The 1921 Peace dollar is the debut issue of sculptor Anthony de Francisci’s design, produced from 1921-1928 and then again for two years in 1934 and 1935.
The Peace dollar replaced the Morgan dollar design, which had been minted continuously from 1878 to 1904 but was on a prolonged production hiatus due to a lack of demand. The Morgan design was revived in 1921 after Congress passed legislation that called on the Treasury Department to replenish its silver dollar stockpile. During World War I, the United States melted more than 270 million silver dollars from its stockpile in order to convert it to bullion, which it then sold to Great Britain.
While the majority of the silver dollar coins struck by the United States Mint in 1921 were Morgan dollars, a comparatively small number, 1,006,473 were struck in the new design.
Why is De Francisci’s Design Called the “Peace Dollar”?
Following the end of the First World War, a movement grew to issue a coin that simultaneously celebrated the Allies’ victory and to commemorate a hopefully long-lasting peace.
Originally proposed as a half dollar, the Peace circulating commemorative coin was instead struck as a silver dollar. The Mint sought input from the nation’s leading sculptors and after competition, Anthony de Francisci’s design was selected.
The designer’s wife, Teresa Cafarelli de Francisci, served as the model for the coin that numismatist Farran Zerbe and others famously dubbed a “peace coin” to honor the end of what was then called “The Great War”. Born in Italy in 1898, Teresa was in her early 20s when her medalist husband, also an Italian-born immigrant, enlisted her as his muse for the new silver dollar. The image of Liberty on the coin is not an exact likeness but rather a “composite” of facial features that “typified something of America”.
Anthony de Francisci, in choosing Teresa as a model, lovingly fulfilled a dream long held by his young wife. She recalled seeing the Statue of Liberty tower over their ship as she and her family approached the shores of the United States from Italy; a young Cafarelli was heartbroken when she was passed over for the role of the American goddess during a patriotic school play. Her likeness as the basis for Miss Liberty on the beloved Peace dollar lives on decades after Teresa de Francisci passed away at the age of 92 on October 20, 1990 – 26 years to the day after her artist-engraver husband passed away at the age of 77.
The original design showed the eagle on the reverse breaking a sword. That image was meant to be a symbol of disarmament (as in the Biblical ‘swords into plowshares’ reference), but some thought the symbology instead showed defeat. Mint Engraver George T. Morgan modified the design to remove the sword, making this change without de Francisci’s approval.
The 1921 Peace Dollar is Popularly Collected as a Type Coin
The 1921 Peace dollar is particularly important due to the fact that it is a first-year issue and because the coin was struck in higher relief than issues struck in 1922 onward. The 1921 Peace dollar, therefore, qualifies as a one-year type coin and is popularly collected as such.
Accounting for the low mintage of the issue, it is important to note that the design for the new dollar design was not finalized until President Warren G. Harding selected de Francisci’s design on December 19, 1921. That same week, the Mint’s Engraving Department was hard at work preparing dies to strike the initial coinage and on the final week of the year struck 1,006,473 coins bearing the 1921 date.
These coins were released into circulation in January 1922 to mixed reviews by both the mainstream and numismatic presses. The Wall Street Journal called the coin “our Flapper Silver Dollar,” while American Numismatic Association (ANA) President Moritz Wormser arguing that there was “nothing emblematic of peace on [the coin] except the inscription “Peace” itself.”
Time has been more forgiving and the Peace dollar, along with the Morgan dollar that preceded it remain two of the most popularly collected U.S. coins.
How Much is a 1921 Peace Dollar Worth?
The 1921 Peace dollar goes from a value of $150 USD in average circulated grade all the way up $100,000 for an example among the finest known. A typical uncirculated example, grading MS63, routinely sells for about $1,000. This is a significant premium over what Peace dollars in the same grade sell for if struck in more common dates.
The 1921 Peace dollar is not the rarest Peace dollar in the series, but it is considered a key or semi-key issue. When purchasing a 1921 Peace dollar, it is important to buy a coin certified by either CAC, NGC, or PCGS. Reputable dealers will have no issue sourcing a quality coin that has been authenticated and graded by one of these services. Avoid coins that have been cleaned or damaged.
The obverse is dominated by a left-facing bust of a young Miss Liberty wearing a tiara of rays that unmistakably resembles the radiant crown upon the head of the Statue of Liberty. Most of Miss Liberty’s hair is contained within a bun at the back of her head, though several locks are seen hanging alongside her neck.
Arcing along the rim on the upper half of the obverse field is the inscription LIBERTY, and centered below the bust of Liberty near the bottom rim is the date 1921. The motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears in a single line of text across the lower quarter of the obverse and spreads across that section of the field, with the words IN GOD WE appearing to the left of Miss Liberty and the word TRUST located behind her neck. Incidentally, the letter “U” in “TRUST” appears as a “V,” which de Francisci employed to represent a “V” for “Victory”. Dots appear between the words IN GOD WE and are also seen on the rim side of the words IN and TRUST. The designer’s monogram, AF, appears below Liberty’s neck in the lower obverse field.
The depiction of an American bald eagle perched on a mountaintop anchors the reverse. Clutched in its claws is an olive branch symbolizing peace; notably not included in this particular depiction of the eagle is a band of arrows representing military strength, a symbol commonly seen in similar visages of the patriotic avian emblem. The rightward-facing eagle is seen at an angle partly turned away from the viewer and towards a sunrise, which symbolizes the promise of dawning peace in the world.
The bold rays in the image of the rising sun harmonize with the rays seen in Miss Liberty’s tiara on the coin’s obverse. The legend UNITED STATES oF AMERICA appears along the rim in top half of the reverse. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM is located directly below in lettering identical in size to the legend. The eagle’s beak breaks the bottom of the “S” in PLURIBUS and visually divides that word from UNUM; meanwhile, a dot punctuates the space between E and PLURIBUS.
The denomination ONE DOLLAR appears across the bottom third of the reverse in a single line of text, with the word ONE inscribed to the left of the eagle by its tail feathers and DOLLAR superimposed over the sun’s rays to the right of the eagle. PEACE is inscribed along the rim below the eagle, atop the rock on which the patriotic bird stands.
The edge of the 1921 Peace dollar is reeded.
Anthony de Francisci was born in Palermo, Sicily in 1887 and emigrated to the United States in 1905. He began his career as a sculptor studying under such notable numismatic artists as James Earle Fraser, Hermon Atkins MacNeil and Adolph Weinman. The Peace dollar (1921-35) is his most famous creation but he also produced several medals. He died in 1964.
|Year Of Issue:||1921|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia Mint)|
|Alloy:||90% Silver, 10% Copper|
|OBV Designer||Anthony de Francisci|
|REV Designer||Anthony de Francisci|
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Zerbe, Farran. “Commemorate peace with a coin for circulation”, The Numismatist Oct. 1920: 443-44. Print.
LaMarre, Tom. “The Dollar Daze of 1921”, Coins Oct. 1999: 56–57. Print.
Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage (Reprint Ed.) Arco Publishing, 1983. Print.
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