The Story of... America's first coin, the Flowing Hair Dollar

Following the USA's victory in the American War of Independence, it took a while for the country to settle on its own independent coinage.

From the 1780s many believed that a federal mint was needed to supply a universal coinage to the US, but plans stalled due to opposing voices, especially from those who believed that individual states should manage their own currency.

During this time many American coins were offered/suggested, including the famous Brasher Doubloon created by goldsmith and silversmith Ephraim Brasher in 1787, whilst coins such as the Spanish dollar were in popular use.

On March 3, 1791, Congress passed a joint resolution authorising a federal mint. The resolution, however, gave no details. President George Washington used his third annual address to Congress on October 25, 1791 to urge the members of Congress to put the joint resolution approved earlier that year into immediate effect.

1795 Flowing Hair dollar
1795 Flowing Hair dollar

The first coin was that which came to be known as the Flowing Hair Dollar. The size and weight (roughly 27g) was based on the Spanish dollar, given its popularity at the time.

Initially there was a tussle between the House of Representatives and the Senate over whether to have the profile of George Washington himself appear on the coin, but the original design by Robert Scot, which presented an allegorical figure of Liberty prevailed.

Minted in 1794 and 1795 from 90% silver and 10% copper, it was succeeded by the Draped bust dollar.

Naturally examples can now be extremely valuable, and in May 2010 a 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar achieved $7.85m in a private treaty sale - a new record for a valuable coin sale.


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