1801 Silver Dollars

Mintage (all varieties)

Calendar year, Mint report: 54,454

Coins bearing date, author's estimate: 35,000

1801 Silver Dollars

Coinage Context

The price of silver: Whereas during the period 1794-1799 the intrinsic value of the silver dollar had not exceeded its face value, in 1800 the dollar became worth slightly more as bullion than face value. In 1801 a silver dollar was worth about $1.03. For this reason, mintages declined. As silver dollars continued to be worth more than face value, most (including earlier-minted coins on hand) were melted or exported. The situation was intolerable, and in 1804 production was halted.

Mintage commentary: Conventional wisdom has it that part of this mintage was dated 1800. In his Encyclopedia, p. 428, Walter H. Breen states this: "Mintage reported for 1801 consisted largely of coins dated 1800; similar backdating was the rule through 1804."

Die making: Die making procedures followed those employed in 1800.

On the obverse, variables include the positional relationships of the 13 stars, the word LIBERTY and its component letters, the date, and the portrait of Miss Liberty.

On the reverse, variables include the positional relationships of the letters in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the branch, arrows, eagle, clouds, and stars above the eagle. The reverse of 1801 BB-214 has the lower right serif of the T partially broken (from an injured or worn punch), while on the reverse of BB-213 lower right serif or foot of the T is completely missing.

Die combinations: Two obverse dies were mated with four reverses to produce dollars dated this year. The division wasn't equal: one obverse was coupled with three different reverses to create BB-211, BB- 212, and BB-213, and the other obverse was monogamous with another reverse to create BB-214 (but after its obverse "died," it went on in later years to additional unions with obverses dated 1802 and 1803 to create 1802/1 BB-233, 234, 235, and 242; 1803 BB-251 and BB-252).

Similarly, the reverse die used to coin 1801 BB-212 is one of several dies in the early dollar series that was employed to strike coins with more than one obverse date. Not only did it combine with an 1801 die to create BB-212, it also was used to strike 1802/1 BB-231, BB-232, and 1802 BB-241; and 1803 BB-254 and BB-255.

Of dies and year dating: Concerning the long lived reverse dies used to create 1801 BB-212 and BB-214, BB-212 may have been made first, as the lower right serif of the foot of T is intact, whereas on BB-214 it is partially missing. (Made still later was the reverse to coin BB-213, with the lower right serif completely missing). However, the set of punches which contained the broken T also had duplicate(s), as evidenced by a perfect T used to make the two new reverse dies found on the 1801-1804 novodels.

Reverse die progression evidence indicates that the reverse die used to coin 1801 BB-212 (called by Bolender, Reverse A), indicates that this die was used no earlier than 1802. Similar evidence reveals that the reverse die used to coin 1801 BB-214 (Bolender's Reverse B) was not used before 1802. Thus, neither 1801 BB-212 nor 214 were coined in 1801. As obverse die progression indicates that 1801 BB-213 was struck after 1801 BB-212, this means that 1801 BB-213 also was struck after 1801. Further, 1801 BB-213 has broken T letters on the reverse, from the employment of a broken T punch. 1802 BB-241 has the same broken T on the obverse. As the 1802 obverse die could not have been made in 1801, nor would it have made sense to have made it in 1803, this isolates the year 1802 for the production of the reverse used to coin 1801 BB-213, another verification that 1801 BB-213 was struck in 1802 at the earliest.

Thus, 1801 BB-211 is the only variety dated 1801 that might have been actually struck in 18011 However, it too could have been struck later.

Because of this, the 54,454 silver dollars the Mint reported as having been coined in calendar year 1801 probably consisted largely of pieces of earlier dates.

Order of striking: It seems likely that the order of striking of 1801-dated dollar varieties was-as follows:
1801 BB-211. Struck in 1801 or later. The only 1801-dated dollar for which there is a possibility it was actually struck in 1801.
1801 BB-212. Struck in 1802 or later.
1801 BB-213. Struck in 1802 or later.
1801 BB-214. Struck in 1802 or later.

Numismatic Information

Commentary: Four business strike die varieties exist, none of which is a formidable rarity. In his 1881 Type-Table, Capt. J.W. Haseltine said nothing of the rarity of any of the four varieties he listed (H-1 through H-4, equal to BB-211 through BB-214 today); apparently, he considered them all common. Today, as in yesteryear, the completion of a full set of 1801 dollars is a realistic goal, The 1801 is scarce as a date as are also 1802 and 1803. The 1801 Proof novodel "restrike," made decades later, is discussed in chapters 5 and 6.

Identification of the four varieties is literally and figuratively as easy as 1-2-3 (and 4.) using the Easy-Finding Guide presented earlier'. Most specimens in existence today are in worn grades. It is significant to mention that as of October 1992, NGC and PCGS combined had graded just one 1801 dollar as Mint State.