Given silver’s spectacular rise in the past year, it should come as no surprise that coin collecting enthusiasts are keen to keep a close eye on just how much silver dollars are worth. In spits and spurts over the course of more than 200 years, the US Mint has been striking beautiful silver dollars for circulation and as collectibles as part of the nation’s monetary system. Determining how much a silver dollar is worth is very much a function of how old the silver dollar is, its design, its mint mark, its condition and its rarity. As a general rule, the composition of the US silver dollar is 90% silver and 10% copper thus all silver dollars have an inherent worth based on their silver bullion content.
By far and away, the most famous silver dollar amongst collectors is the Morgan Silver dollar, but over the years the US Mint has struck a number of different designs in different mintages which have resulted in silver dollars being worth varying values.
How Much are Pre-1804 Silver Dollars Worth
Original silver dollars from this period are highly prized by coin collectors, are exceptionally valuable and range from fairly common to incredibly rare. Due to the early practice of hand engraving each die, there are dozens of varieties known for all dates between 1795–1803.
Flowing Hair Silver Dollar
Widely considered to be one of the rarest and most valuable of US coins, it is believed that only 1,758 silver dollars were struck on a hand-turned screw press at the Philadelphia Mint on October 15, 1794, which was the only day of production for dollar coins that year!
The 1795 strike was much larger at over 160,000 but being over 2 centuries old, less than 150 specimens are deemed to have survived to this day.
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Draped Bust Silver Dollar
The ‘Flowing Hair’ silver dollar was quickly superceded by the ‘Draped Bust’ silver dollar. Minted between 1795 and 1803, the ‘Draped Bust’ features a buxom Lady Liberty on the obverse and two reverse designs; small eagle (1795–1798) and heraldic eagle (1798–1804).
The 1804 silver dollar or ‘Bowed Liberty’ dollar is considered to be one of the rarest and most famous coins in the world due to its unique history.
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How Much are Post-1836 Silver Dollars Worth
Dramatically after 1804, silver dollar production came to an immediate halt after it was discovered that due to an imbalance between US coins and foreign coins regarding their face value and bullion value, wily metal speculators were exporting US silver dollars in order for them to be melted down at a profit!
In addition, silver reserves in the US were being depleted, a situation that was not kick-started until the discovery of the Comstock Lode mine in Nevada in the 1850′s.
Gobrecht Silver Dollar
It was not until 1836 that production of silver dollars restarted with the introduction of the ‘Gobrecht’ silver dollar. Minted in small quantities from 1836 to 1839 exclusively at the Philadelphia Mint and named after its designer, Christian Gobrecht, the ‘Gobrecht’ silver dollar is one of the rarest coins in US Mint history.
The obverse side is virtually identical to that of the ‘Seated Liberty’ silver dollar that was introduced 1837 and the reverse side features an eagle in flight. In XF (Extra-Fine) condition, ‘Gobrecht’ silver dollars are worth upwards of $10,000 a piece.
Seated Liberty Silver Dollar
‘Seated Liberty’ dollars were introduced in 1840 and were minted in larger quantities than the sparsely minted ‘Gobrecht’ dollar that preceded it. The dollars were used in general circulation until 1853. Each coin is composed of 0.7734 troy oz of silver. They were minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, Carson City, and San Francisco.
Morgan Silver Dollar
Forever associated with the Wild West and the Carson City Mint, the Morgan silver dollars were minted between 1878 and 1904 and then for only one year in 1921. The 1921-dated coins are the most common, and there exists a substantial collector market for pristine, uncirculated specimens of the rarer dates and mint marks.
Many examples exceed $100 in uncirculated condition, but the majority do not. A common date in uncirculated condition normally commands a price of around $40 but can quite often be found for as little as $28 circulated and $32 uncirculated depending upon the current price of silver.
Peace Silver Dollar
The Peace Silver Dollars were minted between 1921 and 1935 to honor the end of World War I and were designed by artist and Italian immigrant, Anthony DeFrancisci. They are an inexpensive way to purchase silver, as each coin contains 0.7734 of an ounce of pure silver.
Click here to read more about:
- How Much is a Peace Dollar Worth
- How Much is a 1921 Silver Dollar Worth
- How Much is a 1922 Silver Dollar Worth
- How Much is a 1923 Silver Dollar Worth
American Silver Eagle
Whereas the American Silver Eagle is stamped with a value of $1, it is a purely nominal denomination. The Silver Eagle is the official silver bullion coin of the US and is sold at the current value of silver bullion plus a mark-up. It is pure 100% silver and contains exactly 1 troy ounce of bullion.
Click here to look up how much a silver eagle dollar is worth right now.
How The Mint Affects How Much A Silver Dollar is WorthThe presence or absence thereof of the Mint Mark is a critical factor in determining rarity and ultimately how much a silver dollar is worth.
For example, Morgan silver dollars from the Carson City mint (“CC” mint mark) are worth a premium such as the 1889-CC strike. Whilst it is not the rarest Carson City dollar by mintage, is the rarest by surviving examples today, and is the most valuable Carson City dollar.
The Mint Mark can be quite hard to find sometimes but is usually located on the reverse of the coin somewhere near the words ‘United States of America’.
The mint marks that have been used are:
- “C”: Charlotte, North Carolina
- “CC”: Carson City, Nevada
- “D”: Dahlonega, Georgia
- “D”: Denver, Colorado
- “O”: New Orleans, Louisiana
- “P”: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- “S”: San Francisco, California
- “W”: West Point, New York
How The Condition Affects How Much A Silver Dollar is Worth
Like all collectibles, the condition of a silver dollar makes a difference when judging how much it is worth but it is not paramount.
For example, a ‘Gobrecht’ silver dollar (which are rare) in extremely bad condition will always be more valuable than a commonly available Morgan silver dollar in brilliant uncirculated condition.
The basic grades for coins are:
- UNC – Absolutely no trace of wear
- AU – Small trace of wear visible on the highest points
- XF or EF – Very light wear on only the highest points
- VF – Light to medium wear. All major features are sharp
- F – Moderate to heavy even wear. Entire design clear and bold
- VG – Well worn. Design clear, but flat and lacking details
- G – Heavily worn. Design and legend visible but faint in spots
- AG – Outlined design. Parts of date and legend worn smooth
- F – You can identify the coin as to its type
- B – You can identify the lump of metal as being a coin
Historical Perspective on How Much A Silver Dollar is Worth
The history of the silver dollar is embedded in the history of the United States itself. Faced with a fledgling new nation in which bullion coins from the old colonial masters still freely circulated, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1792 in order to introduce a common system of monetary accounting to reinforce the nation’s new found independence and establish a relationship between how much a silver dollar was worth in regards to gold.
The act established the silver dollar as the unit of money in the United States, declared it to be lawful tender and created a decimal system for U.S. currency.
The exact words found under Section 9 of the act precisely defined how much a silver dollar is worth.
DOLLARS or UNITS – each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy one grains and four sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver.
This can be expressed more clearly as:
Dollars or Units $1 371 4/16 grain (24.1 g) pure or 416 grain (27.0 g) standard silver.
Standard silver was defined as an alloy of silver containing 1485 parts pure silver and 179 parts copper.
Grain is a very old unit of measurement for mass that was based on the average weight of wheat and barley grains. As per SI units, 1 grain is now defined precisely as 64.79891 mg.
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