Dollar Represents Longing for Peace|
May 06, 2010
The Peace silver dollar design was initially proposed as a commemorative, yet it would never have been produced at all were it not for the fact that the United States had melted so many silver dollars that it ran into issues of having enough coins to be the backing for Silver Certificates.
This combination of factors makes the Peace dollar interesting but even more interesting is a Peace dollar collection and what happened to make some dates tough while others are seemingly available. What is perhaps most ironic is that the Peace dollar today still does not receive the same attention as the Morgan dollar that it replaced. It probably never will get as much attention, but perhaps we can close the gap a bit.
The lack of attention for Peace dollars can probably be traced at least in part to the fact that no Peace dollar ever slid across a bar in the Old West. The Morgan dollar is certainly a reflection of an historical time. That said, the Peace dollar is also a reflection and perhaps even a better one of an historical period of time as well. The problem is that they are reflections of different historical times and while many people have a great interest and attachment to the Old West, most do not feel quite the same way when it comes to the Roaring ’20s.
Of course, there were many interesting aspects of the 1920s and the Peace dollar was a part of that period. It was a time when the world was still trying to recover from World War I. To say that the war had been a shock to many would be putting it mildly. It had been an event that literally caused a generation to become lost, having seen the horror of what modern warfare at the time could do. The idea of a lasting peace was on virtually everyone’s mind following the peace conference in Versailles, France, in 1919 following World War I, which began in Europe in 1914, pulled in the United States in 1917 and finally ended Nov. 11, 1918.
With revolutions, coups and putsches sweeping Europe even as diplomats were trying to put the pieces back together, people were simply in disbelief over what had happened.
Years of war at a previously unimaginable cost in money and lives had not produced the result many expected. In addition, the war had not been like any war in the past. There were no glorious charges, but rather mechanized conflict with poison gas replacing swords and tanks and planes replacing the horse. In the place of honor and glory many saw only mass slaughter.
Even though the war was not as long and the casualties were not as high, the people of the United States wanted their comfortable and familiar pre-1914 world back as much as anyone in Europe.
The hope of avoiding such future conflicts found was expressed in Republican Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding’s promise of a return to normalcy. The hope found its way to the American Numismatic Association convention in election year 1920 when Farran Zerbe delivered a paper calling for a silver dollar commemorating the peace between the United States and Germany. He was certainly not alone in that feeling and although the idea of a commemorative was never approved the word PEACE would make it onto the new dollar and give the coin series its name.
In fact, plans were being made to produce new silver dollars. A competition was organized with the nation’s leading artists including Adolph A. Weinman, who had designed the Walking Liberty half dollar and Mercury dime, John Flanagan, who would later have his design used on the Washington quarter, Victor D. Brenner who designed the Lincoln cent, Hermon MacNeil, who designed the Standing Liberty quarter, Chester Beach, Henry Hering, the assistant to Augustus Saint-Gaudens who completed the work on the Saint-Gaudens eagle and double eagle after Saint-Gaudens died, Robert Aitken who had created the Panama-Pacific $50 commemoratives, Robert Taft McKenzie and Anthony de Francisci. There has probably never been a competition in history that saw so many of the artists who submitted designs already having at least one circulating coin or commemorative to their credit. In that list of notables it would probably have been seen as something of a surprise that Anthony de Francisci would ultimately be judged the winner.
The competition was nice, but the production of silver dollars could not wait as the United states had been forced to take out short term loans at 2 percent interest because over 270 million silver dollars had been melted as a result of the 1918 Pittman Act. Much of that silver was sent to India. When the dollars were melted, the Silver Certificates that they backed had to be withdrawn.
New silver dollars were needed to retire the loans and while the competition was conducted and the de Francisci design made ready for use, there would be heavy Morgan dollar production at Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco in 1921 to begin the process of replacing the melted dollars.
Realistically, there would be some problems in determining the final de Francisci design as on his initial efforts he had depicted an eagle standing on a broken sword on one while the eagle was actually breaking a sword on the other. The intention might have been good but that was a little too dramatic for some when it came to getting across the notion of peace.
The matter went all the way up to the newly elected President Harding and ultimately it was decided to simply avoid the whole broken sword idea and have the eagle with an olive branch instead.
There was another problem in the relief. It was too high. That did not stop some 1921 production, but it saw complaints regarding stacking problems so the relief had to be lowered. That matter went to Chief Engraver George Morgan, who was not all that happy about things anyway, as it was his design that was being replaced. While Morgan had no history of giving outside artists problems that was when the designs being replaced were not his. He seemed to feel a little differently when it was his design.
