US Coins

Searching for an 1804 Draped Bust dollar

Coin Lore column from Jan. 18, 2016, issue of Coin World:

Those 1804 silver dollars keep turning up all over the place.

While U.S. Mint records show 19,570 Draped Bust dollars were struck in 1804, only 15 coins are known with that date, all struck decades later either for friends of Mint officials or foreign diplomats.

The 19,570 dollars listed in Mint records, if they were actually minted in 1804, were likely struck with 1803-dated dies.

Additional finds of “genuine” 1804 dollars continue to be reported, though. Here are a few of the more amusing ones.

??Aug. 1, 1895, Hartford (Conn.) Weekly Times: Tramp Charles Schultz steals an 1804 dollar from Felix Schultz, who befriended him, and sells it to Scott Stamp and Coin Co. for $90. Scott Co. says it doesn’t know anything about it.

??Dec. 25, 1897, The Reading (Pa.) Eagle: Chateau, Mont., bartender Billy Seymour receives one in change. The paper reports, “Whence the dollar came, Mr. Seymour does not know, but each one of several enthusiastic fellow-townsmen is willing to swear that it belonged to him and was passed by mistake as he well knew that it was valuable. ...”

??Oct. 25, 1899, Lewiston (Maine) Evening Journal: A Racine, Wis., woman pays for fabric or thread with a well-worn 1804 dollar that the clerk pockets, replacing it with another dollar from his own pocket. “We are told,” the paper reports, “he has since been offered $1,500 for it by a Chicago coin dealer.” The storeowner, in the meantime, maintained the coin was his and not the clerk’s and hired a lawyer.

??June 21, 1912, The (Pittsburgh) Gazette Times: “A worn silver dollar dated 1804, which Joseph Ralston of Defiance, O., bought from $50 from a tramp nearly a score of years ago, may give Mrs. Ralston, his widow, comfort in her declining years.”

“Treasury officials, who tested the coin ... said they believe it was a genuine 1804 dollar, appraised by coin collectors at $2,800.”

??Jan. 1, 1914, Meriden (Conn.) Weekly Republican: Laborer William Sullivan, excavating a site for an ice rink for the Yale hockey team “turned over with his shovel an old jar.” Also in the jar, reportedly, was an 1804 silver dollar “understood to be quoted at $3,500.”  

??April 5, 1924, Gridley (Calif.) Herald Twice-A-Week: Merchant Martin Hettinger of Lancaster, Ohio, says he received an 1804 silver dollar from Col. William Stevenson, who asked that he not dispose of it. The coin is reportedly valued at $8,000 to $12,000.

So keep your eyes open when you check your change, take in a tramp or get a gift from a relative — you, too, just might find an 1804 silver dollar.

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