1794 or 1795 dollar coin randomly found in circulation would be an unimaginably fortunate numismatic discovery valued at many thousands even in worn condition.

Did Flowing Hair dollars ever have value as bullion?

The silver value in terms of precious metal content or “bullion value” of Flowing Hair dollars has fluctuated along with the market price of silver over time. When these coins circulated in the early 1790s, their intrinsic silver value approximated their $1 face value. With copper then valued around 1 cent per ounce, the .7734 ounces of pure silver in each coin gave them a bullion value very close to $1. Of course, premium numismatic value was not a consideration at the time. Over the centuries, melt values and silver spot prices have varied:

  • Mid 19th century – Low silver prices led to melting many early dollars for bullion.
  • Early 1960’s – Rising silver prices increased the melt value of Flowing Hair dollars to around $1.30.
  • 1980 – Record silver highs drove the bullion value over $35 per dollar coin.
  • Today – With silver around $20/oz, intrinsic value is around $15-16.

However, it would be illegal and irreparable damage to melt down these incredibly rare coins just for silver value. The precious metal content has never exceeded their worth to history and collectors.


The 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar stands proudly as the first official dollar coin issued by the newly formed United States. Along with the 1795 issue, these beautifully designed dollar coins were the nation’s first minted “large cents” predating the half disme, dime, quarter, and half dollar. Despite its brief two-year production, the Flowing Hair dollar remains a monumental piece of American numismatic history valued in the millions for its rarity and significance. Both expert collectors and the Smithsonian museum work to preserve these original American dollars for future generations.

Leave a Comment