On and off since the late seventeen-hundreds, the United States has produced a wide variety of dollar coins. Made of various metals at different points, including gold, silver, copper and nickel, they have been a popular denomination with both the general public and coin collectors alike. Without a doubt the most popular US dollar coin is the silver dollar. For generations the silver dollar has held the interest of not only coin enthusiasts, but also those who invest in precious metals.
Generally speaking, silver dollars are made up of approximately 90% silver with an additional amount of copper added to give the coin added durability. As there was a short period of time when the content of silver in the coins was increased by a small amount in order to compete with foreign coins that had higher silver content. These coins were not generally considered to be circulating coins within the United States, and came to be known as Trade Dollars. During times of a shortage of the raw silver that was need to produce the coins, the amount of copper nickel used was increased to as much as 60% of the total content.
Silver dollars have been mined at six facilities including the mints in West Point, New York (W), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (P), New Orleans, Louisiana (O), Carson City, Nevada (CC), San Francisco, California S) and Denver, Colorado (D).
In the history of United States coinage, it is interesting to note that silver was in many ways as valuable as gold, and was just as difficult to come by. This is the reason that you will find that the production numbers were quite limited due to the difficulty in obtaining silver. When the value of silver had risen to a point that it made the production of silver dollars financially impractical, a halt was placed on the production of the coins. This was the case between the years of 1804 up until 1836.
Production did not resume in full until the discovery in Nevada of the Comstock Lode in 1850. The finding of such a large deposit of silver hastened the production of silver coins within the United States. Occasionally, even the massive deposits found in Nevada began to dwindle, causing another slow down in production until 1904. The silver melt of 1918 once again increased the availability of the raw materials needed, although even this was something temporary in nature, as silver shortages seemed to come and go as the years went on.
The United States Mint began producing the American Silver Eagle coin in 1986, a coin that is 100% pure silver weighing at one full troy ounce. Unlike previous silver dollars the silver eagle was not intended to be a circulating coin as the silver contents are valued at very nearly five times the coin's face value, depending on market conditions. Many of today's investors tend to purchase silver eagles as a hedge against the falling dollar value.