While many U.S. coins are collectible, perhaps none are more collectible than U.S. dollars. While the dollar was not the largest denomination of coin produced by the U.S. mint, it was the largest denomination of coin seen by the average American. Larger denominations were often stored and exchange by banks.
Furthermore, the dollar had a lot of buying power in the 19th century, making larger denominations largely unnecessary for ordinary commerce.
The dollar coin was first produced in 1794 and was minted through 1935. At that point, it went on a 36 year hiatus, and returned to circulation in 1971. The earlier versions contained about an ounce of silver; coins produced in the 1970s had a smaller amount or even none, as production eventually followed that of dimes and quarters, which had become silver-free in 1965.
A number of different U.S. dollars were produced over the 140 or so years that they were in more or less continuous production. Probably the most popular style among collectors is the “Morgan” style dollar, produced from 1878 to 1904, and again for a single year in 1921. The reason for the popularity of the Morgan dollar is that they’re fairly easy to acquire in collectible condition, as millions of them were stored in bank vaults for the better part of a century.
This makes them far more affordable to the average collector than earlier designs, such as the Flowing Hair dollar or the Seated Liberty dollar. The later Peace Dollar, produced in the 1920s and 1930s, while a beautiful coin, is not as popular with collectors.
Perhaps another reason that collectors like the dollar coins is their fairly large size. Yes, they have an ounce of precious metal, but they’re also easily viewed in detail with the naked eye, which makes them more visually interesting than smaller coins such as the penny or dime.
Prices for dollar coins can vary widely, depending on style, condition and mint mark. Some dates and varieties are quite common and can be purchased for little more than the spot price of the silver contained within them. Others are rare to the point of being legendary, such as the 1804 dollar, of which only a handful of specimens are known. Most of these were produced by the government to be given as gifts to foreign dignitaries, though a few were later illicitly restruck to fill collector demand.
Regardless of source, this coin can sell for millions of dollars if you find that you have one.
Interest in modern dollar coins is modest, as most Americans would rather use dollar bills and few vending machines will accept the dollar coin. This is in contrast to other countries that have long ago retired their single-unit paper bills and replaced them with coins. In such countries, single-unit coins are readily available and can be used in vending machines or anywhere else one needs to spend legal tender.