Jeff Garrett: Collecting 1921 Morgan and Peace Dollars

There’s more to these historic coins than you might think

 

By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the last Morgan Silver Dollar and the first Peace Silver Dollar. The 1921 Morgan and Peace Dollars are also front and center this year as the United States Mint has announced 2021 examples of both issues to commemorate the centennial.

The Mint will strike a minimum of six different coins in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. Various finishes and privy marks have been discussed, but exact details have not yet been announced. The excitement surrounding these new issues will surely spur even greater demand for the vintage 1921 examples.

Morgan Silver Dollars are named after their designer, George T. Morgan. The coins first appeared in 1878 and were produced regularly until 1904, when demand was low and the bullion supply scarce. Production of Morgan Dollars resumed in 1921. Near the end of 1921, production began on the Peace Silver Dollar to commemorate the end of World War I. The coins were designed by Anthony de Francisci and placed into circulation on January 3, 1922.

The 100th anniversary has already brought an incredible spike in prices for the two basic issues of 1921 Morgan and Peace Dollars. When the US Mint begins to release its modern versions, demand for the vintage coins is sure to increase even more. Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars are already two of the most popular coin series, and the re-issue will hopefully bring new collectors to the hobby.

The 1921 Silver Dollars are more complicated than they might first appear. There are many versions and possible issues to consider. You might go for the basic issues or dive deeper and purchase one of the more scarce or incredibly rare issues. The following information should prove helpful for anyone considering adding examples of 1921 Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars to their collection.

1921 Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike

  • Mintage: 44,690,000

When the Morgan Silver Dollar was resurrected in 1921, some slight design modifications were made. The strike seems to be flatter in appearance, while the relief is noticeably lower. This is one of the most plentiful coins in the series. To date, NGC has graded 135,673 examples. It’s very common in grades through MS 65, but the coin is somewhat scarce in MS 66 and very rare in MS 67. Only 14 coins have been graded in MS 67 and none higher. Despite the huge mintage, Superb Gem examples are much rarer than early S-Mint issues of the type. I highly recommend the MS 66 issues (713 graded) at current price levels.

1921 Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike Prooflike

  • Mintage: 44,690,000

For some reason, Prooflike 1921 Morgan Silver Dollars are very scarce. Most examples are somewhat striated in appearance and look quite different from earlier issues. Only 779 1921 Morgan Silver Dollars have been graded as Prooflike by NGC. Just 44 coins have been graded MS 65 PL and only four as MS 66 PL. A single example has been graded MS 67 PL. Any 1921 Morgan Dollar graded as Prooflike would be a great find, and worthy of your collection.

1921 Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike Deep Prooflike

  • Mintage: 44,690,000

Deep Prooflike 1921 Morgan Silver Dollars are quite rare in any grade. NGC has only graded 163 coins, the finest six being MS 65. These rarely appear on the market, and finding an example would be quite the achievement. In 2015, an MS 65 DPL coin sold for $4,700 at auction.

1921-D Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike

  • Mintage: 20,345,000

The 1921-D Morgan Silver Dollar is quite common in circulated condition and grades below MS 66. NGC has graded 21,157 coins in every condition. Gem examples can be difficult to locate, with only 19 coins graded NGC MS 67, and a single MS 68. The NGC auction record for the issue is $7,800 in 2019. When collectors become more aware of the 2021 anniversary, there will be intense demand for a coin from each Mint. This and the 1921-S Morgan Dollar will increase in price considerably this year.

1921-D Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike Prooflike

  • Mintage: 20,345,000

Prooflike examples of the 1921-D Morgan Dollar are very rare in all grades. Only 195 coins have been seen by NGC in Prooflike, with the finest being a single MS 66 PL example. If you are lucky enough to encounter one of these, buy the coin if the price is within reason. As mentioned above, Prooflike coins of this year are often striated in appearance. Be sure to only buy coins with good eye appeal.

1921-D Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike Deep Prooflike

  • Mintage: 20,345,000

These are incredibly rare, with only 21 coins certified by NGC in all grades. The highest four coins have been graded MS 65. An MS 65 DPL coin sold for $7,050 in 2013. These very rarely appear on the market. This 1921-D Morgan Dollar is much rarer than early S-Mint issues with Deep Prooflike surfaces.

1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike

  • Mintage: 21,695

The 1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar is moderately rarer than the 1921-D in most grades. Coins are mostly plentiful through MS 65. The biggest issue for 1921-S Morgan Silver Dollars is the strike. The eagle’s feathers are often very weak and can sometimes be confused with wear. Be sure to only buy high-grade, well-struck examples. A single coin has been graded MS 67, which sold at auction for $19,200 in 2018.

1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike Prooflike

  • Mintage: 21,695

The 1921-S Prooflike Morgan Silver Dollar is a great rarity. NGC has only graded 19 coins with this designation. The finest graded for the issue is a single MS 65 PL that sold for $12,650 in 2012. If you’re lucky enough to ever see this coin, buy it!

