The following Q&A is excerpted from Clifford Mishler’s Coins: Questions & Answers, 5th edition:
Q: Why is there such a multitude of varieties of the U.S. silver dollar series from 1794 to 1803?
A: During the 1790s and the early 1800s, U.S. coinage dies for all denominations were individually hand engraved, with the inevitable result that no two dies of any design type were truly identical. The difficulty of striking the large coin also resulted in excessive die wear and breakage, so on average significantly fewer dollar coins could be successfully struck from a die than, say, quarters. During this period, the dollar was the only silver coin minted in appreciable quantities. Thus, the relatively short-lived hand-crafted dies, coupled with an early emphasis on dollar production, could only translate into infinite die varieties.