Seated Liberty Dollars were introduced in 1840 and were minted in larger quantities than the sparsely minted Gobrecht Dollar that preceded it. The dollars were used in general circulation until 1853. The production of large numbers of US gold coins (First $1 1849 and $20 in 1850) from the new California mines lowered the price of gold..so the value of silver rose. By 1853, the value of a US Silver Dollar contained in gold terms, $1.07 of silver. With the Mint Act of 1853, all US Silver coins, except for the US Silver Dollar and new 3 cent coin, were reduced by 6.9% as of weight with arrows on the date to denote reduction. The US Silver Dollar was continued to be minted in very small numbers mainly as a foreign trade to the Orient.
The international trading partners did not like the fact that U.S.A. coins were reduced in weight. The use of much more common half dollars became problematic since merchants would have to separate higher value pre-1853 coins from the newer reduced ones. From 1853 onwards, trade with Asia was typically done with Mexican coins that kept their weight and purity in the 19th Century. This ended in 1874 when the price of silver dropped so that a silver dollar has less than $1.00 worth of silver in it (huge amounts of silver coming from the Nevada Comstock Lode mines). By 1876, all silver coins were being used as money and by 1878, gold was at par with all US paper dollars. Beginning in 1878, huge amounts of the Morgan silver dollars were produced but few were used as money. The size was too large to carry on business so silver certificates were used instead. The mint made the coins, placed them in their vaults and issued the Silver Certificates instead. This is the reason so many Morgan and Peace dollars can be purchased in AU or UNC condition (near perfect)… they sat in bank/US Treasury vaults most of the time.
Each coin is composed of 0.77344 troy oz of silver. They were minted at Philadelphia, New Orleans, Carson City, and San Francisco. A Silver dollar is worth $1 in silver at $1.31 per troy ounce. Current silver price (October 21, 2010) is $23.12 per troy ounce so a silver dollar is worth, melted down (melt value) of about $17.88 US.
Article Source: en.wikipedia.org