Draped Bust dollar

Last updated
Bust Dollar
United States
Value1.00 U.S. dollars
Mass26.96 g
Diameter39–40 mm
Years of minting1795–1804
1796 dollar obverse.jpg
DesignBust of Liberty
Design date1795
1796 dollar reverse.jpg
DesignA bald eagle
Design date1795
Bust dollar reverse.jpeg
DesignA bald eagle in heraldic form
Design date1798

The Draped Bust dollar is a United States dollar coin minted from 1795 to 1803, and was reproduced, dated 1804, into the 1850s. The design succeeded the Flowing Hair dollar, which began mintage in 1794 and was the first silver dollar struck by the United States Mint. The designer is unknown, though the distinction is usually credited to artist Gilbert Stuart. The model is also unknown, though Ann Willing Bingham has been suggested.


In October 1795, newly appointed Mint Director Elias Boudinot ordered that the legal fineness of 0.892 (89.2%) silver be used for the dollar rather than the unauthorized fineness of 0.900 (90%) silver that had been used since the denomination was first minted in 1794. Due largely to a decrease in the amount of silver deposited at the Philadelphia Mint, coinage of silver dollars declined throughout the latter years of the 18th century. In 1804, coinage of silver dollars was halted; the last date used during regular mint production was 1803.

In 1834, silver dollar production was temporarily restarted to supply a diplomatic mission to Asia with a special set of proof coins. Officials mistakenly believed that dollars had last been minted with the date 1804, prompting them to use that date rather than the date in which the coins were actually struck. A limited number of 1804 dollars were struck by the Mint in later years, and they remain rare and valuable.


Henry William de Saussure was Director of the Mint when production began on the Draped Bust dollar. Henry William DeSaussure.JPG
Henry William de Saussure was Director of the Mint when production began on the Draped Bust dollar.

Coinage began on the first United States silver dollar, known as the Flowing Hair dollar, in 1794 following the construction and staffing of the Philadelphia Mint. The Coinage Act of 1792 called for the silver coinage to be struck in an alloy consisting of 89.2% silver and 10.8% copper. [1] However, Mint officials were reluctant to strike coins with the unusual fineness, so it was decided to strike them in an unauthorized alloy of 90% silver instead. [2] This caused depositors of silver to lose money when their metal was coined. [2] During the second year of production of the Flowing Hair dollar, it was decided that the denomination would be redesigned. [3] It is unknown what prompted this change or who suggested it, though numismatic historian R.W. Julian speculates that Henry William de Saussure, who was named Director of the Mint on July 9, 1795, may have suggested it, as he had stated a redesign of the American coinage as one of his goals before taking office. [4] It is also possible that the Flowing Hair design was discontinued owing to much public disapproval. [3]


Though the designer of the coin is unknown, artist Gilbert Stuart is widely acknowledged to have been its creator; [3] Mint Director James Ross Snowden began researching the early history of the United States Mint and its coinage in the 1850s, during which time he interviewed descendants of Stuart who claimed that their ancestor was the designer. [3] It has been suggested that Philadelphia socialite Ann Willing Bingham posed as the model for the coin. [5] Several sketches were approved by Mint engraver Robert Scot and de Saussure and sent to President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to gain their approval. [5]

After approval was received, the designs were sent to artist John Eckstein to be rendered into plaster models; [5] during that time, plaster models were used as a guide to cutting the dies, which was done by hand. [5] Eckstein, who was dismissed by Walter Breen as a "local artistic hack" [6] and described by a contemporary artist as a "thorough-going drudge" [5] due to his willingness to carry out most painting or sculptural tasks at the request of clients, was paid thirty dollars for his work preparing models for both the obverse Liberty and reverse eagle and wreath. [7] After the plaster models were created, the engravers of the Philadelphia Mint (including Scot) began creating hubs that would be used to make dies for the new coins. [5]


