Before the U.S. Mint began to strike coins in 1793, Spanish “Silver Dollars” circulated widely in the American colonies and the new United States of America. The Spanish coins, which were struck mainly in Spain’s colonial empire in Mexico, were also known as “Pieces of Eight” – the legendary coins of pirate folklore.
In 1791, Alexander Hamilton made his recommendations to the U.S. Congress about a unique United States coinage. He suggested that the Dollar should be the basic unit of currency, and that Dollar coins should be modeled on the Spanish “Silver Dollars” in both size and weight. As a result, the first Silver Dollar, which was the Flowing Hair design in 1794, weighed 26.96 grams and was struck in .8924 silver. The weight was actually slightly less than a Spanish “Silver Dollar” because the Spanish coin used as the model had lost a little silver from being in circulation!
The Draped Bust Silver Dollar was struck from 1795-1804. The next coin was the Gobrecht Dollar, which was not struck until 1836 and was the first to be minted in .900 silver; it was followed by the Liberty Seated design from 1840-1873. The most famous Dollar coins were the Morgan Silver Dollar from 1878-1921 and the Peace Silver Dollar from 1921-1935. In general, Silver Dollars saw limited use in circulation.
Dollars coins were resurrected in 1971 with the Eisenhower Dollar, which was the first copper-nickel Dollar coin. The Anthony Dollar from 1979-1999 was the first small-sized Dollar coin, and the Sacagawea Dollar in 2000 was the first golden coin. In 2007, the U.S. Mint introduced the Presidential Dollars, the first series of commemorative Dollar coins issued for circulation.