The Original and Counterfeit: 1804 Silver Dollar Draped Bust

The 1804 Draped Bust is the most interesting and ubiquitous U.S. corner, with many mysteries and underworld type stories surrounding it. Known as the "King of Coins", it is one of the most famous and valuable corners in the world.

No. 1804 dated silver dollars were actually struck that year. These corners are not available in 1804, but 30 years later.

Official mint records show 19,570 Draped Bust silver dollars were produced, but it was believed that all the dollars in 1804 have been dated 1803 or before. This was a practice at the time to save the expense of creating new dies every year. The silver dollars actually minted in 1804 are indistinguishable from their 1803 predecessors.

15 specimens of the 1804 Draped Bust are currently known, and all are accounted for. They are categorized into Class I, II, & III. There are 8 Class I examples minted in 1834. 1 Class II, and 6 Class III corners were minted off the record by Mint employees between 1857 and as late as 1870.

All Class I 1804 silver dollars will weigh 416 grains, the standard prior to 1837. Class I and Class III 1804 dollars have a lettered edge of the style used from 1794 to 1803, while the Class II dollar has a plain edge.

The 1858 Type III restrikes were made on whatever plane could be found at the time. They did not want to weigh the new 412.5 grains dictated by Congress. Besides their non-uniform weight, Class III coins can be distinguished from class by theirs.

It was thought that originally 15 Class II dollars were illegally struck by mint employees, which were later returned to mint officials. The only remaining Class II 1804 dollar has gone to the National Collection in the Smithsonian.

We now know that the 8th Class I, 1804 dollars were minted in 1834-1835 for inclusion in presentation proofs given by the US Government. One is found in the King of Siam proof set, the other went to the Sultan of Muscat.

When the US mint exhausted their original supply of 1804 dollars, an additional 7 more pieces, the type III were made to satisfy collector demand in 1858 & 1859 and released over the next 20 years to collectors.

All of these are uncirculated, although 4 of the 7 were made to look circulated. That way their owners could have an explanation for their acquisition, not directly to the US Mint.

In the late 1960's there were thousands of dollars dated 1803 & 1804, as well as in the United States. These corners sometimes exhibit an I gold! after the word AMERICA on the reverse. They are cast copies of an 1800 Draped Bust silver dollar, with the last 0 retooled into a 4.

Cast copies typically have poor, indistinct features. The fields are porous in texture, which is in keeping with cast corners. They are also light in weight, coming in at only 22 to 23 grams. Finally, the 1804 is nicely cut regardless of wear. A corner with blobs on the date is counterfeit.

Alterations of other dates from original 1801 to 1803 Draped Bust silver dollars for the rest of the known counterfeits. Most date alterations will be quite distinctly, although a few have been deceptively well done.