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Rare Silver Dollars | What are the Most Valuable Silver Dollars?

The Silver Dollar has always been an iconic coin throughout American history. Ever since the first coin minted back in 1794, the United States Mint has released more than ten different designs for the Dollar coin, including proof versions, patterns, and special strikes. But only a few of those coins, minted before the ending of the silver standard and the beginning of the full-fiat currency era in the 1970s, are indeed made of silver.

Rare silver dollar coins continue to be constant objects of desire among coin collectors and silver investors.

In this article, we will cover the most important designs from Silver Dollar history and list the top 30 most expensive sales from public auctions. 

History of Silver Dollar Designs

The Flowing Hair Dollar

The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

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One of the rarest silver dollars in existence. The Flowing Hair Silver Dollar was the first Dollar design. The United States Mint launched the coin in 1794 and minted only until 1795. Its size and weight were based on the Spanish Dollar, already largely at use in the US.

Its alloy had 90% silver and 10% copper. The design is a creation of Robert Scot, the 1st Chief Engraver of the United States Mint.

The obverse portrays a bust of Lady Liberty with her hair waving with the wind, hence the “Flowing Hair” moniker. The reverse shows an eagle. Both figures were required by the Coinage Act of 1792. Liberty’s design is closely related to Scot’s design for the cent, but with no Phrygian Cap. Also, Scot was instructed to add a wreath around the eagle on the reverse and to move the denomination to the edges.

The final version included fifteen six-pointed stars on the obverse, with the word “LIBERTY” on top and the mint year on the bottom. On the reverse, surrounding the eagle and the wreath are the words “ UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.

The most expensive silver dollar coin ever sold at an auction was a Special Strike Flowing Hair Silver Dollar for the astounding amount of $10,016,875.

The Draped Bust Dollar

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The Draped Bust Silver Dollar is a dollar coin the United States Mint produced from 1795 to 1803. The composition was adjusted to 89.2% silver and 10.8% copper, as determined by the Coinage Act of 1792. 

It is not entirely sure as to why the US Mint discontinued the original Flowing Hair design. It might be due to public disapproval, or because the newly appointed Mint Director Henry William the Saussure decided to redesign the American coinage.

The most notable change in design is obviously on the obverse. Lady Liberty’s features and the wavy hair are much more detailed, and now her hair is tied on the back with a drape.

The Seated Liberty Dollar

The Seated Liberty Silver Dollar

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From 1836 to 1839, the United States Mint released very small quantities of a Dollar coin which came to be known as the Gobrecht Dollar, named after US Mint Chief Engraver Christian Gobrecht. After a 30-year hiatus from silver dollar production, the Federal Government was testing the waters to see how the economy would react to the introduction of more dollar coins into circulation. In 1840, they released the Seated Liberty Dollar coin, which had basically the same obverse design of Lady Liberty seated on a rock, holding a pole with a Phrygian Cap on top, and resting a shield on the floor. Encircling the figure are thirteen 6-pointed stars representing the original colonies. The mint year is engraved on the bottom.

The reverse was completely changed for this version of the coin. Instead of the soaring eagle, present in the Gobrecht Dollar, it now showed a primitive version of the heraldic eagle used for the original American Silver Eagle reverse. The eagle has a shield on its chest and grasps olive branches and arrows on its talons, representing America’s desire for peace, but readiness for war. The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” was introduced in 1866. Encircling the design on the outer rim are the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the denomination on the bottom, abbreviated to “ONE DOL.”

After the California Gold Rush, silver prices and the U.S. Government had a hard time trying to regulate and stop the population from hoarding and melting silver coins. After a series of legislations on the matter, silver coin production was officially halted with the Coinage Act of 1873.

The Trade Dollar

The Trade Dollar

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Another one of the rarest silver dollars around. The Trade Dollar was a quasi bullion Dollar coin first struck in 1873. It served the purpose of international trade. The United States released it as a way to compete against other Trade coins already popular in East Asia. Business strike coins were halted and the coins were demonetized a few years after launch, but proof versions kept being struck until 1883. They were re-monetized with the Coinage Act of 1965. These silver dollar coins are quite popular among collectors.

