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1921 Peace Dollar : A Collector’s Guide

1921 Peace Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1921 Peace Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
The 1921 Peace dollar is the debut issue of sculptor Anthony de Francisci’s design. It was produced from 1921 to 1928 and then again for two years in 1934 and 1935.

On May 9, 1921, Congressman Albert Henry Vestal (R-IN8), Chairman of the House Committee on Coinage, passed legislation to authorize the production of the Peace dollar. With passage later that summer, the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) opened a three-week competition to determine the new coin’s design on November 23. Anthony De Francisci’s design impressed President Herbert Hoover and was selected to replace the Morgan dollar design on December 19. This gave the United States Mint little time to execute the dies and strike the 1921 coinage.

The Peace dollar replaced the Morgan dollar design, 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 calling 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 to convert it to bullion, which it then sold to Great Britain.

While most of the silver dollar coins struck 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 a competition, 34-year-old 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”[1]. 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[2].”

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[3].

The original design showed the eagle on the reverse breaking a sword. That image was meant to symbolize 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.

In total, 1,006,473 Peace dollars were struck bearing the 1921 date. These coins were first released on January 3, 1922. That same day, Mint Chief Engraver George T. Morgan wrote Anthony de Francisci to inform him that Morgan had made additional changes to Francisci’s Peace dollar design to alleviate production problems caused by the coin’s high relief. These changes would be made, but not until a small mintage of 1922-dated coins in the original “high relief” was struck. These coins are prohibitively rare, making 1921 the most popularly collected example of the type.

The 1921 Peace dollar is featured on the ANA and Girl Scouts “Fun with Money” patch.

The 1921 Peace Dollar Is Popularly Collected as a Type Coin

The 1921 Peace Dollar is particularly important because it is a first-year issue, and the coin was struck with higher relief than issues dated 1922 onward. Therefore, the 1921 Peace dollar 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 after January 3, 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 argued 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 ranges from $150 in average circulated grade to $100,000 for an example among the finest known. A typical uncirculated example, grading MS-63, routinely sells for about $1,000. This is a significant premium over what Peace dollars in the same grade sell for if struck on more common dates.

The 1921 Peace dollar is not the rarest in the series but 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 authenticated and graded by one of these services. Avoid coins that have been cleaned or damaged.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

In an ad published in the July 1964 Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, Oklahoma dealer Roy L. Baker offered a Brilliant Uncirculated 1921 Peace dollar for $37.50.

In an August 1978 Numismatist ad, dealer George H. Ashley, Jr. of Capital City Coin Exchange in Richmond, Virginia, advertised GEM BU 1921 Peace dollars for sale at $395 each.

Top Population: PCGS MS67 (7, 3/2024), NGC MS67 (8, 3/2024), and CAC MS67 (2:0 stickered:graded, 3/2024).

  • PCGS MS67 #6571357: “The Anne Kate Collection,” Stack’s Bowers, August 15, 2018, Lot 1234 – $132,000. We don’t particularly like this example.
  • NGC MS66+ CAC #4664096-005: Legend Rare Coin Auctions, April 28, 2022, Lot 280 – $21,737.50.
  • NGC MS66 #6332784-007: Heritage Auctions, March 29, 2024, Lot 3407 – $4,920. Dull grey and brown toning.
  • NGC MS66 #6824156-007: Stack’s Bowers, March 28, 2024, Lot 7381 – $6,600. Scattered, mottled toning.
  • NGC MS66 #6332784-007: Stack’s Bowers, August 18, 2023, Lot 6460 – $4,560. Darkly toned.
  • PCGS MS66 #38748316: “The Jlionel51 #8 Ranked PCGS Peace Dollar Set”, Heritage Auctions, July 20, 2023, Lot 3741 – $6,610.80.
  • NGC MS66 #6331189-010: Heritage Auctions, July 20, 2023, Lot 3742 – $6,600.
  • PCGS MS66 CAC #16187498: Heritage Auctions, February 9, 2023, Lot 3783 – $21,600.

