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Peace Dollar, 1922-1935 : A Collector’s Guide

1923 Peace Dollar. Image: David Lawrence Rare Coins.
1923 Peace Dollar. Image: David Lawrence Rare Coins.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

A New Dollar for a New Era of Peace

Morgan Dollars were minted from 1878 through 1904, and then once more in 1921. Following World War I, the so-called “War to End All Wars”, a movement–led by former American Numismatic Association (ANA) president Farran Zerbe–grew to issue a coin that celebrated victory and commemorated the peace. Its production was made possible by the same Pittman Act (1918) that melted hundreds of millions of Morgan silver dollars for their bullion to help Great Britain during the war.

Originally proposed as a half dollar, the coin was instead made a dollar issue and prominent sculptors were invited to participate in a design competition. Ultimately, Anthony de Francisci’s design was selected, and his Liberty portrait was modeled after his young and beautiful wife, Teresa.

Anthony de Francisci’s original reverse design depicted an eagle breaking a sword, meant to convey the disarmament of the warring parties (as in the Biblical ‘swords into plowshares’), but some in the government felt that the image suggested defeat. On orders from the Treasury Department, United States Mint Chief Engraver George T. Morgan modified the design to remove the sword, making those changes without de Francisci’s approval.

The Mint struck the first Peace Dollars in December 1921, for official release in January 1922.

A Lower Relief Peace Dollar Emerges

Dollars minted in 1921 and just over 30,000 produced in 1922 were struck in high relief, but this caused problems in striking and maintaining die life, so the Mint ordered the relief to be lowered in early 1922 and for all subsequent issues. The Mint melted down the high relief 1922 circulation strikes, but a small number of Proof versions survived.

Peace Dollars were struck yearly through 1928, and then again in 1934 and 1935 as backing for silver certificates. Unfortunately, the Peace Dollar proved to be no more successful than the Morgan as a circulating coin, except in some parts of the rural American West.

The Peace Dollar Almost Returned in 1965

Remarkably, in 1964, Congress authorized a program created by Senator Mike Mansfield (D-MT) to strike 45 million Peace Dollars, and starting in May 1965, the Denver Mint struck over 316,076 1964-dated coins that Mint Director Eva Adams categorized as trial strikes. However, objections were raised about issuing a coin that seemed to be designed only for the benefit of special interests and speculators, and those complaints, coupled with rising silver prices, resulted in the Treasury halting further production and ordering all 1964-D Peace Dollars to be melted down. None of the struck coins were monetized, which meant that they remain government property and are illegal to own.

As far as is known, all of the 1964-D dollars were recalled and melted. Rumors have circulated for years that at least one example is held in secret by an affluent collector, perhaps in a safe box in Europe. Additional 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles (also illegal to own) have turned up in recent years, only to be confiscated by the Federal Government. In 2013, PCGS announced that it would offer a $10,000 USD reward for the opportunity just to see and authenticate a 1964-D Peace Dollar.

 

Accepting PCGS’ reward offer would likely be a bad idea, as the government could have ordered the company to reveal the coin’s owner or go-betweens if it so desired. But if nothing else, the grading service added to the allure and story of the mythical mid-century Peace Dollar.

Unfortunately, no samples of the 1964-D were saved for the National Numismatic Collection, so we will never know how they might have differed from the issues of 1921-1935.

The Peace Dollar Returned (Kind of) in 2021

To mark the centennial of both the 1921 Morgan dollar and the 1921 Peace Dollar, coin collector and ANA President Tom Uram lobbied Congress to pass a bill authorizing the production of commemorative Morgan and Peace silver dollar coins. Congress took up the bill, and on January 5, 2021, the 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act was signed into law. The Mint used advanced computer technology to scan the original designs to make the modern versions resemble them as much as possible.

Unlike the original 1921 issues, however, which were .900 fine, the modern Peace Dollar and Morgan dollar coins are struck in .999% silver. CoinWeek does not consider these coins true Peace Dollars; instead, they are numismatic tribute coins, which we will discuss separately.

Are Peace Dollars Collectible? What Are They Worth (Generally Speaking)?

Peace Dollars are among the most popularly collected U.S. coins. Nearly two million coins from this series have been graded by CAC, NGC, and PCGS, and the overwhelming majority have been certified by NGC and PCGS. For common dates, the value of a Peace Dollar is tied directly to the current silver spot price with a numismatic premium of approximately $5 to 10 dollars, depending on the coin’s condition. Certified coins in higher grades command significant premiums, as these are the kinds of coin most desired by coin collectors.

Scarcer dates, like the 1928 or the 1934-S, command significant premiums in all grades. The extremely rare 1922 High Relief Matte Proof, of which there are about a dozen known, has a value of over $400,000.

Varieties

The Peace Dollar is known to have many die varieties. Some are pronounced, and others require a sophisticated understanding of the series to identify. Peace Dollar varieties are categorized as VAMS, so named for Morgan and Peace Dollar variety specialists Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis. Some of the most popular Peace Dollar varieties are also enumerated in Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton’s Cherrypicker’s Guide (Whitman).