It is unknown exactly when production of the new design began, as precise records relating to design were not kept at that time. [5] R.W. Julian, however, places the beginning of production in either late September or early October 1795, [5] while Taxay asserts that the first new silver dollars were struck in October. [8] In September 1795, de Saussure wrote his resignation letter to President Washington. [9] In his letter, de Saussure mentioned the unauthorized silver standard and suggested that Congress be urged to make the standard official, but this was not done. [9] In response to de Saussure's letter, Washington expressed his displeasure in the resignation, stating that he had viewed de Saussure's tenure with "entire satisfaction". [10] As de Saussure's resignation would not take effect until October, the president was given time to select a replacement. [9]

Elias Boudinot assumed his duties as Director of the Mint on October 28, 1795. Elias Boudinot.jpg
Elias Boudinot assumed his duties as Director of the Mint on October 28, 1795.

The person chosen to fill the position was statesman and former congressman Elias Boudinot. Upon assuming his duties at the Mint on October 28, Boudinot was informed of the silver standard that had been used since the first official silver coins were struck. [9] He immediately ordered that this practice be ceased and that coinage would begin in the 89.2% fineness approved by the Coinage Act of 1792. [9] The total production of 1795 dollars (including both the Flowing Hair and Draped Bust types) totalled 203,033. [11] It is estimated that approximately 42,000 dollars were struck bearing the Draped Bust design. [12] Boudinot soon ordered that production of minor denominations be increased. Later, assayer Albian Cox died suddenly from a stroke in his home on November 27, 1795, leaving the vital post of assayer vacant. [9] This, together with Boudinot's increased focus on smaller denominations, as well as a lull in private bullion deposits (the fledgling Mint's only source of bullion), caused a decrease in silver dollar production in 1796. [13] The total mintage for 1796 was 79,920, [12] which amounts to an approximate 62% reduction from the previous year's total.

Bullion deposits continued to decline, and in 1797, silver dollar production reached the lowest point since 1794 with a mintage of just 7,776 pieces. [12] During this time, silver deposits declined to such an extent that Thomas Jefferson personally deposited 300 Spanish dollars in June 1797. [13] In April 1797, an agreement was reached between the Mint and the Bank of the United States. [14] The Bank agreed to supply the Mint with foreign silver on the condition that the Bank would receive their deposits back in silver dollars. [14] The Mint was closed between August and November 1797 due to the annual yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia; that year's epidemic took the life of the Mint's treasurer, Dr. Nicholas Way. [15] In November 1797, the Bank deposited approximately $30,000 worth of French silver. [14] In early 1798, the reverse was changed from the small, perched eagle to a heraldic eagle similar to that depicted on the Great Seal of the United States. [14] The agreement reached with the Bank of the United States along with other bullion depositors (including Boudinot) led to an increase in the number of silver dollars coined; [14] mintage for both the small and heraldic eagle types totalled 327,536. [16] Mintage numbers for the dollar remained high through 1799, with 423,515 struck that year. [17]

Toward the end of the 18th century, many of the silver dollars produced by the Mint were shipped to and circulated or melted in China in order to satisfy the great demand for silver bullion in that nation. [18] In 1800, silver deposits once again began to decline, and the total silver dollar output for that year was 220,920. [17] In 1801, following complaints from the public and members of Congress regarding the lack of small change in circulation, Boudinot began requesting that silver depositors receive smaller denominations rather than the routinely requested silver dollars, in an effort to supply the nation with more small change. [19] Production dropped to 54,454 silver dollars in 1801 and 41,650 in 1802, after Boudinot was able to convince many depositors to accept their silver in the form of small denominations. [17] Although silver bullion deposits at the Mint had increased, Boudinot attempted to end silver dollar production in 1803, favoring half dollars instead. [19] Mintage of the 1803 dollar continued until March 1804, when production of silver dollars ceased entirely. [17] In total, 85,634 dollars dated 1803 were struck. [17] Following a formal request from the Bank of the United States, Secretary of State James Madison officially suspended silver dollar and gold eagle production in 1806, although minting of both had ended two years earlier. [20]

