Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The first American Dollar
Dollar CoinDollar coins have been minted in the United States in gold, silver, and base metal versions. The term silver dollar is often used for any large white metal coin issued by the United States with a face value of one dollar, although purists insist that a dollar is not silver unless it contains some of that metal. Silver dollars, the first dollar coin issue, were minted beginning in 1794. Before the Revolutionary War, coins from many European nations circulated freely in the American colonies, as well as coinage issued by the various colonies. Chief among these was the Spanish silver dollar coins (also called pieces of eight or eight reales) minted in Mexico and other colonies with silver mined from Central and South American mines. These coins, along with others of similar size and value, were in use throughout the colonies, and later the United States, and were legal tender until 1857. In 1776, the Continental Congress authorized plans to produce a silver coin to prop up the rapidly failing Continental—the first attempt by the fledgling US at paper currency. Several examples were struck in brass, pewter, and silver, but a circulating coin was not produced, due in large part to the financial difficulties of running the Revolutionary War. The Continental Dollar bears a date of 177of Spanish dollars performed, as that was the coin upon which the United States monetary system would bename has stuck. The failure of the Continental exacerbated a distrust of paper money amongst both politicians and the populace at large. Beginning in the 1780s, a number of prominent Americans called for the establishment of a central mint to supply the United States with official coinage 416 grains, the balance being copper. On March 3, 1791, after reviewing Hamilton's report, Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing a federal mint; the resolution, however, gave no specifics or appropriations . Later that year, in his third State of the Union address, President George Washington urged Congress to provide for a mint, which was officially authorized by the Coinage Act of 1792. Despite the authorization, silver and gold coins were not struck until 1794. The first silver dollars were struck on October 15, 1794. The Flowing Hair dollar was the first dollar coin issued by the United States federal government. The coin was minted in 1794 and 1795; its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar. In the early 1990s, numismatic historian Jack Collins estimated the surviving number of the coins to be between 120 and 130.