The NGC Universal ID is a four digit alphanumeric that groups coins based on a unique combination of date, mintmark, denomination and striking process (MS, PF, or SP). These IDs are a simple organization of all coins prior to variety attribution and grading.
While the Revolutionary War established the United States' political independence from Great Britain, it failed to secure the fledgling nation's economic autonomy from the leading European Powers. It must have been a constant source of embarrassment for President George Washington that, as he oversaw America's political development in the 1790s from the island of Manhattan, British ships dotted New York harbor and Spanish coins filled America's banks. While the War of 1812 forever established the line between American and British economic concerns, Spanish and Mexican dollars would be a mainstay of the United States' commercial scene until the Mint Act of 1857. The economic dependency that characterized the United States during the late 18th and early 19th centuries is readily illustrated by the growing pains of the nation's new monetary unit--the silver dollar.
First authorized by the Mint Act of 1792, the silver dollar did not make its debut until 1794. Congress authorized the coin's weight at 416 grams and its fineness at 1,485/1,664 silver, 179/1,664 copper. Believing that this criteria was too cumbersome for the Mint to work with, Assayer Albion Cox recommended that Congress fix the silver content at 371.25 grams, but lower the copper content from 44.75 to 41 grams. Since Mint Director David Rittenhouse anticipated that Congress would approve Cox's suggestion without reserve, he started dollar coinage at this new, unauthorized standard. Accordingly, on October 15, 1794, the first 2,000 examples of Robert Scot's Flowing Hair silver dollar emerged from the press at the Philadelphia Mint. Like the nation whose economic plight that they represented, these coins were besieged with numerous embarrassing problems.
Of the 2,000 pieces originally struck, the Mint's staff deemed 242 specimens as underweight and eventually reused them as planchets. The 1,758 pieces that the Mint actually delivered for circulation were not widely received by the American public. The December 2, 1794 edition of the New Hampshire Gazette attacked the striking weakness that typified these early dollars when it stated, '?the touches of the graver are too delicate, and there is a want of that boldness of execution which is necessary to durability and currency.' Furthermore, Congress itself was in an uproar over Rittenhouse's usurpation of authority. Although both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton supported Cox's proposal, the legislature continued to favor their original standard. This dilemma meant that the 1794 silver dollars were technically an illegal issue. The combination of the legal and artistic criticism that bombarded Scot's first Flowing Hair dollars meant that the older, heavier Spanish and Mexican pieces continued to circulate as the preferred medium of exchange within the United States.
Despite its obvious failure, Scot's Flowing Hair design continued in use on some of the dies that the Mint prepared in 1795. In his book Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States, Q. David Bowers speculates that 280,000 examples of 1795-dated Flowing Hair dollars emerged from the Philadelphia Mint between 1795 and 1798. Scorned by the public and forced to yield to foreign currency within their own borders, these pieces directly echoed the failure of the United States to control its own economic destiny throughout the 1790s. Today, however, the survivors of the short-lived Flowing Hair design are of the utmost rarity and desirability within numismatic circles.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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