1804 dollars

A Class I 1804 dollar 1804 dollar type I obverse.jpeg
A Class I 1804 dollar

In 1831, Mint Director Samuel Moore filed a request through the Treasury asking president Andrew Jackson to once again allow the coinage of silver dollars; the request was approved on April 18. [21] In 1834, Edmund Roberts was selected as an American commercial representative to Asia, including the kingdoms of Muscat and Siam. [22] Roberts recommended that the dignitaries be given a set of proof coins. [22] The State Department ordered two sets of "specimens of each kind [of coins] now in use, whether of gold, silver, or copper". [23] Though the minting of dollars had been approved in 1831, none had been struck since 1804. [22] After consulting with Chief Coiner Adam Eckfeldt (who had worked at the Mint since its opening in 1792), Moore determined that the last silver dollars struck were dated 1804. [22] Unknown to either of them, the last production in March 1804 was actually dated 1803. [22] Since they believed that the last striking was dated 1804, it was decided to strike the presentation pieces with that date as well. It is unknown why the current date was not used, but R.W. Julian suggests that this was done to prevent coin collectors from being angered over the fact that they would be unable to obtain the newly dated coins. [22]

The first two 1804 dollars (as well as the other coins for the sets) were struck in November 1834. [22] Soon, Roberts' trip was expanded to Indo-China (then known as Annam) and Japan, so two additional sets were struck. [22] The pieces struck under the auspices of the Mint are known as Class I 1804 dollars, and eight of that type are known to exist today. [24] Roberts left for his trip in April 1835, and he presented one set each to the Sultan of Muscat and the King of Siam. [25] The gift to the Sultan of Muscat was part of an exchange of diplomatic gifts that resulted in the Sultan presenting the Washington Zoo with a full-grown lion and lioness. [23] Roberts fell ill in Bangkok and was taken to Macao, where he died in June 1835. [25] Following Roberts' death, the remaining two sets were returned to the Mint without being presented to the dignitaries. [25]


Most coin collectors became aware of the 1804 dollar in 1842, when Jacob R. Eckfeldt (son of Adam Eckfeldt) and William E. Du Bois published a book entitled A Manual of Gold and Silver Coins of All Nations, Struck Within the Past Century. [25] In the volume, several coins from the Mint's coin cabinet, including an 1804 dollar, were reproduced by tracing a pantograph stylus over an electrotype of the coins. [25] In May 1843, numismatist Matthew A. Stickney was able to obtain an 1804 dollar from the Mint's coin cabinet by trading a rare pre-federal United States gold coin. [25] Due to an increase in the demand for rare coins, Mint officials, including Director Snowden, began minting an increasing number of coin restrikes in the 1850s. [25] Several 1804 dollars were struck, and some were sold for personal profit on the part of Mint officials. [26] When he discovered this, Snowden bought back several of the coins. [26] One such coin, which Snowden later added to the Mint cabinet, was struck over an 1857 shooting thaler and became known as Class II, the only such piece of that type known to exist today. [26] Six pieces with edge lettering applied after striking became known as Class III dollars. [24] [26]

By the end of the 19th century, the 1804 dollar had become the most famous and widely discussed of all American coins. [27] In 1867, one of the original 1804 dollars was sold at auction for $750 ($13,888 today). [28] Seven years later, on November 27, 1874, a specimen sold for $700 ($16,011 today). [28] In the early 20th century, coin dealer B. Max Mehl began marketing the 1804 dollar as the "King of American Coins". [29] The coins continued to gain popularity throughout the 20th century, and the price reached an all-time high in 1999, when an example graded Proof-68 was sold at auction for $4,140,000. [24]

Related Research Articles

Coinage Act of 1873 Revision of the laws relating to the Mint of the United States

The Coinage Act of 1873 or Mint Act of 1873, 17 Stat. 424, was a general revision of the laws relating to the Mint of the United States. In abolishing the right of holders of silver bullion to have their metal struck into fully legal tender dollar coins, it ended bimetallism in the United States, placing the nation firmly on the gold standard. Because of this, the act became contentious in later years, and was denounced by some as the "Crime of '73".

