Rare coins are valuable to collectors due to their scarcity, but those with a unique story behind them are among the most collectible specimens in the marketplace.
Here are four U.S. silver dollars that have achieved legendary status, thanks to their background and recent auction activity.
Flowing Hair Silver Dollars
The first dollar coins to be issued by the U.S. Government, these coins were minted for only two years: 1794 and 1795. Only 1,758 of these dollar coins were produced in the first year, and those were intended for use as souvenirs rather than legal tender.
Although the first specimens produced were deemed at the time to be of poor quality, these dollar coins have become among the most highly prized collectibles with numismatists and investors. A mint-grade specie sold at a record price of over $10.0 million in 2013.
Draped Bust Silver Dollars
These coins replaced the Flowing Hair silver dollars, and production ran from 1795 through 1803. The first Draped Bust dollar coins included a small eagle on the reverse side, which was replaced by the more common heraldic eagle in 1798.
The minting of all silver dollars was suspended in 1806, but production of the Draped Bust variety had stopped prior to that. A mintage of 1804 Draped Bust silver dollars was struck, but these coins were actually produced in 1834, to be used as gifts for trade visits by U.S. representatives to Asia.
Now, these 1804 specimens are among the most valuable and highly prized Draped Bust silver dollars. A mint condition specie sold at auction for $3.8 million in 2013. More recently, one collector bid over $10.5 million for a Draped Bust silver dollar at a Sothebys auction, but the bid did not meet the reserve price.
Seated Liberty Dollars
These one-dollar coins were minted in the US starting in 1840, and continued for over three decades. The passage of the Coinage Act of 1873 temporarily halted production of silver coins, and the Seated Liberty dollars were replaced by trade dollars.
During the years when the Seated Liberty dollars were minted, the California Gold Rush also occurred. The increased supply of gold made silver more valuable on a relative basis. Silver producers preferred bullion to currency due to the elevated prices, and few brought the metal to the mint to be struck into coins. As a result, the production runs for Seated Liberty dollars were small.
The motto In God We Trust was added to the reverse in 1866. Seated Liberty dollars that were minted before 1865, without the motto, are generally more highly valued, especially those of proof-grade quality.
1870-S Silver Dollars
Only 12 of these silver dollars are known to have been produced, making them among the rarest coins of this denomination according to coin experts. These specimens were struck at the San Francisco Mint in its inaugural year, but the coins themselves lack any mint marks, and no record exists of their production.
A mint-grade 1870-S Silver Dollar sold for $1.0 million in 2003, reflecting the rare and highly desirable nature of these coins. Future sales will likely fetch six figures, while those of the finest quality can be expected to sell above the 2003 auction price.