This first coin highlight focuses on the one the most (if not, the most) valuable U.S. coin in the world, as well as one of the most historic. One particular silver dollar from this date sold for $10 million in 2013, and is considered by many experts to be the first coin struck by the U.S. Mint.
The silver dollar, known as the Flowing Hair dollar, was the first dollar coin issued by the U.S. federal government. The coin was minted for two years, from 1794 to 1795, and its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was very popular throughout the Americas.
Not long after George Washington took office, his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton (one of only four cabinet members within the Washington administration), began research on the monetary system and the potential of a United States mint. His research included the testing of Spanish coinage in order to determine what the appropriate silver content should be. Hamilton's recommendation was that the dollar should contain 371.25 grains of silver and have a gross weight of 416 grains, with the balance being copper. On March 3, 1791, after reviewing Hamilton's report, Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing a federal mint.
Early in 1794, engraver Robert Scot began preparing designs for the silver dollar. Scot’s initial design depicted a bust of Liberty, while the reverse side of the coin featured an eagle, both of which were required by the 1792 Coinage Act. Government officials later told Scot to include a wreath around the eagle and to move the denomination from the reverse face to the edge of the coin. Extra care was taken during the engraving of this coin, because the dollar would be the largest of all American coinage, and in turn receive much criticism from foreign nations.
Officials also decided to add fifteen stars around the outer edge of the silver dollar, representing the fifteen states that had ratified the Constitution to that point. Some of these specifications would become some of the most iconic aspects of U.S. coinage.
The first mintage of the dollar would come with some complications, as the equipment being used at the time minted the coins with varying weights; something that was corrected later when more precise equipment was implemented.
Today, the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar is beloved among the numismatic community, and a fascinating of U.S. monetary history. It is estimated that there are only 120-130 of these coins left in the world today, making it incredibly rare.