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Peace Dollar Set Features 24 Coins
By Ginger Rapsus, Numismatic News
October 16, 2012

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The Peace dollar is a beautiful coin in its own right. First struck in 1921, it has always been overshadowed by the Morgan silver dollar immediately preceding it. Indeed, the last Morgan dollar was minted in 1921, the first year of the Peace dollar.

Only minted for 10 years, 24 coins to a set, the Peace dollar collection does not include so many dates and mintmarks as the Morgan dollar collection. Peace dollars are not seen in deep mirror prooflike, as so many Morgans. Toned Peace dollars are seldom seen. There are no major varieties or Carson City mintmarked coins.

But all this can work in favor of building a set of Peace dollars. There are no real stoppers to this set. Coins are available in Mint State. The coin is attractive and was issued to commemorate the peace treaty after World War I. Some years ago, a dealer who specialized in these coins advertised them as “our only coin commemorating peace!”

2012 U.S. Coin Digest: Dollars
2012 U.S. Coin Digest: Dollars

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Peace dollars were minted from 1921-1928, and again in 1934 and 1935. These hefty, 90 percent silver coins are the last of the old-fashioned silver dollars, bearing a Liberty head and not a Presidential portrait. Anthony DeFrancisci designed the Peace dollar; his wife was the model for the Liberty head on the obverse. Peace dollars were minted at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco.

The first issue, 1921, is actually a one-year type coin, due to its high relief strike. Just over one million were minted, all struck in the last few days of 1921.

Philadelphia issues from 1922-1925 are fairly common and readily available. Over 51 million of the 1922-P were minted, and over 30 million of the 1923-P. Many are seen in Mint State, or close to Mint State. If grandma put away a small hoard of silver dollars, odds are that a few of these coins were in that group. One of the coins that got me started in the hobby was a 1922 Peace dollar.

Mintage of the P-mint coins dipped in 1926 and fell below one million in 1927.

Peace dollars were minted at Denver and San Francisco throughout the 1920s. Dollars were minted at all three mints in 1922, 1923, 1926 and 1927; coins were minted at San Francisco each year of the series except 1921. The 1927-S had a mintage below one million, but is not priced much higher than more common dates. All 1927-dated silver dollars may be underrated.

The 1928-P dollar was once thought to be struck for use in cornerstones. This has long been disproved, although the coin is fairly scarce. The mintage is low: 360,649.

Peace dollars were not minted again until 1934. Dollars were minted at all three mints. The 1934-S is the key to the set. Mint State coins are scarce, with choice pieces commanding a good price. Some years ago, a relative found one in a hoard of silver dollars she kept in a jewelry box. She showed it to me, and I told her what it was. When I graduated from high school later that year, the dollar was enclosed in her card.

The 1934-S is known to silver dollar collectors, but the 1934-P had a mintage below one million; this coin, too, may be underrated.

Collectors who appreciate historical coins may want a specimen dated 1935, as this was the final year of the silver dollar. Coins were minted at Philadelphia and San Francisco. Dollar coins, struck in copper-nickel, appeared in 1971, with a portrait of Dwight Eisenhower. Some were made in 40 percent silver for collectors. But the Peace dollar of 1935 ends the set of 90 percent silver dollars made for commerce and actually used.

Building a set of Peace dollars can take some looking for a discriminating collector. While the early P-mint coins are rather common in Mint State, it pays to seek choice coins with bright luster. Certain S-mint coins of the 1920s do not come well-struck, and it may take patience and a lot of searching to locate a 1921 that is just right. A numismatist who takes his time can be rewarded with a beautiful set of Peace dollars.

The full set of 24 Peace dollars does not contain any big rarities. The Morgan dollars have the 1895 and the 1893-S. Collectors who desire a basic set, one of each date and mintmark, can put a set together fairly quickly, and enjoy the pride of owning a complete set.

I once heard a story of a young collector in the 1950s who built an entire set of Peace dollars in one afternoon looking through bank rolls. Although this is not possible to accomplish now, a young collector, or someone who does not have a large collecting budget, can look through common boxes of silver dollars at a major convention. He may come away with a good selection of dates and mintmarks. Maybe no 1928 will turn up, but a good number of Peace dollars can be found this way for little more than the price of bullion to build a nice basic set.

That tiny mintmark is easily overlooked. Carefully examine the reverse of that 1923 or 1926 dollar and you may find a mintmark above the tail of the eagle. Bring a good magnifier, too. Sometimes the mintmark looks like a blob to the naked eye.

Besides studying the coins as a numismatist would, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the design. The lovely Liberty head on the obverse is not a matronly looking Liberty, as on early silver coins. Liberty does not resemble a goddess, as on the Classic head gold coins or the Standing Liberty quarter. The Liberty on the Peace dollar wears her hair loosely bundled, with a few tendrils flying and resembles a young lady of the era.

The eagle on the reverse does not look defiant or menacing. It is not a fanciful looking bird, as on the famous small eagle silver coins of the 18th century. This bird is not in an unnatural position, holding arrows or displaying a shield. The eagle on the Peace dollar sits on a mountain, wings folded, just as a real bird might perch in the mountains. This bird may be described as looking peaceful, as it watches the rays of the sunrise.

A collector who really enjoys the Peace dollar does not have to stop at a basic set. He can build a grading set, one of each grade. It may be tough to find lower grades, but I have seen well-worn specimens. Try to find an error coin, an off-center strike. A few varieties, with differences in the sun’s rays and mintmarks, are known, along with a 1934-D doubled-die obverse. Find a coin from the Redfield Hoard, or the Treasury release of the 1970s in its original packaging. Read all you can about this wonderful coin. New research and books are released frequently. When a major collection of silver dollars is sold at auction, obtain a copy of the catalog and read the descriptions of the Peace dollars. You can learn even more about the history, grading and scarcity of certain dates.

Some proof specimens of the 1921 and 1922 exist in matte and satin proof.

Perhaps the final word on Peace dollars will never be settled. 1964-D dollars of the Peace design were struck in 1965, at a time when great changes were coming to the metallic composition of American coinage. Over 316,000 of these dollars were minted, but all were later melted. It’s a shame that not even one or two were saved as reminders of a challenging time in United States coinage history. Will one or more turn up sometime?

The Peace dollar comprises a short set, but has so much to offer a collector. It’s not difficult to build a set. There is always more to learn. And any collector would be proud to own a set of the last 90 percent silver dollars.

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