Aware of the potential for problems James Earle Fraser who had designed the Buffalo nickel offered to help lower the relief while keeping the basic design intact. In the end, he was too late as Morgan went ahead on his own much to the displeasure of Fraser. The reported reactions of de Francisci vary but whatever his real thoughts the report that Morgan had simply taken a board to the electroplate suggests that everyone was not totally pleased with the process.
The matter of the reverse, however, was basically solved even though it was something of a far cry from the original idea of a dollar, “of an appropriate design commemorative of the termination of the war between the Imperial German Government and the Government and people of the United States.”
The obverse was final as well although it would be the subject of some criticism as the young Liberty was not popular with everyone. The Wall Street Journal seemed especially offended, calling Liberty a Flapper, after the young stylish women of the period, although in a way that was appropriate as de Francisci had used his young wife essentially as a model for young American women. At the time, young women in many cases were Flappers even if the Wall Street Journal did not like the fact.
We cannot be sure precisely what happened but after a mintage of 1,006,473 Peace dollars in 1921, the version that appeared in 1922 had changes with the most significant being a lowered relief. The 1921 Peace dollar had higher relief and concave fields, heavy letters, three berries on the branch and 22 rays while the 1922 would have lower relief, flat fields, light letters, four berries and 25 rays. There are a few known examples of the 1922 with high relief and they appear to be a special creation or at minimum a special distribution having never been generally released, The few known appear to be satin finish proofs with perhaps about half a dozen known with the Norweb sale example realizing a price of $35,200.
The situation makes the 1921 an interesting coin. A long-standing question is whether it is a different type or not. It certainly is different and the only real question is whether you and others decide it is a different type as that could greatly influence demand and also price.
Some were certainly saved as a new design and others were pulled from circulation quickly in speculation that it would be recalled because of the stacking problem. That makes it an available date despite a low mintage, but one where demand tends to always be greater than the supply resulting in a $125 VG-8 price while an MS-60 is $260 and an MS-65 $1,925. It should also be noted that light strikes are common especially in the hair details on the obverse and eagle’s neck on the reverse.
In circulated grades, the 1921 is actually a tougher date than some others with lower mintages as it trails only the 1928 in price and the 1928 is natural as it had the lowest Peace dollar mintage at 360,649 resulting in a VG-8 listing of $345. In both cases neither the 1921 or the 1928 appears to have surfaced in any numbers when large numbers of Treasury bags hit the market in the early 1960s. That made a difference in supplies of all grades as both if not released immediately appear to have trickled out over the years at a time when there was little numismatic saving. That meant few were ever saved and creates the situation where these Philadelphia dates especially in lower grades tend to be tougher than their mintages suggest.
In the case of other circulated Peace dollars, there are few that command any sort of major premium price despite the fact that a number like the 1927, 1927-S and 1934 all had mintages of fewer than one million.
The one date that commands a slightly higher price is the 1928-S. It is over $30 in VG-8, but basically circulated Peace dollars are not expensive. While large numbers may not be found in a lower circulated grade like VG-8, there are sometimes surprisingly good supplies in grades of XF-40 and AU-50.
The mintage pattern of the Peace dollar would create a division of sorts in the set. The pressure from Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon was to have a large mintage quickly as he wanted to retire the notes paying 2 percent interest with silver dollars. After 1925, however, the worst of the crisis was over, and the mintages began to taper off as additional dollars were not needed and the mints needed to return to the production of other denominations that had suffered during the period of heavy production.
The last 10-million mintage would be in 1925. There would be a couple slightly higher totals like the 1926-S, which was over 5 million, but otherwise totals tended to be no more than a couple million pieces and that makes the later dates a tougher group generally.
Of course, they were silver dollars and in the case of silver dollars the mintages are only one factor in their availability today. In many cases, the coins were not placed into circulation immediately but rather over an extended period of time. Whether any or many were saved as they were released becomes the major question influencing prices today.
When anyone considers an MS-60 Peace dollar set there are readily available dates at less than $30. That makes the Peace dollar an easily acquired type coin and it gives those collecting a set a number of dates that are fast and inexpensive to acquire. The key in MS-60 is the 1934-S. It had a total mintage of 1,011,000 and with that mintage it is natural to question why the 1934-S would be at $1,800 today.
In fact, the reason can basically be summed up as a missed opportunity. Q. David Bowers in his book American Coin Treasures and Hoards suggests it was simply not recognized, stating, “The 1934-S was not realized for its rarity until the 1950s.” By that time even though a couple smaller hoards of hundreds of piece emerged it was too late for large supplies to be found as the bulk of the mintage had been released and had circulated.
