The 1804 Silver Dollar is a United States dollar coin considered to be one of the rarest and most famous coins in the world, due to its unique history. Divided into "Classes," 15 specimens are known. 8 comprise Class I, which were minted in 1834. Two Class I specimens trace their lineage to the King of Siam and the Sultan of Muscat. 1 comprises Class II and 6 comprise Class III and were minted sometime between 1858 to 1860. It is alleged both Class II and Class III specimens were made clandestinely by Mint officials. Due to the nature of their rarity, some have been sold for high dollar figures. Replicas and counterfeits exist, some meant to deceive collectors, while others are made to offer a cheap substitute for the real and more expensive coins.
The first 1804 silver dollars minted in 1834 were presented as gifts to Rama III, King of Siam and Said bin Sultan, Sultan of Muscat and Oman. The other 5 were dispersed under unknown circumstances after Ambassador Edmund Roberts died en route during the voyage. One was retained in the US Mint Coin Collection. In 1842, numismatists first learned of the 1804 dollar through a book displaying an illustration of the 1804 dollar from the Mint Cabinet. These silver dollars are known among numismatists as “original” or Class I 1804 dollars. Eight of these coins are known to exist. One currently resides in the Smithsonian Institution, one is in the American Numismatic Association museum, and the other six are in private collections.
Popular legend states that the rare coin given by King Rama IV of Siam to Anna Leonowens, as seen in the story of “Anna and the King of Siam” and the movie The King and I, was indeed the same 1804 silver dollar produced in 1834 as a gift to Siam. This coin was kept in Anna’s family for several generations, until in the 1950s it was sold by a pair of British ladies claiming to be Anna’s descendants. This coin was displayed as part of the “King of Siam” collection at the Smithsonian Institution in 1983, where it was given the name “the King of Coins.” It was purchased by an anonymous collector in 2001, who purchased the entire set of coins from the King of Siam collection for over $4 million.
|Class I Specimens|
|U.S. Mint Specimen||Retained for the US Mint collection; transferred to the Smithsonian Institution as a part of the National Coin Collection.|
|Stickney - Eliasberg Specimen|
|Cohen - ANA Specimen||Stolen in 1967 from Willis DuPont; recovered in 1993. Currently displayed at the American Numismatic Association Museum in Colorado Springs.|
|Mickley - Reed Hawn Specimen||Obtained by Joseph J. Mickley.|
|Parmelee - Byron Reed Specimen||Once owned by Byron Reed; now in the custody of the Durham Western Heritage Museum of Omaha. ICG Proof-64.|
|Watters-Childs Specimen||Believed to have come from the Sultan of Muscat's proof set. Graded PCGS Proof-68.|
|King of Siam Specimen||Part of the King of Siam Proof Set; "Brilliant Gem Proof" Graded PCGS PR-67.|
|Class II Specimen|
|U.S. Mint Specimen; a.k.a. "Shooting Thaler" Silver Dollar||Specimen was retained for the US Mint collection after seizure of other specimens minted illegally. Now part of the National Coin Collection held by the Smithsonian Institution.|
|Class III Specimens|
|Berg - Garrett Specimen|
|Adams - Carter Specimen|
|Davis - Wolfson Specimen|
|Linderman - DuPont Specimen||On display at the headquarters of the American Numismatic Association.|
|Rosenthal - ANS Specimen||On display at the headquarters of the American Numismatic Society.|
|Idler - Bebee Specimen||Displayed at American Numismatic Association headquarters.|
Counterfeits exist of the 1804 Silver Dollar, with some con artists and perpetrators of fraud trying to pass off coins as the real thing. Some were brought back by service personnel returning from the Vietnam War.
Various private mints have produced replicas of the 1804 dollar over the years. The replicas have little worth as collectors’ items, with their silver content fetching them a price of current melt values and some collectible value as silver rounds.