Varieties listed are those most significant to collectors, but numerous minor variations may be found because each of the early dies was individually made. Blanks were weighed before the dollars were struck and overweight pieces were filed to remove excess silver. Coins with adjustment marks from this process may be worth less than values shown here. Some Flowing Hair type dollars of 1794 and 1795 were weight-adjusted through insertion of a small (8 mm) silver plug in the center of the blank planchet before the coin was struck. Values of varieties not listed in this guide depend on rarity and collector interest.
The word dollar evolves from the German thaler, the name given to the first large-sized European silver coin. Designed as a substitute for the gold florin, the coin originated in the Tyrol in 1484. So popular did these large silver coins become during the 16th century that many other countries struck similar pieces, giving them names derived from thaler. In the Netherlands the coin was called rijksdaalder, in Denmark rigsdaler, in Italy tallero, in Poland talar, in France jocandale, in Russia jefimok. All these names are abbreviations of joachimsthaler. Until the discovery of the great silver deposits in Mexico and South America, the mint with the greatest output of large silver coins was that of Joachimsthal in the Bohemian Erzgebirge.
The Spanish dollar, or piece of eight, was widely used and familiar to everyone in the British American colonies. It was only natural, therefore, that the word dollar was adopted officially as the standard monetary unit of the United States by Congress on July 6, 1785.