William Barber, 5th Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, designed both verses of the coin. The obverse features a seated Liberty offering an olive branch, symbolizing peace, with Her right hand. Thirteen six-pointed stars representing the original colonies encircle the figure with the mint year on the bottom. The reverse shows an eagle grasping arrows and olive branches on its talons. The words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” are inscribed on top, and below the eagle are the words “420 GRAINS, 900 FINE.” and “TRADE DOLLAR”.

The Morgan Dollar

The Morgan Silver Dollar

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After the Coinage Act of 1873 which temporarily ended the silver standard in the U.S., silver miners lobbied for the return of the precious metal to legal tender status and the free coinage of silver. In 1878 large quantities of the Morgan Silver Dollars were minted. Production ran until 1904 and was minted again in 1921.

Since 2021, the U.S. Mint started minting 99.9% pure silver Morgan Dollar coins for investment and collection purposes. 

George T. Morgan designed both verses of the coin. The obverse portrays a bust of Lady Liberty as modeled by Anna Willess Williams. The motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is inscribed on the outer rim, along with the mint year.

The reverse shows an eagle clasping arrows and olive branches. The motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” is on top, with the country’s name and denomination around it: “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ONE DOLLAR”.

Morgan Silver Dollars are one of the most popular silver coins among collectors and silver investors.

The Peace Dollar

The Peace Silver Dollar

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The United States Mint introduced the Peace Silver Dollars in December 1921 to celebrate the newfound peace after the World War. They chose the design via a competition. The winner of the event, Anthony de Francisci, won $1,500 in prize money. His design was unanimously chosen. 

Francisci based the features on his portrayal of Goddes Liberty on his wife, Teresa de Francisci. It shows a bust of Liberty facing left, wearing a spiked crown, resembling the one on the Statue of Liberty. The obverse also includes the word “LIBERTY” on top, the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”, and the mint year on the bottom.

The reverse portrays a bald eagle, resting on top of a cliff. It gazes ahead as the sun rises on the horizon. The eagle clasps an olive branch on its talons, symbolizing the country’s desire for peace. On the outer rim, on top, is written “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and the motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM”. The bird is sculpted in between the denomination “ONE DOLLAR”. On the outer rim, below, is the word “PEACE”.

The US Mint produced the Peace Dollar silver coin from 1921 to 1928, and then again in 1934 and 1935. In 2021, the US Mint began producing a .999 fine silver version of the Peace Dollar for investment and collection purposes.

The Rarest and Most Valuable Silver Dollars

If you ever asked yourself “what are the most valuable silver dollars”, or even “what are the rarest silver dollars” to add to your collection, in this section, we are going to attempt to answer those questions. We compiled the sales price records from the top 30 most valuable dollars in history based on coin catalogs, such as PCGS’. Check it out for yourself:

Coin

Grade

Auction Record

Auction Details

#1 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar Special Strike

SP66

$10,016,875

01-01-2013 Stack's Bowers

#2 1804 Draped Bust Original - Class I BB-304 (Proof)

PR68

$7,680,000

08-25-2021 Stack's Bowers

#3 1794 Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

MS64

$2,820,000

08-01-2017 Stack's Bowers

#4 1804 Draped Bust Restrike - Class III (Proof)

PR58

$2,300,000

04-01-2009 Heritage Auctions

#5 1795 3 Leaves Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

V CH to GEM UNC

$1,265,000

12-04-2005 Coinhunter

#6 1796 Small Date and Small Letters Draped Bust

MS65

$1,175,000

04-24-2013 Heritage Auctions

#7 1795 Off-Center Dr Bust Draped Bust Special Strike

SP66

$1,057,500

05-24-2016 Stack's Bowers

#8 1802 Draped Bust (Proof with Cameo)

