In the year 1794, the United States Mint in Philadelphia produced three different denominations in silver, the half dime, half dollar, and silver dollar. It is the latter, the 1794 Silver Dollar, which has become to be the most famous of the group. It had an almost minuscule mintage, saw heavy circulation, and served as the image of the young United States to the outside world. While the type, named the Flowing Hair design for the representation of Liberty on the obverse, was only used for two short years, it has become a popular image of late 18th century America.
The Silver Dollar was authorized by the coinage act of 1792 as the prime unit in the American monetary system. Being worth 100 cents, it was based on the continental Thaler, a coin whose history goes back to the 15th century. The word comes from the High-German word for valley, thal (modern word tal), and in particular the Joachimstaler, a large silver coin which was first struck in the early 16th century in Sankt Joachimsthal, the German name for what now is Jáchymov in the Czech Republic. The Thaler, as it was called, became a popular coin throughout Europe and circulated in the American colonies as well.
Robert Scot is believed to have designed the 1794 Silver Dollar. He was also responsible for the majority of the early coin designs of the United States, introduced in the late 18th century. The obverse features a representation of Liberty, with flowing hair, hence the name Flowing Hair Dollar. The reverse displays an image of an American Eagle. While the reverse would be used, in modified form, on various denominations until a few years later, the obverse was only used on the silver half dollars and dollars of 1794 and 1795. However, it did become an inspiration for later coin designs which featured modified representations of Liberty.
The 1794 Silver Dollar recently gained even greater fame when the an example graded PCGS SP66 was sold for $10,016,875, representing the highest price ever paid for a coin at auction.