Congress suspended the production of silver dollars in 1804 and finally lifted it in 1831. No silver dollars were struck between 1804 and 1834, except when they were used as diplomatic presentation sets.
In 1835 interest was growing to reinstate silver dollars as regular issue coins. Christian Gobrecht was invited to present designs of the new coinage. Many short lived varieties of Gobrecht’s design were created, because of changing sentiment for the silver dollar in the mid 1830’s, both by the public and Congress.
Original Gobrecht Dollar
Gobrecht patterned his new silver dollar based on designs from artists of the day. The obverse of Liberty Seated came from Thomas Sully and the reverse from Titian Peale’s eagle in flight.
By the mid 1830’s when these coins were being designed, there were 26 states. Gobrecht original design called for 13 large stars and 13 small stars. That resulted in public criticism, because the 13 original states weren’t more important than the new entries.
The early examples had Christian Gobrecht’s name displayed on the obverse in tiny letters above the date. This was the only time in US mint history when the full name of the designer was placed on a coin, although initials are commonly displayed somewhere.
Original Gobrecht Dollar Reverse
The dispute over the full name on the dollar coin delayed production until December 1836. Public objections were strong enough to bring about its omission in the 1839 issues.
Basically, the 1836 & 1837 Gobrecht dollars had a plain edge with his name above the date in the rock base, with large and small stars on the reverse. The coins struck in 1839 had a reeded edge, no name in the rock base and no stars on the reverse.
All Gobrecht dollars were struck in the Philadelphia Mint, and all the regular circulation coins of 1836 and 1837 have a proof finish, so the public could see the high quality of the new coins. This is unique in U.S. coinage, where coins intended for circulation were struck as proofs.
The Gobrecht silver dollars minted in their various forms between 1836 and 1839 came in both pattern and regular issue coins. A total of 1900 coins were produced between 1836 and 1839 with 1600 dollars dated 1836, even though they were actually struck in 1836 and 1837. The other 300 were delivered in 1839.
Only 1,000 of the 1600 examples were struck before the end of the year 1836. Authority for new Seated Liberty silver dollars was given by congress in 1834 with the Old Draped Bust, 416 grain weight standard of 1792, rather than the new standard of 412.5 grains of 1837.
600 more 1836 silver dollars were minted in March of 1837 for public distribution at the new 412.5 grain weight. These coins are very close in weight, but can be differentiated from the first 1836 issue, because they had the obverse and reverse aligned in “medal” fashion, rather than the prior “coin” fashion.
Gobrecht Dollar Pattern for 1839
The 1838 silver dollar is a pattern coin only, with no regular issue struck. These coins are extremely rare, with fewer than 10 pieces in existence.
In December 1839, 300 more silver dollars were produced and were the last dollars with the flying eagle reverse. The minting of Gobrecht’s Seated Liberty design silver dollars continued in 1840 with a Heraldic Eagle reverse from 1807, and stayed in use until 1873.
There was little interest in numismatics prior to 1850, so very few of these coins were spared circulation. After 1850 however, numismatics started rising in popularity among Americans.
Gobrecht Dollar Restrike
The consumer demand was such that the US Mint started restriking earlier coins during the 1850s and 1860s. Mint director James Ross Snowden used Mint dies to create such numismatic anomalies as the Class II and Class III 1804 dollars, and Gobrecht dollar restrikes.
The number of Gobrecht dollar restrikes is believed to exceed the original mintage figures. All original dollars dated 1836 will show the eagle flying “onward and upward,” while the restrikes made in the 1850’s and 60’s will have the eagle flying horizontally.
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