US Coins

1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar breaks $10 million

The unique 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar with a silver plug sold for a record $10,016,875 at public auction Jan. 24, surpassing the 2002 record of $7.59 million paid for a 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagle.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries

A 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar became the first coin to sell at public auction above the $10 million barrier.

At auction Jan. 24, 2013, the finest known example of the 1794 dollar sold for $10,016,875. Some experts believe that the coin is the first U.S. silver dollar struck.

Legend Numismatics, Lincroft, N.J., placed the winning bid during the Stack’s Bowers Galleries New York Americana Sale. The price eclipses the $7.59 million paid in the July 30, 2002, single-coin auction by Sotheby’s, in conjunction with Stack’s, for the purported King Farouk example of a 1933 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle.

The final price for the 1794 dollar includes a 17.5 percent buyer’s fee. The buyer’s fee for the 1933 double eagle was 15 percent.

Bidding for the 1794 Flowing Hair dollar reportedly opened at $2.2 million. After bidding reached $5.5 million with increasing bidding increments, Laura Sperber, a principal of Legend Numismatics and present in the auction room, raised the hammer price to $8.525 million in a single increment, knocking out all other bidding competition (and ensuring that the coin would breach the $10 million level).

“We wanted to make sure we had the coin,” Sperber told Coin World on Jan. 25.

Adding the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee brought the final price realized to $10,016,875.

Sperber said Legend, which also includes principal Bruce Morelan, was willing to go higher with its bidding.

“This coin is a $10 million coin and deserves its place in numismatic history,” Sperber said. “It’s an iconic coin and what numismatics is all about — rarity, quality and pedigree.

“It’s the ultimate rare coin.”

Certified as Specimen 66 by Professional Coin Grading Service and wearing a green sticker from Certified Acceptance Corp., the 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar was part of the Cardinal Collection. It is the only 1794 silver dollar with a silver plug, among some 140 to 150 examples of the 1794 dollar known to exist, according to Martin Logies, who built the collection. Logies is a numismatic researcher, early dollar specialist and author of The Flowing Hair Silver Dollars of 1794.

The silver plug was added to the underweight planchet at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia to bring the planchet up to standard weight.

In total, 1,758 silver dollars (out of about maybe 2,000 struck), all struck on a hand-turned screw press at the Philadelphia Mint facility on Oct. 15, 1794, were delivered after the only day of production for dollars that year. ¦

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