Dollars : Draped Bust Dollar

Obverse of 1799 Draped Bust Dollar Reverse of 1799 Draped Bust Dollar

Q. David Bowers (edited and updated by Mike Sherman): The 1795 Draped Bust dollar represents the initial appearance of this design in American coinage.  In the silver dollar series the obverse motif was continued through pieces dated 1804 (business strikes were last made in 1803, however), while the reverse motif was employed only through early 1798.  The obverse features a portrait of Liberty as just described, with LIBERTY above, the date below and eight stars to the left and seven to the right.  Varieties also exist which show 16 stars, as well as 13.  The reverse shows a “small” eagle perched on a cloud within an open wreath.  UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds.

Among early silver dollars, the Draped Bust obverse combined with the Small Eagle reverse may be the scarcest type.  Among the four dates, 1795-1798, while 1797 is the lowest mintage, prices for all four are roughly the same.  Specimens exist in all grades, with those most frequently encountered apt to be in Very Good to Very Fine preservation.  Extremely Fine and About Uncirculated pieces are obviously scarcer, and an Uncirculated specimen is a prime rarity.  Examples often show parallel mint-caused adjustment marks.  As these coins were produced strictly for utilitarian purposes, no attention was paid to striking them carefully.

The Heraldic Eagle type continues the Draped Bust obverse as preceding, except that the stars have been standardized to seven left and six right, the only exception being a scarce variety of 1799 with eight left and five right.  The reverse is similar to that used on the dime of the year and is adapted from the Great Seal of the United States.

Large Eagle Bust dollars were minted from 1798 through 1803.  In later years, “restrike” pieces were produced dated 1804 as were Proof restrikes from new dies bearing the dates 1801, 1802 and 1803.  Among business strikes, examples most often encountered are apt to be dated 1798 or 1799.  Those dated 1800 are scarcer, while those dated from 1801 to 1803 are considerably scarcer, although they are not rarities.  Dozens of varieties exist, and are listed in a work by M. H. Bolender. 

Grades found usually range from Very Good through Very Fine.  Extremely Fine and AU coins are scarce.  Strictly Uncirculated coins are rather rare.  In keeping with other early silver issues, pieces often display mint-caused planchet or adjustment marks, and areas of light striking.

-- Reprinted with permission from "United States Coins by Design Types - An Action Guide for the Collector and Investor" by Q. David Bowers