The coin, which dates back to the year 1794 and the presidency of George Washington, represents the first formal manifestation of US currency following the establishment of the United States Mint two years earlier. It has a diameter of four centimetres, weighs 27 grams, and is 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. On one side is a depiction of the goddess Liberty, hair flowing in the wind, and on the other an eagle surrounded by a wreath. Only around 2,000 were ever minted, with only a handful surviving to this day. The coin is even rarer because of its pristine condition; it is also believed to be the very first coin ever struck by the Mint. The silver dollar was bought by collectors Legend Numismatics for USD 10 million in 2013, making it the most valuable coin ever sold.
Karen Lee, an American coin expert with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., is accompanying the silver dollar on its European tour. She explained why the Flowing Hair silver dollar was so rare:
“They minted about 2,000, and about 1,873 went into circulation, and we believe, more or less, that there are 20 known now. And this one we believe is super-special because we believe it was the first one minted.”
Lee also acknowledged the Czech connection to the dollar, namely that the name derives from the Czech “Tolar” – or “Thaler” in German – a 16th century coin, which was minted in the Bohemian town of Jáchymov:
“We thank you for that, because you gave us the name of our coin, the dollar.”
During February, the Flowing Hair silver dollar will be embarking on an eight-nation tour. The first stop is Prague’s National Museum, where it will be on display in the museum’s New Building until this Friday, February 10, from 10 am to 8 pm. Four years ago, this museum displayed what was then the most expensive coin in the world, namely a US 1933 gold Double Eagle. After that, the 1794 coin travels on to Warsaw, Poland; Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Dublin, Ireland; and finally London, England.
Accompanying the exhibition, which is free to the public, is an original copy of the US Declaration of Independence.