Nickel (United States coin) Current denomination of United States currency

A nickel is a five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint. Composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, the piece has been issued since 1866. Its diameter is 0.835 inches (21.21 mm) and its thickness is 0.077 inches (1.95 mm). Due to inflation, the purchasing power of the nickel continues to drop, and currently the coin represents less than 1% of the federal hourly minimum wage. In 2018, over 1.26 billion nickels were produced at the Philadelphia and Denver mints.

Coinage Act of 1792 U.S. legislation establishing and regulating the national currency and mint

The Coinage Act, passed by the United States Congress on April 2, 1792, created the United States dollar as the country's standard unit of money, established the United States Mint, and regulated the coinage of the United States. This act established the silver dollar as the unit of money in the United States, declared it to be lawful tender, and created a decimal system for U.S. currency.

Twenty-cent piece (United States coin) Coin of the United States (1875–1878)

The American twenty-cent piece is a coin struck from 1875 to 1878, but only for collectors in the final two years. Proposed by Nevada Senator John P. Jones, it proved a failure due to confusion with the quarter, to which it was close in both size and value.

Seated Liberty dollar United States silver dollar coin minted from 1840–1873

The Seated Liberty dollar was a dollar coin struck by the United States Mint from 1840 to 1873 and designed by its chief engraver, Christian Gobrecht. It was the last silver coin of that denomination to be struck before passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which temporarily ended production of the silver dollar for American commerce. The coin's obverse is based on that of the Gobrecht dollar, which had been minted experimentally from 1836 to 1839. However, the soaring eagle used on the reverse of the Gobrecht dollar was not used; instead, the United States Mint (Mint) used a heraldic eagle, based on a design by late Mint Chief Engraver John Reich first utilized on coins in 1807.

Gobrecht dollar US silver dollar coin (1836–1839)

The Gobrecht dollar, minted from 1836 to 1839, was the first silver dollar struck for circulation by the United States Mint since production of that denomination was officially halted in 1806. The coin was struck in small numbers to determine whether the reintroduced silver dollar would be well received by the public.

Flowing Hair dollar Coin minted by the United States from 1794 to 1795

The Flowing Hair dollar was the first dollar coin issued by the United States federal government. The coin was minted in 1794 and 1795; its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was popular in trade throughout the Americas.

Indian Head cent American one-cent coin (1859-1909)

The Indian Head cent, also known as an Indian Head penny, was a one-cent coin ($0.01) produced by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1859 to 1909. It was designed by James Barton Longacre, the Chief Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint.

Flying Eagle cent A one-cent piece struck by the Mint of the United States

The Flying Eagle cent is a one-cent piece struck by the Mint of the United States as a pattern coin in 1856 and for circulation in 1857 and 1858. The coin was designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre, with the eagle in flight based on the work of Longacre's predecessor, Christian Gobrecht.

Shield nickel First US five cent piece to be made out of copper-nickel

The Shield nickel was the first United States five-cent piece to be made out of copper-nickel, the same alloy of which American nickels are struck today. Designed by James B. Longacre, the coin was issued from 1866 until 1883, when it was replaced by the Liberty Head nickel. The coin takes its name from the motif on its obverse, and was the first five-cent coin referred to as a "nickel"—silver pieces of that denomination had been known as half dimes.

Barber coinage American coins

The Barber coinage consists of a dime, quarter, and half dollar designed by United States Bureau of the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber. They were minted between 1892 and 1916, though no half dollars were struck in the final year of the series.

Trade dollar (United States coin) US silver trade coin (1873–1885)

The United States trade dollar was a dollar coin minted by the United States Mint to compete with other large silver trade coins that were already popular in East Asia. The idea first came about in the 1860s, when the price of silver began to decline due to increased mining efforts in the western United States. A bill providing in part for the issuance of the trade dollar was eventually put before Congress, where it was approved and later signed into law as the Coinage Act of 1873. The act made trade dollars legal tender up to five dollars. A number of designs were considered for the trade dollar, and an obverse and reverse created by William Barber were selected.

