A Classic 18th Century Silver Dollar

The first official US coins were made in 1792-1793. By the end of the 18th century, those coins were still very new to the country and someone was just as apt to see and spend Spanish, English or French coins as American coins. Spanish Silver was accepted as coinage as late as 1856 and words around the Spanish Silver Dollar became part of our culture. The Spanish Silver dollar was a “Piece of Eight” and when cut down to 8 pieces like a pie, the quarter was two bits which is where the phrase “Two Bits Four Bits Six Bits a Dollar” originated.

Alex Cooper has a 1798 Dollar up for auction in the November 8th auction. This was a hefty coin in 1798 and had significantly more buying power than a dollar does today.  Eggs cost 10 cents a dozen in 1798 which would be 10 dozen today or about $29.60 in 2018 money.  A silver dollar could buy a lot in 1798 and someone with a few of these in their pocket could eat well for a week.  John Adams was President in 1798 and George and Martha Washington were living and entertaining at Mt. Vernon.  You could own that piece of history for the right bid on November 8th.

Lot 638, 1798 Draped Bust Dollar with Heraldic Eagle, Pointed 9 and Close Date. This one is cataloged as a Bolender-9 and Bowers 121 as Dave Bowers pointed out the star arrangement on the reverse was haphazardly designed which he termed “the amateur diecutter’s reverse”.  It has a Rarity Scale rating of R-5 which means that with best guestimates, based on survival rates, auction appearances and sales records that no more than 75 examples exist in all grades. This one grades a nice Very Fine and could make a fine addition to a set of Bust Dollars by date or variety.

It has very natural color and patina which suggests it was not cleaned or messed around with, at least in the past century. This one has been off the market for 30-60 years and depending on the age of the new owner; that could happen again.  This coin has a middle die state meaning the dies had been used and were starting to have issues like the First T in States and the E missing pieces of their upper crossbars.

Michael Atkins
Coins & Currency Specialist