The first silver dollars were produced in the United States in the year 1794. The denomination made only a minor start with a severely limited mintage, followed by a second year where the production level was increased. This type represents one of the most desired in American coinage due to the great historical significance.
The second silver dollar design from the United States Mint was known as the Draped Bust Dollar. The mintages for circulation varied widely during the few years of issue, although all coins remain relatively available. The great rarity is the 1804 Draped Bust Dollar, which was not a regular issue, but specially created as diplomatic gifts.
The coins were designed by Robert Scot, the first Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. The obverse features an image of Liberty with her hair lightly bound and her bust draped. The inscription “Liberty” appears above with the date below. Stars appear to the left and right, and varied in number throughout the series from 13 to 15 to 17. Two different reverse designs were used during the series. The first was the small eagle used for the previous type, and the second was a heraldic eagle. In both cases, the denomination appears on the edge of the coin.
Peace Dollars were created as a way to commemorate the restoration of peace following the end of World War I. Rather than being issued for a single year, the series continued for a number of years, as three United States Mint facilities struck silver dollars in relatively large quantities. Mintages for the series occur at two extremes with large numbers struck early in the series and low mintages and a significant key date towards the end of the series.
Anthony de Francisci designed the Peace Dollar, winning a competition among several notable artists of the era. The design used when the first coins were struck in 1921 was done in high relief with a portrait of Liberty based on his wife appearing on the obverse. The reverse of the reverse of the coin featured an eagle perched on a rock with rays of the sun behind. The eagle grasps an olive branch and has the word “PEACE” below. The relief of the coin was lowered for subsequent years of the series.
Once again silver dollars were issued for circulation with the start of the series of Liberty Seated Dollars. Mintages were impacted at one point by the rising price of silver, which made the coins melt value exceed their face value. For two years, just over 1,000 silver dollars were struck, and instead the US Mint produced more than one million of the newly introduced gold dollars.
First struck in 1840, the Liberty Seated Dollars carried the new composition of 90% silver and 10% copper that had been adopted for silver coins during the interim. Production would continue until the enactment of the Mint Act of 1873. In addition to the Philadelphia Mint, the mint facilities at New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City would also strike the silver dollars.
The United States Mint introduced the first golden colored dollar coins with the Sacagawea Dollars. The obverse design by Glenna Goodacre would feature a portrait of the Shoshone woman who had accompanied Lewis & Clark on their exploration of the western territories. Her newborn son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, is carried on her back. The reverse of the coin depicts an eagle in flight designed by Thomas D. Rodgers.
This would represent the third series since the silver content had been removed from the denomination. Rather than a large diameter like the Eisenhower Dollars, or the similar characteristics to the quarter dollar seen for the Susan B. Anthony Dollars, the Sacagawea Dollars would feature a small diameter with a distinctive golden color and a plain edge. This would allow the coins to easily be distinguished within circulation.