In-Depth Peace Dollar Date Analysis by CoinWeek

1928-S Peace Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers / CoinWeek.
1928-S Peace Dollar. Image: Stack’s Bowers / CoinWeek.

Additional Peace Dollar Coverage on CoinWeek

What Happened to the 1964-D Peace Dollars?

 

In this CoinWeek Exclusive video, retired Denver Mint Foreman Michael Lantz discusses the 1965 production of the 1964-D Peace Dollar and what became of the coins after the Mint pulled the plug on the project.

Collecting Strategies: Peace Dollars – Mintage vs. Price in MS63

MS63. Image: CoinWeek.
MS63 Peace Dollars. Image: CoinWeek.

CoinWeek offers this insightful market analysis, which examines each Peace Dollar in the series to determine the correlation between mintage and price in the popular collector grade of MS63.

The Peace Dollar “Midnight Stream”

 

In 2018, CoinWeek Editor Charles Morgan gave this epic breakdown of the coin’s secondary market. While some market data has changed in recent years, the information provided in this stream will help all beginner to intermediate collectors better understand the series.

Type Peace Dollar CAC Price Analysis

CAC analysis from CoinWeek IQ.

As part of our CoinWeek IQ series of advanced collector articles, Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker discussed the coin industry and how structural changes contributed to the last coin market downturn. There is more to a coin’s value than its scarcity and grade, and collectors and investors need to have a true picture of the economic structure of this collectible category. A major facet of this article is discussing CAC-approved Peace Dollars and their price performance through 2016.

Grading Peace Dollars with Ray Herz

 

If you want to sharpen your grading skills, you will want to check out this CoinWeek Exclusive video of Ray Herz’s presentation on grading Peace Dollars. Ray goes into great detail about grading the series in Mint State. This is critical information for the intermediate to advanced collector.

Design

Obverse:

Liberty faces left. Her hair is tied in a bun but with several strands flowing freely to the right at the back of her neck. A tiara with long rays is placed above her forehead, the rays intersecting the widely spaced letters BE of LIBERTY that arcs across the top inside a smooth rim. The designer’s initials AF, displayed as overlapping letters, are at the base of the neck. IN GOD WE TRVST (a classical U that looks like a V) stretches horizontally across the coin, broken into two parts (IN GOD WE and TRVST) by Liberty’s neck. Centered dots separate the words and lie on the outer side of the phrase; none are located between WE and TRVST, the location of Liberty’s neck. The date is at the bottom, with the front point of the neck truncation slightly overlapping the 9.

Reverse:

The reverse displays an eagle perched on a rock, with an olive branch extended out to the right. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and E PLURIBUS UNUM below form two concentric arcs at the top of the coin inside a smooth rim, the eagle’s head overlapping S and U of the phrase. Where visible, the words are separated by centered, somewhat triangular dots. ONE DOLLAR in a horizontal line intersects the eagle at the lower part of the coin, ONE to the left and DOLLAR to the right. Behind that text and the eagle, thin rays emanate upward and slightly to the left from the edge of the rock base, as if rays of the sun. The word PEACE appears at the base of the rock at the bottom of the design.

The coins were minted at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco; D and S mint marks are located at the bottom left, below ONE and between the eagle’s tail and the rim.

Edge:

The edge of the Peace Dollar is reeded.

Coin Specifications

Peace Silver Dollar
Years Of Issue: 1921-28, 1934-35
Mintage (Circulation): High: 51,737,000 (1922, Normal Relief); Low: 360,649 (1928)
Mintage (Proof): 10 Estimated (all 1922)
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

 

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Additional Resources

Bowers, Q. David. The Experts Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins. Whitman Publishing.

–. A Buyer’s Guide to Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States. Zyrus Press.

–. A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Coins. Doubleday.

Burdette, Roger W. A Guide Book of Peace Dollars. Whitman Publishing.

Fey, Michael S. and Jeff Oxman. The Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties. RCI Publishing.

Fivaz, Bill and J.T. Stanton. CherryPickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

Standish, Michael “Miles”. The Morgan Dollar: America’s Love Affair with a Legendary Coin, Featuring the Coins of the Coronet Collection. Whitman Publishing.

Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Arco Publishing.

Van Allen, Leroy and A. George Mallis. Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars. Worldwide Ventures, Inc.

Yeoman, R.S and Jeff Garrett (editor). The Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Whitman Publishing.

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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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4 COMMENTS

    • If you search for pictures of other Peace dollars you’ll find that many of them have slight differences in lettering. It’s not an error – just like the use of a Roman “V” in place of the modern letter U is an artistic device and not a “mistake”.

      P.S. I think you mean “a lot” rather than “allot”; they’re *very* different words!

  1. I found a 28 peace dollar in a letter with a birthcert from a person that just passed away he was born 1928 the letter was so old it fell apart when n I took it out of the strong box it was in.the cert was somewhat bad but you can still read his name.sent the coin to be cert ms68 wow I was blown away ,this is a new coin for the girls collection

  2. Now you do your research: check lettering for highs :lowes: wides:closeness:an any other anomalous you can research an find 2 help you get the most accurate price possible

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