The United States was a very young country when it minted its first coins. The Coinage Act of 1792 authorized the U.S. Mint to produce copper, silver and gold coins for circulation, according to the Mint website. The first coin facility opened in Philadelphia in a three-story brick building, and production was a “very physical, slow and imprecise process,” per The United States Mint. Among the first coins minted there — maybe the very first — was a 1794 “Flowing Hair” Silver Dollar that today is worth roughly the equivalent of a 7-bedroom, 7-bath, 6,700-square-foot waterfront mansion in Miami.
The Flowing Hair Dollar sold for $10 million at auction in 2013 to set a new world record for the highest price ever paid for a rare coin, CNN reported. That record was eclipsed in 2021 when a 1933 Double Eagle sold for $18.9 million.
Even though it no longer ranks as the most valuable coin ever, the Flowing Hair Dollar remains highly prized among collectors because of its historical importance. As CNN noted, the Philadelphia Mint started producing the silver dollar in October 1794, when 1,758 coins with the Flowing Hair design were struck in a single day.
Those coins were not meant for distribution to the general public. Instead, they were taken to the Mint director for distribution to dignitaries as souvenirs.
“They were distributed to congressmen, visiting VIPs from other nations, and other important American citizens at the time,” Douglas Mudd, curator and director of the American Numismatic Association’s Money Museum, told CNN in a 2020 interview.
The Flowing Hair Dollar Had Real Significance
In the 1790s, the U.S. did not have easy access to silver and gold, partly because the fledgling nation was still recovering from the Revolutionary War against Great Britain. The early coins were essentially a way of showing that the U.S. could produce its own money.
“It was basically more of a PR marketing event,” Mudd said. “This was the first dollar and they wanted to make as much of a splash as they could. The Flowing Hair design was produced by the Mint as a first representation of liberty. Taking the idea from the ancient Romans where they used female figures — sometimes male figures — to represent concepts such as liberty or freedom.”
A close examination of the $10 million coin’s details show that it might be “the first silver coin struck” from the original dies, Mudd added. Fewer than 150 of the original 1,758 Flowing Hair Silver Dollars produced are still in existence.
The $10 million Flowing Hair Silver Dollar was due to go on sale again in 2020, but there are no reports that it has fetched more than $10 million.
Meanwhile, if you want to own your own Flowing Hair Silver Dollar, you’ll soon have a chance — and it will cost you a lot less than $10 million.
The U.S. Mint plans to resurrect the 1794 dollar designs with a new 2024 American Liberty silver medal coin, according to a report last month from Coin World. The Commission of Fine Arts was scheduled to consider the designs on Oct. 19, 2023, with the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee set to review the designs the following week.
The Mint will employ innovative manufacturing techniques to recreate the “iconic” Flowing Hair designs, Coin World reported. Those techniques include laser engraving master dies.
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