According to an interesting article posted on dgse.com, the silver dollars in circulation today are not really silver dollars at all. The only modern so called silver dollars you will find are Susan B. Anthony coins which contain nickel, or colored Sacagawea and presidential dollars with a copper core and an outer coating of manganese and brass. Actual silver dollars are those coined before 1935, because they contain silver ore.
The first silver dollars minted in the United States were the Bust Dollars, and were struck from 1794 to 1804. The three styles of Bust Dollars are the Flowing Hair, the Draped Bust Small Eagle, and the Draped Bust Heraldic. Both the 1794 and 1804 are the key dates collectors are most interested in, and are extremely expensive, even in damaged condition.
The Seated Dollars were struck from 1840 to 1873, with the coin being based on the bold design created by Christian Gobrecht in 1836. The primary mint dates that interest collectors are 1851, 1852, and 1858. Seated Dollars are primarily collected by type, although some collectors attempt to acquire Seated Dollars by date.
Perhaps the most interesting and famous silver dollar of all is the Morgan Dollar, which was struck from 1878 to 1921. The Morgan Dollars were struck to give the fledging Nevada silver mines a market for their silver. However, Morgan Dollars never gained favor with the public when they were struck. As a result, bags of uncirculated Morgan’s were found collecting dust in government vaults in the early 1960s. The mines were depleted of silver in 1904 and Morgan’s stopped being minted. The Morgan was revived for one year, 1921.
The Peace Dollar was struck from 1921 until 1935, and was designed by Anthony De Francisci. The coin was officially placed in circulation on January 3, 1922, and was personally delivered to President Harding on this date. Some collectors consider the coins that were struck in 1921 as a separate entity than other mint dates. This is because coins minted in 1921 were struck in high relief, while subsequent dates were struck in low relief to save wear and tear on the dies, and to boost production. The Peace Dollar was struck to celebrate the peace that followed World War One.
Coin grade can have a huge impact on coin worth. According to silverdollarsguide.com, in 1950 a psychologist and coin collector William H. Sheldon came up with a coin grading system that is still in place today. The system incorporates a 1 to 70 scale and is based on coin quality, mint date, metal integrity, and coin wear. Coins in good condition usually rate between 4 and 8 on the grade scale. Uncirculated coins will be in the 60 to 70 range, and coins with little circulation tend to score between 50 and 60.
In closing, pre-1935 silver dollars offer a cornucopia of interesting coins which to collect, and are considered to be real silver dollars. Because of various silver coin melt-downs conducted by the US government many of these coins are now very rare. The best way to collect rare silver dollars is to purchase them from Monacorarecoins.com, the most trusted name in rare coin collecting.