Business strike 1921 Morgan dollars are common, but proofs are significant rarities. None were officially made for collector sale, but the grading services recognize two varieties: the Chapman proofs and the Zerbe proofs. Certified Zerbe proofs tend to be from VAM-1AG or VAM-47 dies, and do not show all characteristics of proof Morgan dollars of earlier dates in the series.
The Chapman proofs are much less controversial, and have the appearance of proof Morgan dollars from the early 20th century. Relative to the 1921 Morgan dollars made for commerce, the wreath is unusually well-struck. The dentils are squared off, and the hair above the ear shows nearly full detail. The surfaces lack the bagmarks characteristic of even the highest-graded business strikes. The fields are nicely mirrored. Leroy Van Allen has not assigned a VAM number to the Chapman proofs, but die markers (as listed at VAMworld.com) include a diagonal line above the first T in STATES, and another die line between the wreath and the right-side star.
The Heritage July 12-15 Summer FUN Auction features a Chapman Proof 1921 dollar, a brilliant and beautiful Gem certified by NGC. Both diagnostic die lines are clearly visible on this coin, No flaws are apparent, and the eye appeal is remarkable. Walter Breen (1988) states that the Zerbe proofs were coined first. When Henry Chapman learned of their existence, he paid a visit to George Morgan, still employed at the Philadelphia Mint 43 years after his namesake design was first issued. Chapman, per Breen, compelled Morgan to strike 10 proofs, “thus creating one of the major rarities of this century with the Morgan dollars’ final gasp.” Q. David Bowers (1993) called the issue “exceedingly rare. Perhaps only 15 were struck.”
NGC has certified 23 coins as Chapman proofs, mostly as PR63 and PR64. PCGS has certified 42 pieces as Chapman proofs, generally in PR62 through PR64. Although the combined total of 65 pieces is multiples of the estimated mintage, it is likely that several examples have been submitted several times during the past 30-plus years of third-party grading. It is also possible that some of the coins certified as Chapman proofs are actually Zerbe proofs, a separately collected variety. Bowers (2016) wrote that “I have only seen a handful in 65 years that I would call mirrored Chapman proofs.” There is no doubt about the Chapman proof status of this prominently mirrored specimen.
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