The United States has minted dollar coins, on and off, since 1794. The coins have been made of many substances, gold, silver, copper, nickel, brass, zinc, & manganese. Certainly, the most popular, among the general populous and collectors alike, is the US silver dollar. If you are interested in collecting other US coins, visit our US Coin Collecting and US Coin Grading pages.
As a rule, the composition of the US silver dollar is 90% silver and 10% copper (to add strength and durability). The actual silver weight (ASW) is .7736 troy ounces. There was a brief period of silver dollar production when the silver content was upped slightly to compete in foreign markets, but this coin, known as a Trade Dollar, was never intended for domestic circulation. The last circulating silver dollar coins minted in the 1970s contained only 40% silver to 60% copper nickel.
During the early years of US coinage, silver was at least as scarce as gold, and at some times, it was even more valuable. Mintage’s in the early years were very limited due to this scarcity of silver. There was a break in production in silver dollars of some 32 years from 1804 till 1836. Silver was just too scarce and too valuable. It was not until the finding of the “Comstock Lode” in 1850 in Nevada that large quantities of silver dollars could be produced. Even this huge silver find eventually played out. This resulted in another large gap in silver dollar production as the mint ran out of silver in 1904. It was not until after the huge melt of 1918 that silver dollar production was resumed in 1921. By 1926, this silver pool also was running low. Production quantities shrunk until they were again suspended in 1928, resuming only for two years in 1934-5.
Starting in 1986, the US mint began producing the Silver Eagle dollar coin which is 100% silver totaling a full troy ounce. This however is not a circulating coin as the silver content is worth at least 5 times as much as the face value. In the early years, when the silver content was more valuable then the face value, hoarding occurred. However, the value of a dollar up until the mid 1960s was historically significantly higher than the value of silver.
Silver dollars have been minted at six locations including;
Philadelphia 1793-present – Flowing Hair, Capped Bust, Sitting Liberty, Trade, Morgan, Peace, Eisenhower, Silver Eagle (no mint mark or ‘P’)
New Orleans 1846-1904 – Sitting Liberty, Morgan(‘O’ mint mark)
Carson City 1870-1893 – Sitting Liberty, Trade, Morgan(‘CC’ mint mark)
San Francisco 1859-1992 – Sitting Liberty, Trade, Morgan, Peace, Eisenhower, Silver Eagle (‘S’ mint mark)
Denver 1921-1934 – Morgan, Peace (‘D’ mint mark)
West Point 1995, 2001-present – Silver Eagle (‘W’ mint mark)
Without question, the most popular collectable US silver dollars are the Morgan 1878-1921, Peace 1921-1935, and Silver Eagles 1986-present. These are the most readily available and (relatively) inexpensive of the collectable silver dollars. Approximately a billion of these coins have been minted.