Dollar, United States, 1804 (Class One)

The early dollars from the United States Mint were not instantly embraced by the public, which had become accustomed to the dollar's predecessor, the Spanish-American Piece of Eight. That coin contained slightly more silver than its new competitor.
Then some entrepreneurs made an interesting discovery. They could buy American dollars, send them to the West Indies, and exchange them there at par for Spanish-American Pieces of Eight. Then they could bring the pesos home, turn them in to the Mint for melting, and make a profit by getting paid back in shiny new dollars.
When the scheme was uncovered, it resulted in a thirty-year halt in dollar production, beginning in 1805. Some 19,570 dollars were coined in 1804, before the halt began. Interestingly, they weren't dated 1804, but 1803, thus avoiding the production of new dies. Although a common, cost-cutting policy at the early United States Mint, this act led to confusion years later, and to three legendary coins included in this exhibition.
By the 1830s, American officials were actively exploring commercial opportunities elsewhere in the world. Seeking to influence foreign dignitaries, the Jackson administration instructed the Mint to create complete sets of specimen coins as gifts.
The Philadelphia coiners did so for most other denominations without difficulty. But what to do about the silver dollar? They knew that 1804 dollars had been struck, but there didn't seem to be any survivors. So in November 1834, they created eight new 1804-dated dollars for the gift sets (later termed "class one" 1804 dollars).
One of the eight became part of the set given to the Imam of Muscat, and another was sent to the King of Siam. And the other six? Within a few years, they escaped into private hands or entered circulation. And they became numismatic legends very quickly, for they had it all: mystery, intrigue, and tremendous rarity.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
U.S. Mint. Philadelphia
Physical Description
silver (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
overall: .3 cm x 4 cm; 1/8 in x 1 9/16 in
place made
United States
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
See more items in
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer from the United States Mint
Publication title
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL
Additional Media

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