In MS-65 the key date is neither the low mintage 1928, which is the most expensive in circulated grades, nor the 1934-S, which is generally not available in Mint State, but rather the $27,500 1925-S and $29,500 1928-S a couple very similar dates that have been moving back and forth in price over recent years as the two key Peace dollars.
The 1925-S and 1928-S are very similar in mintage, with the 1925-S having a total of 1,632,000 while the 1928-S was at 1,610,000. Produced just a few years apart, those are very close totals. Making it even more unusual is that the two shared a fairly similar pattern of being released over the years.
In both cases some were released early, but there was no numismatic interest at the time, so few were saved. Others appeared over the years, but by the time there was any interest on the part of dealers or collectors they had all been circulated. There were, however, at least a few original bags of both in the LaVere Redfield Hoard, but in the case of the 1925-S, most Redfield coins are thought to be weakly struck while the 1928-S in some cases is thought to have been damaged by a counting machine.
Either way, there was no large increase in supplies from the Redfield Hoard, leaving us with only limited numbers of both today.
What we find today are very limited supplies of both dates, especially when it comes to the highest grades. At Numismatic Guaranty Corp., the 1925-S has been seen 41 times in MS-65 or better while the 1928-S is at 31 times in MS-65 or better.
At Professional Coin Grading Service the 1925-S has been seen 29 times in MS-65 or better while the 1928-S total.
in MS-65 or better stands at 25. Clearly there appears to be very little difference between the two. With their prices, it would be expected that most coins with a chance of receiving an MS-65 grade would be sent in for grading, so it is not a case where there are likely to be large numbers not submitted for grading as is sometimes the case as the financial incentive is there to have your 1925-S or 1928-S called an MS-65. That said, with the numbers so close, it is possible that a small number of one or the other could be graded and change these positions both at the grading services and in terms of price.
The situation with the 1925-S and 1928-S does point to a significant factor in Peace dollars and that is that the San Francisco dates in general tend to be tougher than the others in MS-65 or better. There could be assorted factors influencing the situation, such as a production problem in San Francisco or bad luck in terms of the coins being saved tending to be Mint State, but not truly high quality. Whatever the reason the San Francisco Peace dollars in MS-65 and higher grades are going to be the most difficult dates in a collection.
The Peace dollar mintages ceased after 1928 as the numbers had reached the point where no more were needed as replacements. The Peace dollar, however, would return to production briefly in 1934 and 1935 as additional silver purchases to help the mines during the Great Depression supplied enough silver to make additional coins even though they were not really needed for circulation. When the last Peace dollar was made in 1935 no one could have imagined what would happen in the 1960s.
The United States in the 1960s had a problem and officials were seemingly in opposite directions at the same time. Silver was rising in price and silver coins were being discontinued while at the same time the last of the silver dollar bags were being purchased from the Treasury for face value. There was every reason to purchase the bags as you could not lose as they would always have 1,000 silver dollars and if you got lucky by finding better dates, they were immediately worth much more.
With only about 3 million silver dollars still in the vaults on Aug. 3, 1964, Congress authorized the production of up to 45 million more.
There was apparently no thought of a new design and with the Peace design being the last design used in Denver in 1965 a total of 316,076 new Peace dollars were produced with a 1964 date. Shortly after the production, officials changed their minds and ordered the coins destroyed before release.
One of the questions that haunts everyone to this day is whether any 1964-D Peace dollars exist. It is possible. If an employee at the time had purchased a couple at face value, it would have been legal, especially if no one ever thought to ask for them back. Because of the seizures of 1933 Saint-Gaudens double eagles which are in a similar situation, if there are any 1964-D Peace dollars out there, the owners have never been willing to announce their existence. That situation is likely to continue as the government has no reason to announce in advance what it would do if they were made aware of a coin that they do not currently believe still exists. It leaves the matter unresolved and it probably will remain that way until an actual 1964-D Peace dollar ever turns up.
While a 1964-D Peace dollar is not possible to collect, it is fun to speculate and theorize about it. The rest of a Peace dollar collection is possible, and except for a few dates in MS-65, it is actually fairly easy to assemble and afford a complete set. That makes the Peace dollar a real opportunity. Even if they are not the silver dollars of the Old West, the Peace dollar is a great reflection of its times and a fascinating collection of America’s last circulating silver dollars. That will mean something in the year 2025 or 2050.
2010 U.S. Coin Digest - Dollars Download
Like Peace dollars? Research their mintages and values with the dollars section of the 2010 U.S. Coin Digest.
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• 2010 U.S. Coin Digest, The Complete Guide to Current Market Values, 8th ed.
• State Quarters Deluxe Folder By Warmans
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On May 8, 2010 Herbert Hicks
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