PR65

$920,000

04-01-2008 Heritage Auctions

#9 1795 Off-Center Bust Flowing Hair Silver Dollar

MS66+

$910,625

11-15-2013 Heritage Auctions

#10 1889-CC Morgan Dollar

MS68

$881,250

07-27-2013 Stack's Bowers

#11 1803 Draped Bust (Proof)

PR66

$851,875

01-09-2013 Heritage Auctions

#12 1799 Draped Bust

MS67

$822,500

11-15-2013 Heritage Auctions

#13 1884-S Morgan Dollar

MS68

$750,000

11-18-2020 Stack's Bowers

#14 1893-S Morgan Dollar

MS65

$735,000

05-21-2018 Sotheby's

#15 1803 Large 3 Draped Bust Silver Dollar

MS65+

$705,000

11-15-2013 Heritage Auctions

#16 1892-S Morgan Dollar

MS68

$630,000

11-18-2020 Stack's Bowers

#17 1895-O Morgan Dollar

MS67

$575,000

11-03-2005 Heritage Auctions

#18 1922 Matte Finish High Relief Peace Dollar (Proof)

PR67

$458,250

06-02-2014 Goldberg Auctioneers

#19 1795 Centered Bust Flowing Hair

MS65+

$456,000

11-22-2020 Heritage Auctions

#20 1797 10x6 Stars Draped Bust Silver Dollar

MS64+

$440,625

11-15-2013 Heritage Auctions

#21 1802 Draped Bust Silver Dollar (Proof)

PR64

$411,250

10-18-2012 Heritage Auctions

#22 1836 Pattern Dollar J-64 Restrike (Proof)

PR65

$400,000

11-01-2008 Stack's

#23 1797 9x7 Stars, Small Letters Draped Bust Silver Dollar

MS64

$381,875

11-15-2013 Heritage Auctions

#24 1922 Modified High Relief Production Trial J-2020 Peace Dollar

PR67

$381,875

08-06-2014 Stack's Bowers

#25 1895-S Morgan Dollar DMPL

MS67DMPL

$336,000

11-18-2020 Stack's Bowers

#26 1801 Draped Bust Silver Dollar

MS65+

$329,000

11-15-2013 Heritage Auctions

#27 1802 Draped Bust Silver Dollar

MS65+

$300,000

11-22-2020 Heritage Auctions

#28 1798 Wide Date Draped Bust Silver Dollar

MS65

$270,250

10-08-2020 Legend Rare Coin Auctions

#29 1798 Small Eagle, 13 Stars Draped Bust

MS63

$258,500

11-15-2013 Heritage Auctions

#30 1878-S Trade Dollar

MS68

$252,000

01-14-2019 Heritage Auctions

Purchase Silver Dollars at SD Bullion

SD Bullion is the place for you to find Silver Dollars and other 90% Constitutional Silver coins at the lowest premiums over the spot price of silver. Our variety of silver Dollar coins should be enough to satisfy investors and coin collectors alike.

If you have other demands or questions not answered above, feel free to talk to one of our agents through our live web-chat feature at the bottom right of your screen. You can also contact us over the phone at 1(800)294-8732 or via email at sales@sdbullion.com. We are available from Monday to Thursday, from 8 am to 6 pm EST, and on Friday from 8 am to 5 pm EST.

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James Anderson
James Anderson
Content Director

A bullion buyer years before the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, James Anderson is a grounded precious metals researcher, content creator, and physical investment grade bullion professional. He has authored several Gold & Silver Guides and has been featured on the History Channel, Zero Hedge, Gold-Eagle, Silver Seek, Value Walk and many more. You can pick up Jame's most recent, comprehensive 200+ Page book here at SD Bullion.

Given that repressed commodity values are now near 100-year low level valuations versus large US stocks, James remains convinced investors and savers should buy and maintain a prudent physical bullion position now, before more unfunded promises debase away in the coming decades.

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