Metal Composition: 89% Silver - 11% Copper
Diameter: 39.5 mm
Mass / Weight: 26.96 grams
What this coin looks like (obverse, reverse, mint mark location, special features, etc.):
The 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar is one of the most publicized and famous of all US coins. The 1804 silver dollars are also some of the rarest and most valuable of all US coins. This is sometimes known as the "King of Coins". There are also a few varieties of these coins and only around 20 of them are known to exist.
None of these coins were actually made in 1804. The US Mint record says 19570 silver dollars were produced in 1804 but there was no mention that the coins themselves were dated 1804. The US Mint in these days simply used the old dies until they were no longer useable in order to save costs (this is also why many old early US coins have die cracks and defects) - regardless of what the year was on the die. It is very likely that most of dollar coins reported to have been minted in 1804 (19570 coins) were actually coins dated 1803.
President Thomas Jefferson ordered the US Mint to stop production of the silver dollar in 1804. This was because the coins were being exported to the Caribbean to be exchanged for a slightly heavier Spanish 8 Reales silver coin with a 1-to-1 exchange ratio. Exporters were profiting from this small difference in silver. This ensured that all newly struck US silver dollars were immediately being exported and foreign Spanish coins were being imported (which would later have to be melted and recoined into even more US dollars - at the expense of the taxpayers). The end result was lots of foreign coins and very few US dollars actually being circulated within the US. So all official US silver dollar production was halted until decades later in 1836.
The 1804 "Original" Class I (Class 1) draped bust dollar was actually first produced in 1834 through 1835. A set of US coins was produced to be used as gifts for rulers in Asia in exchange for trade advantages. Some recipients included Rama III - King of Siam - and Said bin Sultan. Since 1804 was the final year of production for the dollar - the US Mint decided to strike 1804-dated coins even though none of the 1804-date coins were actually produced that year. Only 8 of these original 1804 dollars were produced in 1834-1835. We know that these coins were made in the 1830s because they resemble coins made in 1836 and afterwards which used more modern and efficient techniques. These newer coins have raised rims and their borders are "beaded" - whereas the older pre-1804 coins didn't have these raised rims and the borders contained more elongated denticles. These Original Type coins are the most valuable of the 1804 dollar and are worth between $2 million and $4 million each.
1804 Restrikes were produced around 1859 for prominent collectors. These coins are known as Class II and Class III (Class 2 and Class 3). They differ from the Original Class I coins in that the design on the reverse is slightly different. The most prominent difference: The spacing between the words "STATES" and "OF" is narrower on the Original variety and spacing is wider on the Restrike variety. There are also other slight differences as well. The difference between the Original vs Restrikes (Class 1 vs Class 2/3) is depicted above in the example comparison image.
The 1804 Class II silver dollar is the crown jewel - a priceless unique one-of-a-kind coin now held by the Smithsonian Institute. This coin was illegally struck by Mint employee Theodore Eckfeldt and sold to a collector in Philadelphia. It was alleged that he produced the unique coin by striking the 1804 dies over a modified 1857-dated Swiss Shooting Thaler (coin issued for the Shooting Festival in Bern). He produced between 10-15 of these coins and all of them were tracked down by the US Mint were destroyed - except for one.
The 1804 Class III restrike was also produced by Theodore Eckfeldt and only 7 of these are known to exist (each now worth over $1 million!). The coin dies used to produce these coins were eventually seized by Mint Director James Ross Snowden - not before 7 of these coins were in the hands of collectors.
The difference between the 1804 Class Two and Class Three silver dollar restrikes is very subtle. There are very fine differences in the design in regards to the positioning of the lettering and clouds. The most prominent and easily identifiable difference is that the Class II restrike has a smooth plain edge while the Class III restrike has the standard lettered edge.
The last 1804 silver dollar variety is a Mint-made Electrotype reproduction of the unique Class II restrike coin. Only around 4 of these coins are known to exist and were minted in 1860. The US Mint struck these coins in copper and then plated them in silver. The underlying copper metal can sometimes be seen under the silver plating - exposed on the higher points of the coin. The 1804 electrotype dollar also bears the word "COPY" on the reverse of the coin between the eagle feathers and after the word "AMERICA". While still valuable at over $10000 each - These official Mint-made coins are nowhere near as valuable as the Original or the illegal Restrikes. An example of this is electrotype copy depicted below (Source of example image is courtesy of Goldberg Auctions):Major Varieties:
1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar - Original Class I
1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar - Restrike Class III - Lettered Edge
1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar - Restrike Class II - Plain Edge
1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar - Mint-made Electrotype Copy
MELT VALUE: $13.89