Three-dollar piece US three-dollar coin (1854–1889)

The three-dollar piece was a gold coin produced by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1854 to 1889. Authorized by the Act of February 21, 1853, the coin was designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. The obverse bears a representation of Lady Liberty wearing a headdress of a Native American princess and the reverse a wreath of corn, wheat, cotton, and tobacco.

Gold dollar U.S. one-dollar coin (1849–1889)

The gold dollar or gold one-dollar piece is a gold coin that was struck as a regular issue by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1849 to 1889. The coin had three types over its lifetime, all designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre. The Type 1 issue has the smallest diameter of any United States coin minted to date.

Adam Eckfeldt Second chief coiner of the United States Mint

John Adam Eckfeldt was a worker and official in the early days of the United States Mint. A lifelong Philadelphian, Eckfeldt served as the second chief coiner of the Mint, from 1814 until 1839.

Turban Head eagle US ten-dollar gold piece (1795–1804)

The Turban Head eagle, also known as the Capped Bust eagle, was a ten-dollar gold piece, or eagle, struck by the United States Mint from 1795 to 1804. The piece was designed by Robert Scot, and was the first in the eagle series, which continued until the Mint ceased striking gold coins for circulation in 1933. The common name is a misnomer; Liberty does not wear a turban but a cap, believed by some to be a pileus or Phrygian cap : her hair twisting around the headgear makes it resemble a turban.

Three-cent nickel US copper-nickel three-cent coin (1865–1889)

The copper-nickel three-cent piece, often called a three-cent nickel piece or three-cent nickel, was designed by US Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre and struck by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1865 to 1889. It was initially popular, but its place in commerce was supplanted by the five-cent piece, or nickel.

Three-cent silver US three-cent coin (1851–1873)

The three-cent silver, also known as the three-cent piece in silver or trime, was struck by the Mint of the United States for circulation from 1851 to 1872, and as a proof coin in 1873. Designed by the Mint's chief engraver, James B. Longacre, it circulated well while other silver coinage was being hoarded and melted, but once that problem was addressed, became less used. It was abolished by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1873.

Liberty Head double eagle American twenty-dollar gold piece

The Liberty Head double eagle or Coronet double eagle is an American twenty-dollar gold piece struck as a pattern coin in 1849, and for commerce from 1850 to 1907. It was designed by Mint of the United States Chief Engraver James B. Longacre.

1804 dollar Coin worth one US$

The 1804 dollar or Bowed Liberty Dollar was a dollar coin struck by the Mint of the United States, of which fifteen specimens are currently known to exist. Though dated 1804, none were struck in that year; all were minted in the 1830s or later. They were first created for use in special proof coin sets used as diplomatic gifts during Edmund Roberts' trips to Siam and Muscat.


  1. Julian 1993, p. 30.
  2. 1 2 Julian 1993, p. 35.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Julian 1993, p. 40.
  4. Julian 1993, p. 219.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Julian 1993, p. 41.
  6. Breen 1988, p. 425.
  7. Taxay 1983, p. 106.
  8. Taxay 1983, p. 107.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Julian 1993, p. 42.
  10. Whittmore 1897, p. 80.
  11. Yeoman 2010, pp. 207–208.
  12. 1 2 3 Yeoman 2010, p. 208.
  13. 1 2 Julian 1993, p. 43.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Julian 1993, p. 44.
  15. Taxay 1983, p. 123.
  16. Yeoman 2010, p. 209.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 Yeoman 2010, p. 210.
  18. Julian 1993, p. 45.
  19. 1 2 Julian 1993, p. 46.
  20. Julian 1993, p. 431.
  21. Julian 1993, p. 432.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Julian 1993, p. 433.
  23. 1 2 Breen 1988, p. 431.
  24. 1 2 3 Yeoman 2010, p. 211.
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Julian 1993, p. 434.
  26. 1 2 3 4 Julian 1993, p. 435.
  27. Julian 1993, p. 465.
  28. 1 2 Julian 1993, p. 479.
  29. Julian 1993, p. 481.


Preceded by
Flowing Hair Dollar
Dollar Coin of the United States (1795–1804)
Concurrent with:
Flowing Hair Dollar (1795)
Succeeded by
Gobrecht Dollar