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Overview: Flowing Hair Dollar Type, 1794 — 1795

 

The first silver dollars issued by the United States were minted in 1794 using the flowing hair design common to the half-dime and half-dollar denominations also struck that year and similar to the designs used the preceding year for the minting of half-cent and one-cent coinage.  This flowing hair design represented a significant departure from the 1776 colonial dollar prototype often referred to as the “Continental Dollar.”  Instead of continuing with that style, the early mint engravers chose to model the new dollars after the portrait depicted on the “Libertas Americana” medal.

Similar to the Libertas medal, the Flowing Hair Dollar type presents an emblematic portrait of Lady Liberty on the obverse, this time facing toward the right, with her hair flowing freely toward the left.  The reverse depicts a small eagle encircled by a wreath of olive branches.  The eagle is perched upon a flat rock with its wings outstretched.  No denomination appears on either the obverse or reverse of the coin.  Instead, the edge of the coin bears incuse lettering, reading “ONE HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT,” with various decorative markings between the words.

Flowing Hair dollars were minted bearing the dates 1794 and 1795.  Immediately upon the first striking of dollars in 1794, the Mint realized that its equipment was inadequate to strike the new, larger diameter coins with acceptable quality.  As a result, the dollars of 1794 were minted in a very small quantity, and today they are very rare and highly prized, and, consequently, very expensive.  With the acquisition of new equipment better suited to the striking of these large dollar coins, the mint increased production greatly in 1795.  Accordingly, nice specimens of flowing hair dollars of 1795 are available with reasonable frequency and have become very popular with type collectors.

 


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