Ned Ludd Coins » 1804 Silver Dollar Value: are they worth money?

1804 Silver Dollar Value: are they worth money?

The 1804 silver dollar is one of the most famous, sought-after, valuable, as well as one of the most commonly counterfeited old coins in the US. But what is so special about one silver dollar coin that’s a bit over two centuries old? Aren’t there many other such coins? Well, for one, the 1804 silver dollar isn’t two centuries old, at least not yet at the time of writing this. Let’s explain why below. 

The 1804 Silver Dollar Details

  • Category: Early Dollars (1794-1804)
  • Mint: Philadelphia
  • Mintage: 20+
  • Obverse Designer: Robert Scot
  • Reverse Designer: Robert Scot
  • Composition: 89.2% silver / 10.8% copper
  • Diameter: 39-40 mm
  • Edge: Lettered
  • ASW: 0.7731 oz
  • Weight: 29.96 g

One of the many unique things about the 1804 silver dollar is that it wasn’t made in 1804 – neither the design nor the coins themselves. Also called the Draped Bust or the Bowed Liberty dollar, these coins are based on the 1795 Draped Bust silver dollar which is the second official US silver dollar to ever be produced after the ill-fated 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar.

The Draped Bust silver dollar went on to be minted for over a decade, from 1795 to 1807, and it underwent a few design changes and variations along the way too. So, effectively, when people are talking about the Early Dollars (1794-1804) category, they are mostly talking about the Draped Bust silver dollar, as well as the single year during which the Flowing Hair dollar was minted.

What makes the 1804 silver dollar special, however, is that not only was it designed 10 years earlier, it was minted some 20 or so years after 1804 too. In other words, the only thing that makes the “1804 silver dollar” an 1804 silver dollar is that it’s printed as if it was an 1804 silver dollar. Let’s elaborate a bit further below. 

1804 Silver Dollar Value Chart

AU 55 AU 58 MS/PF 61 MS/PF 62 – 65 MS/PF 68
$2,500,000 $2,750,000 $3,250,000 $4,450,000 – $5,250,000 $12,500,000

1804 Silver Dollar Value and Varieties Guides

There really are only three varieties of the 1804 silver dollar and those are the three “Classes” we mentioned above. Class I is considered the “original” variant even though it too is based on the 1795-1807 Draped Bust silver dollar originals that were used in wide circulation.

The reason the Class I 1804 dollar is called “the original” anyway is that there were no actual Draped Bust silver dollars dated “1804” in mass circulation – the Draped Busts that were actually minted during 1804 were dated as 1803 silver dollars, presumably because the Mint didn’t want to waste resources making a whole new printing die for every new year.

What’s also interesting to note is that Class II and Class III 1804 silver dollars are technically considered “illegally printed” because the Mint made them surreptitiously and without Congress’ authorization. This doesn’t make them any less valuable or sought-after today, of course.

Class I 1804 Silver Dollar

Class I 1804 Silver Dollar
Credit: commons.wikimedia
  • Place of minting: Philadelphia
  • Mint mark: No mint mark
  • Year of minting: 1834
  • Current $ Price: Between $2,5 million and $12.5 million, based on the quality grade
  • Quantity produced: 8
  • Designer: Robert Scot
  • Edge: Lettered

The first batch of just eight 1804 silver dollars remains the most valuable and sought-after because of their historical significance and rarity.

Class II 1804 Silver Dollar

Class II 1804 Silver Dollar
Credit: PCGS
  • Place of minting: Philadelphia
  • Mint mark: No mint mark
  • Year of minting: Post-1842
  • Current $ Price: Between $2,5 million and $12.5 million, based on the quality grade
  • Quantity produced: Uncertain
  • Designer: Robert Scot
  • Edge: Not lettered

Class II silver dollars are easy to distinguish from their Class I and Class III counterparts because they lack the signature lettering on the edges. Another way to tell both the Class IIs and the Class IIIs from the Class I originals is a bit of extra space that’s been left between the words “states” and “of” on the reverse side of the coins, just above the heraldic eagle.

Class III 1804 Silver Dollar

Class III 1804 Silver Dollar
Credit: wikipedia
  • Place of minting: Philadelphia
  • Mint mark: No mint mark
  • Year of minting: Post-1842
  • Current $ Price: Between $2,5 million and $12.5 million, based on the quality grade
  • Quantity produced: Uncertain
  • Designer: Robert Scot
  • Edge: Lettered

Class III coins have the correct lettering of the Class I originals but also have the extra space between “states” and “of” that’s present in Class II coins. This makes them fairly easy to tell apart too.

Also Read: Top 21 Most Valuable 2000 P Sacagawea Dollar Coin Worth Money

1804 Silver Dollar Value Grading

The above chart uses the Sheldon coin grading scale that ranges from 1 to 70. According to that scale, a PO 1 grade is given to a coin that barely has enough identifiable details on it to be dated and classified as a certain type. An AU 55 grade, on the other hand, is a coin that only has slight wear on no more than 50% of its surface and also has fully and clearly visible details.

The MS/PF 70 grade is reserved for those extraordinarily rare coins that have absolutely no post-production imperfections anywhere on their surface even when looked under 5x magnification.

According to that scale, all 15 of the remaining 1804 special silver dollars we have today rate above AU 55 with the best-preserved coin scoring an MS/PF 68 grade – “Very sharply struck with only minuscule imperfections.”

Do note that we are exclusively talking about post-production imperfections, wear, and tear, not about errors made during the production of the coins – those are classified differently and are usually valued very highly by collectors and numismatists because they make the coin more unique.

