The year 1795 was the second year of U.S. silver dollar production, and the coins produced were both the earlier Flowing Hair type and the newer Draped Bust type. The obverse was by Robert Scot, and though the Liberty portrait was used on the fractional copper and silver coins as well, it first appeared on the dollar. Liberty was modeled after a Philadelphia socialite from a drawing by artist Gilbert Stuart, a design change promoted by Mint Director Henry William DeSaussure (and perhaps encouraged by President George Washington) in his quest to improve the designs of all U.S. coins but especially those made from silver. John Eckstein, a Rhode Island artist, made a plaster model of Stuart’s sketch, from which Chief Engraver Robert Scot prepared the dies.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
Because of the cleavage displayed by Liberty, some critics commented on the transformation of Liberty from a youthful, presumably innocent, maiden to a “buxom matron”, though the design is today a favorite of those who collect early American coins. The basic design of the reverse remained but there were subtle changes made between 1794 and 1795, particularly to the wreath and the eagle’s perch. These large coins sometimes show adjustments marks, made by the Mint to reduce the weight of the planchet prior to striking, and remaining after striking because of inadequate pressure from the Mint’s coinage equipment. The silver dollar was considered the cornerstone of the U.S. monetary system, an indicator of America’s ability to produce a circulating precious-metal coin of the same value as the more common Spanish/ Mexican pieces of eight. The Draped Bust, Small Eagle, type lasted for only four years, superseded in 1798 by the Large Eagle reverse.
The obverse prominently displays Liberty in the center of the coin, long flowing hair swept backward and down her neck, and tied at the back with a ribbon. Folded drapery is placed across the bust and over her shoulder. On some 1795 dollars Liberty is centered on the flan, but on others the portrait is crowded to the left side. Six-point stars, LIBERTY at the top, and the date at the bottom form a circle inside the dentilled rim. The number of stars and their placement varies. In 1795 and 1796 there are 15 stars arrayed eight to the left and seven to the right. The number of stars was increased to 16 in 1797, some examples with 10 stars left and six stars right, others with nine stars left and seven stars right. In 1798 the number of stars was back to 15, eight left and seven right, and then down to 13, seven left and six right.
The reverse has in the center a right-facing eagle, perched on clouds more explicitly portrayed as such than the ambiguous perch (usually described as a rock) of the previous Flowing Hair type. Around the eagle is a circle formed by two branches, olive on the left and palm on the right, tied at the bottom with a bow, and barely separated at the top. A well-spaced UNITED STATES OF AMERICA forms nearly a complete circle inside the dentilled rim. The edge is lettered, and no denomination or mintmark appears on the coins; all were minted in Philadelphia.
A few thousand Draped Bust, Small Eagle dollars are listed in census/ population reports, including a very few prooflike pieces, though not all dates and varieties are equally represented. No proofs are known, but a couple of specimen coins have been identified. Prices are moderate only up to F12, but advance sharply finer than that to very expensive at AU, and extremely expensive as Gem, with prices approaching one-half million dollars. The 1797 9×7 Stars, Small Letters, and the 1798 15 Stars are more expensive than other dates and varieties.
Designer: Robert Scot and John Eckstein, from a Gilbert Stuart Liberty drawing
Circulation Mintage: high 327,536 (1798, combined Small Eagle and Large Eagle; otherwise 72,920 in 1796), low 7,776 (1797)
Proof Mintage:none known, but a couple of specimen examples have been identified
Denomintion: $1.00 One Dollar
Diameter: ±39-40 mm, edge with HUNDRED CENTS ONE DOLLAR OR UNIT with decorations or ornaments between the words
Metal content: 90% silver, 10% copper
Weight: ±26.96 grams
Varieties:Several known including 1795 Off-Center Bust; 1796 Small Date, Small Letters and Large Letters; 1796 Large Date and Small Letters; 1797 10 Stars Left, 6 Right and 9 Stars Left, 7 Right; and 1798 13 Stars and 15 Stars.
Additional Resources :
Coin Encyclopedia: www.ngccoin.com
A Buyer’s Guide to Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States. Q. David Bowers (author), John Dannreuther (editor). Zyrus Press.
The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. R.S Yeoman (author), Kenneth Bressett (editor). Whitman Publishing.
A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Q. David Bowers. Whitman Publishing.
The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Don Taxay. Arco Publishing
Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Walter Breen. Doubleday.