The 1804 silver dollar is not only rare, but it is one of the
most popular U.S. coins in history. Numismatic author Arthur
D. McIlvaine wrote, "It is doubtful whether any other coins - even
some much rarer ones - have been surrounded by more romance, or
more general interest, than that which attaches to the 'original'
Oddly, the 1804 silver dollars were not struck in 1804; rather,
it was in 1834 that the State Department decided to strike a
special set for diplomatic reasons. The United States Government
and President Andrew Jackson elected Edmund Roberts, a New Hampshire native, to be
the "special agent" to deliver the gifts and negotiate treaties
with certain rulers in Asia. The initial 1804 silver dollars were
presented to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, Said bin Sultan, and the King of Siam, Rama III. Roberts was successful in getting the
treaties signed, making it the first U.S. treaties signed by powers
on the shores of the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. This was a
major accomplishment for the United States government under
President Jackson's terms in office.
There are 3 classes of 1804 Dollars:
Class I: Struck 1834-1835, only eight were created and they were
used as diplomatic gifts, these are known as the "originals."
Class II: Struck during the 1850s, this specimen was struck over
a Swiss Coin, "a shooting thaler," and is believed to have been an
experiment by U.S. Mint employees. It is the only 1804 Silver
Dollar that has plain edges. Only one Class II dollar was struck,
which is featured in the Smithsonian.
Class III: Struck during the 1850s, only six are known to have
Previous sales exemplify the monetary value of these coins. In
1999 a Class I 1804 dollar sold for more than $4 million and in
2009 a Class III dollar was purchased for $2.3 million.
Those visiting the Museum Showcase, booth number 543, at the World's Fair
of Money in Chicago will get to observe a Class III 1804 dollar
(pictured above). This specific coin changed hands more than 20
times until Aubrey Bebee purchased it at an auction in 1985;
subsequently, it was donated to the ANA by both Aubrey and Adeline
Bebee in 1991.