Producing Coin Blanks or Planchets from Cutting Machine
The U.S. Mint was established in 1792 in Philadelphia. It began producing regular issue coinage the following year, but not silver dollars. They were first coined in 1794. Although 1794 silver dollars are rare, these early dollars dated "1794" through "1803" can readily be found in the marketplace today. No silver dollars were minted for general circulation from 1805 through 1835.
Why then do coin collectors know of only fifteen examples of 1804 silver dollars while U.S. Mint records report that 19,570 silver dollars were coined in that year?
One explanation is portrayed in a documentary work of art, entitled "The Dollar of 1804," which was created in about 1887 for James V. Dexter, who had recently purchased an 1804 Dollar. It tells of a disappearance story, which is not true, but commonly believed in those days:
"Of this Dollar, according to returns of the United States Mint Records, 19,570 pieces were struck, and, with the exception of a few, were all exported to Africa to pay the Sailors and Soldiers engaged in the War against Tripoli."
The story goes on to describe a shipwreck, captured Americans, and a thousand mile march across a desert, finishing with:
"To pay the expenses of this little army of mounted Arabs and seventy American Seamen these 1804 Dollars were shipped to the Coast of Africa, and only few of them, if any, were brought back by the returned Victors."
Little was known in the 1880's about how and why silver dollars dated "1804" were minted. Today this history can be found in many places. Of course, the most complete explanation is the subject of an entire book, The Fantastic 1804 Dollar, written in 1962 by Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett. It's a landmark book on this subject, taking us through the history of the 1804 Dollar in a logical step-by-step progression.
Silver dollars dated "1804" were struck at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, but not in the year 1804. There were 19,570 silver dollars minted during the first three months of 1804, but they were dated "1803" or earlier. It was the practice of the Mint to continue using dies from previous years if their condition was acceptable for producing quality coins. Then, if silver dollars dated "1804" were struck at the U.S. Mint, when and why were they made?
In 1834 the U.S. Department of State wanted diplomatic gifts to present to the King of Siam and the Sultan of Muscat in recognition of trade treaties worked out with those two countries. President Jackson directed that a complete set of coins of the United States be assembled for presentation to each leader. They were to be housed in wooden boxes covered with morocco leather.
Of course the coins were to be attractive and in "mint condition." However, not all denominations of coins struck at the U.S. Mint were in production in 1834. The silver dollar and ten dollar gold coin hadn't been produced for many years. In checking mint records it was found that the last year in which both coins were struck was 1804. New dies were produced bearing those dates, and the Dollar of 1804 was created!
For a look at the beautiful King of Siam proof set housed in its original display case trimmed with morocco leather, check out this Web site's page on the King of Siam Proof Set. This important set of coins was thought to have been just a rumour until it surfaced at the 1962 convention of the American Numismatic Association. The Muscat set of coins was split up, the whereabouts of its display case is unknown today, if it exists at all.
The late 1834 to early 1835 period wasn't the last time silver dollars dated "1804" were struck at the U.S. Mint. Some years later a few Mint employees used old dies to strike unauthorized coins and medals to sell to collectors for personal profit! Among them were several silver dollars dated "1804," which were actually struck in the year 1858. We know this because the only known Class II 1804 Dollar was struck over an 1857 Swiss Shooting Thaler, a silver dollar sized coin, and a few silver dollars dated "1804" got out of the mint in 1858.
Personal profit wasn't the only reason previously issued coins and medals were struck, however. The U.S. Mint was building its own collection of coins it issued. Many of the coins recreated were used to trade for other coins the Mint collection didn't possess.
In conclusion, U.S. silver dollars dated "1804" were minted by the U.S. Mint, however they were not created in the normal course of business. They're fabrications created many years later than dated. But, in spite of its origins, the 1804 Dollar is one of the most desirable U.S. coins, and it continues to set price records when an example comes on the market!
Illustrations from History of the United
States Mint and Coinage Ancient and Modern
~by George G. Evans