When Did “Silver Dollar” Become Routine?

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Randy Abercrombie, Dec 5, 2021.

  1. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    If I were a fellow walking the street in 1900, would I have referred to my dollar as a silver dollar? Or did that become routine vernacular in modern times when dollars were paper?
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  3. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    I can't speak to this question with any certainty, other than to say, they were definitely referred to as silver dollars before clad dollars were produced by the US Mint (1971).

    It makes me wonder if any of the following caused the reference:
    • The introduction of legal tender one dollar paper notes (1862)
    • The introduction silver certificates redeemable for silver (1878)
    • The end of one dollar silver certificates (1964)
    I think @GDJMSP may have been around for most of those events, so perhaps he can give us an authoritative answer :D

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  4. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    I am sure that the term "silver dollar" has been in use since the first gold dollars were issued in 1849. I image that it was in use before that, perhaps to distinguish it from the Spanish dollars, which were still legal tender. By the year 1900, I am sure that the term was common place.
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  5. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    Good point, I forgot about gold dollars . . .
  6. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    And it was sticky enough that nearly everyone at banks and stores called clad Ikes "silver dollars". SBAs were "small silver dollars". It was super-annoying for at least THIS young numismatist.
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  7. Inspector43

    Inspector43 Collecting Since 1948 Supporter

    Good question. When I was a young collector (1948 Plus) you could still get the "silver dollars" at the bank. So, when I walked in, I would ask "do you have any silver dollars?" If I asked for a dollar, I would get a paper dollar. I would guess that it evolved from the differentiation between materials, gold, silver and paper.
  8. montynj3417

    montynj3417 Active Member

    At the local railroad stations, the ticket vending machines give change in US President or Sacajaweja Dollar coins, which get passed on to the kids of said commuters, who lose most of them at the park, for me to recover with my metal detector! Through the headphones, they sound little different from any other clad coins, but they're rounded off to the nearest dollar. Same for SBA's.
  9. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Supporter! Supporter

    I'm pretty sure @johnmilton's explanation is correct, but growing up in L.A., silver dollars were readily in circulation (probably due to Las Vegas being frequented by many) and we always referred to them as "silver" dollars so they weren't confused with "paper" dollars. Back then, we didn't think about the silver content of any coins.
  10. Joshua Lemons

    Joshua Lemons Well-Known Member Supporter

    I personally knew a woman in 1998 that was 104 years old and she had an interest in coins and we'd talk about them. Sharp as a tack at 104, amazing. But she talked about silver dollars, so I'm sure they were called silver dollars when she was growing up.
  11. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    Back in BC time when I was a kid. I remember men used to bite the coin to determine real or fake, gold or silver. Not me, I'm not sticking anything in my mouth that's not food, drink, or love!
  12. Inspector43

    Inspector43 Collecting Since 1948 Supporter

    That started with the 1883 V nickels. The first ones came without the word "CENTS" on the back. People would gold plate them and pass them off as a new gold $5 piece. You could bite into gold and it would mark it.
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  13. montynj3417

    montynj3417 Active Member

    Back then, if it wasn't a penny or a "nickel", it was silver. My grandparents saved their spare change and filled up two big glass bricks, each about 10" square and 5-6" wide with coins, starting I guess, back in the 1930's. Still a little kid, I watched my Grandpa crack them open with a hammer(think: flood of silver & Buffalo nickels), so they could take it all down to the bank. Wishing now for a time machine.....
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  14. Jersey magic man

    Jersey magic man Supporter! Supporter

    When silver dollars were typical in circulation, I doubt that people referred to them as “silver dollars”. In general conversation I am sure that people just referred to then as dollars.
    Randy Abercrombie likes this.
  15. ewomack

    ewomack 魚の下着 Supporter

    All $1 Silver Certificates from 1886 to 1928 had the phrase "Silver Dollar" printed right on them (my two samples from 1923 and 1928 shown below; I do not own the 1886 sample shown). I'm guessing that the usage predates those bills, of course, but it must have been common enough by 1886 to include on circulating money. The term disappeared on subsequent silver certificate issues after 1928.

    Along those lines, the term "silver dollar" may have later helped distinguish between "hard money" and paper. Someone might have said, upon being presented with a $1 paper note, "I'd prefer payment with a silver dollar."

    Last edited: Dec 5, 2021
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  16. benveniste

    benveniste Type Type

    1900 is an interesting choice of a reference date, as "Free Silver" was still a hotly debated issue at that time. This piece was from 1896, but it'll give you an idea. A silver dollar contained less than 1 dollar worth of silver. 1900 also saw the passage of the so-called Gold Standard Act.

    From what I can tell, at the time individual coins were simply called "dollar coins," just as $1 silver certificates were just called "dollar bills." But term "silver dollar" or "standard silver dollar" was used in aggregate and for legal formalities. 1896SpauldingObv.jpg 1896SpauldingRev.jpg
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  17. CaptHenway

    CaptHenway Survivor

    I think you have hit the nail right on the head.
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  18. BuffaloHunter

    BuffaloHunter Short of a full herd Supporter

    This is the type of stuff that keeps my blood boiling for this hobby!

    I’m sure there were many saloons that went by the name, but here’s one still in business that was established in 1879:

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  19. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    People who were there say otherwise.
  20. Omegaraptor

    Omegaraptor Gobrecht / Longacre Enthusiast

    On that note, if you remember - were large size notes still circulating back in those days, or were they mostly gone by then?
  21. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    In Montana there is a bar, it’s called the Silver Dollar Bar. They claim to have over 10,000 sealed in plastic or lucite in the bar. It’s been that way since Silver coins were still in circulation. As a child I recall the term used by all was a Silver Dollar.
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