by Q. David Bowers
While I have never had any quarrel with the government data stating that from 1794 through 1804, silver dollars were minted to the total quantity of 1,438,566 pieces, I have long regarded some of the interim yearly figures as being suspect if applied in relation to the number of coins bearing a particular date. For example, the government numbers indicate that in 1796, dollars amounting to 72,290 pieces were coined, and in 1797, the quantity of dollars made was 7,776. The Mint operated on a fiscal year equal to the calendar year then (beginning in 1857, the Mint's fiscal year was changed to July 1 to June 30, the period still used today). All the numbers tell us is that in calendar year 1797, for example, 7,776 silver dollars were made. The numbers do not state or in any way indicate that those dollars were dated 1797.
Continuing the 1796-1797 example, a problem arises when these yearly mintage figures are applied to the number of coins struck bearing those dates. A survey of dealers' stocks, auction catalogues, and certification data shows that 1796 dollars are about as available as are those dated 1797. This is indeed curious in view of the 1797 mintage figure being only one-ninth that of 1796!
The Mint reported that in calendar year 1804, silver dollars were made to the extent of 19,570 pieces. Today, through the research of many scholars-Eric P. Newman and Kenneth E. Bressett pre-eminent among them-it is believed with virtual certainty that no silver dollars bearing the date 1804 were struck that year (the few 1804-dated dollars now known were made at the Mint as special pieces beginning in the 1830s). The dollar mintage of the year 1804 consisted of coins bearing earlier dates. In 1804, the Mint was not concerned with pleasing numismatists, it was concerned with economy. If usable dies with earlier dates were on hand, they were used. Why waste them?
As an interesting and informative exercise, I explored the situation further. Details are given herewith. At the outset, I mention that while calculations yielded precise-appearing numbers, such figures are no more precise than the data used to create them. At the end of the study, numbers used in my opinions and conclusions are rounded off.
A Hoard Unearthed in 1878
As noted, government mintage reports are perplexing and contradictory, but to this point in the early 1990s, they are all that anyone has used. In my opinion, the number of coins minted during a given calendar year can be one thing, but the number of coins actually struck bearing the date of that year may be another thing entirely. Accordingly, I have pursued several avenues of inquiry to endeavor to make sense of the situation as it pertains to early dollars.
The following may be one key to revising certain mintage figures.
The March 1881 issue of The Coin Collector's Journal gave details concerning coins secreted by the Harmony Society at Economy, Pennsylvania, during the Civil War, when it was feared that General Morgan would capture the Society's assets.(An account of the hoard can also be found in Bowers, Coins and Collectors, pp. 9-11.)Recovered from an underground vault in 1878, the hoard was found to consist of 400 quarter dollars dated 1818 to 1828, 5,728 half dollars dated from 1794 to 1807, 111,456 halves from 1808 to 1836, foreign silver coins valued at $12,600, and the following silver dollars, which from the nature of the numbers seem to be approximate figures:
1794: 1 coin (Reported to have been sold to a dealer for $22.) = 0.03% of the silver dollars in the hoard
1795: 800 = 21.58%
1796: 125 = 3.37%
1797: 80 = 2.16%
1798 Small Eagle: 30
1798 Large Eagle: 560
(1798 both types combined: 590, or 15.91%)
1799 5 stars facing: 12
(1799 both types combined = 1,262 = 34.03%)
1800: 250 = 6.74%
1801-2-3 combined: 600 = 16.18%
Total: 3,708 pieces = 100%
This information is highly useful as it helps establish the relative rarity of certain issues, not by detailed die varieties but by dates and major types. For example, the 1798 Small Eagle dollar may in actuality be about 18 to 20 times rarer than the Large or Heraldic Eagle dollar of the same date. 1799 may be the most common of all early dollars, etc.
It is to be regretted that 1801, 1802, and 1803 dollars were not separated in the inventory of the Economite Hoard (as it came to be known). The figure of just one 1794 dollar does not represent a population large enough for statistical significance. However, in my opinion, the other numbers and percentages have meaning. First, I give the official government mintage figures and the percentages of each in relation to the total of 1,438,738 silver dollars struck at the Mint from 1794 through and including 1804:
1794: 1,758 official mintage = 0.01 % of the official mintage total
1795: 203,033 = 14.11% of total
1796: 72,290 = 5.03% of total
1797: 7,776 = 0.54% of total
1798: 327,536 = 22.77% of total
1799: 423,515 '" 29.22% of total
1800: 220,920 = 15.36% of total
1801: 54,454 = 3.93% of total
1802: 41,650 = 2.90% of total
1803: 85,634 [includes 19,570 struck in 1804 from earlier dated dies) = 5.95% of total
(1801-3 combined: 181,738 = 12.63% of total)
1794-1804: 1,438,566 official mintage = 100% of total Below will be found the various dates of silver dollars 1794 to 1803, with the mintage of 1801-2-3 combined (and including the 19,570 dollars reported coined-in 1804, transferred to the 1801-2-3 years, as they were from dies dated before 1804).
Immediately following each mintage figure as given in Mint reports, is a second mintage figure, called "adjusted mintage," representing a figure created by taking the total of the government mintage figures (or 1794-1804, amounting to 1,438,566 coins, and multiplying this by the Economite Hoard survival percentage figure. For example, for theyear 1795, the official government report stated that 203,033 silver dollars were coined. In the Economite Hoard, 1795-dated dollars represented 21.58% of the total of the dollars in the group. By taking the total government mintage figure of 1,438,566 for 1794-1804 and multiplying it by 21.58%, the adjusted mintage is 310,443.
The listing follows:
1794 Official mintage: 1,758; adjusted mintage: 432
1795 Official mintage: 203,033; adjusted mintage: 310,443
1796 Official mintage: 72,920; adjusted mintage: 48,480
1797 Official mintage: 7,776; adjusted mintage: 31,073
1798 Official mintage: 327,536; adjusted mintage: 228,876
1799 Official mintage: 423,515; adjusted mintage: 489,544
1800 Official mintage: 220,920; adjusted mintage: 96,959
1800-3 Official mintage: 181,738; adjusted mintage: 232,760