1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar: Circulation Strike Deep Prooflike

  • Mintage: 21,695

The 1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar is ultra-rare with Deep Prooflike surfaces. NGC has graded only one coin as MS 60 DPL. None have appeared at auction certified by NGC or any other grading service. You would be lucky to ever see one of these, let alone buy one.

1921 Morgan Silver Dollar: Zerbe Proof Finish

  • Mintage: Unknown

The story of the 1921 Zerbe Proof is best relayed by Wayne Miller in his 1982 reference, The Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook:

“In 1920, the American Numismatic Association, through the considerable energies of Farran Zerbe — one of its most active and influential members — was clamoring for the release of a new Peace dollar. The first release was delayed until the end of 1921. So, to appease Zerbe and his numismatic colleagues, a number of presentation-quality 1921 Morgan’s were produced. The exact mintage is unknown, with estimates of 20 to 200 most commonly cited.”

The typical example has swirling die polish lines with mirror surfaces. True Proof examples also have sharp edges and are well-struck. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have cherrypicked a few of these from dealers who did not realize they were Zerbe Proofs. NGC has certified 75 coins as 1921 Zerbe Proofs. Only two have been graded PF 67. The auction record for an NGC-certified issue is $23,500 for a PF 66 example.

1921 Morgan Silver Dollar: Chapman Proof Finish

  • Mintage: Unknown

While some dispute the true status of the Zerbe Proofs, there is no doubt about the much more deeply mirrored Chapman Proofs. According to Walter Breen:

Henry Chapman (prominent coin dealer of the era) went to Mint Engraver George Morgan and obtained 10 Proofs of much higher quality, thus creating one of the major rarities of this century with the Morgan dollars’ last gasp.”

Breen’s estimate of the mintage is absolutely low, as quite a few more examples than that are known. It is still a very rare coin and is in great demand from serious collectors of the series. An amazing PF 66+ example sold for $132,000 in 2020. Chapman Proof 1921 Morgan Dollars are one of my favorite coins in the series.

1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar: Zerbe Proof

  • Mintage: Unknown

The 1921-S Zerbe Proof Morgan Silver Dollar is an extremely rare coin. Very few are known to exist. Its story was relayed by Stuart Mosher in the July 1955 issue of The Numismatist:

“About 10 years ago, Farran Zerbe, father of the Peace dollar and our first American numismatic missionary, told me an intriguing story regarding a branch mint Morgan Dollar issued in Proof.

“In 1921, he was in California awaiting the arrival of the dies that were to be used to strike the first Peace dollars at the San Francisco Mint. The Mint phoned him that the dies had arrived, and he hastened there to see them put into operation. The new 1921 dies had arrived all right, but they turned out to be dies for the old Morgan design, which had not been coined since 1904, and not the dies for the Peace dollar, which he had worked so hard and long to promote.

“Mr. Zerbe told me that he suggested to the chagrined Mint officials that they could assuage his disappointment somewhat if they would strike off a few Morgan Dollars from the new 1921 dies in Proof condition. They were happy to oblige and manufactured about two dozen, which he bought and later handed out to his various coin-collecting friends throughout the country. While I have never seen one of these Proofs, it is logical to suppose some of them are extant.”

Three or four coins do indeed exist, and they rarely come to market.

1921 Peace Dollars

  • Mintage: 1,006,473

The 1921 Peace Dollar was struck in high relief and is one of the most popular silver dollars ever made by the US Mint. The coins were struck at the very end of 1921 and released in early 1922. They saw extensive circulation, and well-worn coins are not unusual. NGC has certified 17,018 in all grades. Because of the coins’ first-year issue status, they are readily available in Mint State. Gems can be quite rare, and only eight have been certified as MS 67.

The biggest issue when buying a 1921 Peace Dollar is the strike. Most coins are weakly struck in the center of the obverse and reverse. Fully struck coins are rarely encountered, but the 1921 Peace Dollar is very beautiful when found with nice surfaces and a nice strike. The demand for 1921 Peace Dollars has already skyrocketed, and prices have jumped more than 50% for most grades. Even with the considerable increase, prices may surge even more when the US Mint releases its modern version.

1921 Peace Dollars: Satin and Matte Proof Finishes

  • Mintage: Unknown

Two different versions of the 1921 Peace Dollar are known in Proof. Most often seen are the Satin Finish coins with amazing strikes and swirling satin finishes. These majestic coins are amazing to behold. It’s great to see the incredible strike and detail the artist originally envisioned this issue to have. NGC has certified 21 coins with Satin Finishes and only three coins with Matte surfaces. The auction record for an NGC Satin Finish example is around $100,000 in 2014.

As previously stated, the Silver Dollars of 1921 are much more complicated than one would first guess. The US Mint will be issuing multiple examples of the 2021 version later this year. Whether you are happy with just one of the new issues or want to explore your possibilities more fully, the above information should provide a road map of the possible combinations. I can only hope the US Mint produces coins that live up to the incredible artistry of the originals.

Jeff Garrett bio

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I have a few Peace Dollars and a few that aren’t. Don’t know the worth, just been hanging on to them. They are all1921.

  2. Have a 1921 silver Morgan dollar it was left to by my dad the year he was born it’s in a case it looks very good how do I find out what it’s worth thank you God bless

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