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Design

Obverse:

The obverse is dominated by a left-facing bust of a young Miss Liberty wearing a tiara of rays that 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 TRVST appears in a single line of text across the lower quarter of the obverse and spreads across that field section, with the words IN GOD WE appearing to the left of Miss Liberty and the word TRVST located behind her neck. Dots appear between the words IN GOD WE and are also seen on the rim side of the words IN and TRVST. The designer’s AF monogram appears below Liberty’s neck in the lower obverse field.

Reverse:

Reverse of the 1921 Peace dollarThe 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 eagle depiction 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 the 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.

Edge:

The edge of the 1921 Peace dollar is reeded.

Designer

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 notable numismatic artists such 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.

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1921
Denomination: One Dollar (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia Mint)
Mintage: 1,006,473
Alloy: 90% Silver, 10% Copper
Weight: 26.73 g
Diameter: 38.10 mm
Edge: Reeded
OBV Designer: Anthony de Francisci
REV Designer: Anthony de Francisci
Quality: Business Strike

 

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Sources

[1] Zerbe, Farran. “Commemorate peace with a coin for circulation”, The Numismatist Oct. 1920: 443-44. Print.

[2] LaMarre, Tom. “The Dollar Daze of 1921”, Coins Oct. 1999: 56–57. Print.

[3] Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage (Reprint Ed.) Arco Publishing, 1983. Print.

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. The article on the Peace Dollar mentions President Herbert Hoover as approving the design. Hoover was not President in 1921. He was elected in 1928.

    • Tony, thanks for finding that error. I transposed Hoover by mistake from my notes when putting that together. We’ve corrected the error.

      – Charles

      • I think you did a Great job . You are amazing at what you do everyone makes mistakes . So ignore the negativete .
        Good job and as always
        May Godbless you

  2. I believe that this is one of the most important coins of the generation of America declaring Peace and should be valued appropriately a valuable coin of a generation. What do you think a AU55certified and valued at what price

  3. The value of these coins is going thru the roof! AU and MS coins are now in high demand since the mint will bring this coin back in 2021 – 100 year anniversary “commemorative” (actually not a commemorative because the law only allows two per year and those are already established, therefore it will be a collector legal tender coin).

  4. I have a 1921 and a 1923 silver dollar similar to the one shown. I’m interested in finding out more about them and what they are worth. I also have a 1948 Benjamin Franklin silver half dollar I would like to find out about as well.

  5. My understanding is that the use of a V instead of a U in the word TRVST wasn’t a nod to Victory but rather a common artistic practice of the time. As part of a harkening to classic and in particular Roman styles, many artists of the time used the Latin alphabet rather than the modern English alphabet. Latin had only 24 letters: V and I both did triple duty as consonants, vowels, and numerals. The use of “U” as a separate vowel didn’t come about until the 16th and 17th centuries CE. In addition de Francisci’s Italian background and the style of his portrait would further support the idea that he was making reference to Roman practices.

    It’s worth noting that the Standing Liberty Quarter, which entered circulation only five years earlier, uses the same lettering convention on not just IN GOD WE TRVST but also E PRLVRIBVS VNVM.

  6. I’ve been hard at studying coins and have thousands of hours doing such. I find the Die makers great artists of their passion. It must be such to mass produce such wonderful images! Weighing coins is one that is greatly needed upon each coin upon start. It’s imparitve at start as it determines so much upon the limb going further. So in weights and measures its lead me to find so so rare as it is ive foundi errors! All Die makers I find to be great artists and Mr. George Morgan I have great respect for, and so many reasons apply. His respect for another Die maker ‘Artist’ says lots for Mr Morgan as well as the Art he has creatated! It’s rather sad to realize that so many wonderful pieces of his were put into bullion once again. Gold, Silver, copper ect are all of Art we as Americans treasure more than most realize. Pockets decades ago of most all of us show just how true these words stand. Johnny

  7. I have a complete set of Peace dollars. Every year and every mintmark. Only 2 that I don’t have is the 1934D Double Die and one of the 2/1922 no mint mark or Philly. All of them are grade AU to BU or better.

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