For a more visual explanation of how 1804 silver dollars are graded today, here is a good video by the American Numismatic Society YouTube channel. 


1804 Silver Dollar History

The 1804 silver dollar is essentially a variant of the classic 1795 Draped Bust silver dollar which we have talked about before. However, the 1804 dollar is a rather special variant. It was commissioned to the United States Mint in the early 1830s to be used as proof coins.

Proof coins are generally used to check new mint dies as well as for archival purposes but their collectors’ value quickly made them great gifts on diplomatic trips. This is exactly why the 1804 silver dollar was printed in the 1830s as Edmund Roberts distributed the 8 initial 1804 silver dollars that had been printed on his diplomatic trips to Siam and Muscat in 1834 and 1835.

After the first very limited batch of 1804 silver dollar proof coins was given away, Roberts ordered two more sets for his upcoming diplomatic trips to Japan and Cochinchina (modern-day Vietnam). However, Roberts passed away while on a trip to Macau before the order could be delivered.

In addition to the few 1804 silver dollars that were printed for diplomatic purposes, the Mint also printed an unknown number of 1804 dollars to trade to collectors. This was done as there were various items the Mint wanted for its own cabinet that were owned by collectors at the time, so, the extra batch of silver dollars proved a valuable bargaining chip.

Since this precedent, the Mint continued printing such “proof coins” in extra numbers every time a new coin was made as they so how highly collectors value them. Although, it should be mentioned that, in the case of this second batch of 1804 silver dollars, the coins lacked the correct edge lettering of the original 1804 diplomatic proof coins.

After that, there have also been a few more 1804 silver dollar examples minted in later years, both for collectors and for use as diplomatic gifts. This third “batch” or “wave” of special 1804 silver dollars did have the correct edge lettering.

Ever since then, the initial batch ordered by Roberts has been dubbed “Class I” 1804 silver dollars, the subsequent coins printed surreptitiously for collectors without edge lettering have been called “Class II” 1804 silver dollars, and the last wave of mints with the correct edge lettering – “Class III” 1804 silver dollars.

The reason why the 1804 Draped Bust dollar was chosen by Roberts in the 1930s for his diplomatic trips is just how significant the Draped Bust was as the first successful US silver dollar to be mass-produced in significant quantities. In fact, the Draped Bust was named the “Number One Coin” by The Greatest 100 U.S. Coins.

Ever since collectors and numismatists saw these limited-edition 1804 silver dollars and realized their value, the prices of 1804 silver dollars have been rising exponentially – from hitting $1,000 in 1885 to over $30,000 in the mid-20th century, to $4,14 million for a single Class I 1804 silver dollar coin in 1999.

Because of that incredible value of the 1804 silver dollars, the is an incredible amount of counterfeited coins on the market that people are trying to sell as authentic. There are only 15 real coins left of what the Mint produced in the mid-19th century and they are all accounted for, so, if someone tries selling you a “real” 1804 silver dollar, they are almost certainly trying to scam you.

Lists of 1804 Silver Dollar Errors

Not one of the fifteen 1804 silver dollars that exist today is considered to have any production errors such as misalignment, off-center printing, missing components, or anything of the sort. The missing lettering of the Class II coins is considered a feature of these coins rather than an error, in the traditional sense, as is the extra space between the words “states” and “of” on both Class II and Class III coins.

This lack of errors isn’t why the 1804 silver dollar is valuable, of course, it’s its rarity and significance. In fact, if one of the 15 silver dollars did have an error, that’d actually make it even more valuable to collectors.

Also Read: Top 19 Most Valuable Morgan Dollars Worth Money

1804 Silver Dollar FAQ

How rare is an 1804 silver dollar?

There are only 15 known examples of the 1804 silver dollar today. Hypothetically, there could be a sixteenth or seventeenth coin stashed away in someone’s collection or lost in a landfill but it’s considered very unlikely that we’ll ever see it. This, naturally, makes the 1804 silver dollar one of the rarest and most valuable coins out there.

How can you tell if an 1804 silver dollar is real?

Any expert can easily tell a real 1804 silver dollar from one of the many fakes, usually just at a glance too. Less experienced people can be fooled, however, which is what scammers rely on. If you don’t want to get cheated, there are a couple of basic and easy tests to do.

The first is to take a magnet and see if the coin you’re given will stick to it. Real 1804 silver dollars are made of 89.2% silver and 10.8% copper so they should be attracted to magnets whereas counterfeit coins usually will be.

The other test is to just weigh the coin – if it is exactly 26.96 grams (or close to it), there is a chance that it might be real as most fakes aren’t properly weighted.

Naturally, neither of these tests is a guarantee as a dedicated can make a non-magnetic fake coin that weighs ~27 grams. So, if you see such a coin, it’s still wise to consult with a professional before you give any money for a potential fake.

If the seller refuses to consult with a professional, they are almost certainly trying to scam you. In fact, the mere fact that someone is trying to sell you an “1804 silver dollar” is a sign that they are likely lying to you as there are only 15 such coins we know of today.

Are all 1804 silver dollars accounted for?

All 15 of the 1804 silver dollars we know of today are accounted for. Hypothetically speaking, there could be other lost 1804 silver dollars out there but the possibility of anyone ever finding one is incredibly unlikely. So, if someone tells you they’ve found “a lost sixteenth 1804 silver dollar” and they try to sell it to you, consult with a professional before you make any purchase as you’re likely getting scammed.

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