The 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar is a famous rarity and one of the most storied coins within American numismatics. While Mint records indicate that silver dollars were struck and released for circulation in 1804, none of these were dated that year. The rarity was created three decades later in 1834 when the U.S. Department of State ordered special coin sets for presentation as diplomatic gifts. Since the silver dollar was still a legal denomination, the Mint created new dies and struck a small number of 1804 silver dollars.
The original, or “Class I”, 1804 Silver Dollars were presented to the King of Siam and the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, with other specimens dispersed under unknown circumstances or retained by the Mint. Today, eight original strikes are known to exist.
From about 1858 to 1860, restrikes of the 1804 Draped Bust Dollar were produced, which came to be known as “Class II” or “Class III” specimens. The “Class II” restrikes were discernible from the originals due to the use of a different reverse die, underweight planchets, and a plain edge. Between ten to fifteen examples of the first restrike are believed to have been produced, but these were subsequently recalled and melted. Only one Class II coin currently exists, within the Smithsonian Institution collection.
The second restrike or “Class III” specimens were created with planchets of the proper weight and edge lettering, although the reverse die still showed differences from the original strikes. Today, six of the “Class III” 1804 Silver Dollars are known.
The highest price realized for an 1804 Draped Bust Dollar was for the “Class I” Watters-Childs specimen, which sold for $4.14 million in 1999.
Image: Smithsonian Institution