April 12, 2009 – Peace Dollar

One of the more collectible US silver dollars from the 20th century is the Peace Dollar. Not only does this coin have a pleasing and artistic design but, it was minted in small enough quantities for it to have been collectible for a great many years. Produced from 1921-1965, non-inclusive, fewer than 80 million of these coins ever reached circulation, with most made in the early 1920s.

Like many other gold and silver coins, their value being nearly a whole ounce (0.859 troy ounces or 26.73g) of 90% silver and 10% copper (for a total silver weight of 0.773 troy ounces), some Peace Dollars have been removed from circulation for melting down, but most often as a economic and political ploy. A far larger number have been maintained as collectors’ items and the object of rare coin projections.

Though not as easily exchanged as 1-ounce silver bullion coins, these increasingly rare coins have a numismatic value far beyond their face value. Even when silver was up over $20 per ounce in early 2008, only the poorest specimens would fail to be worth the $15 of silver value. Indeed, the rare coin projections of most numismatists concerning Peace Dollars exceeds this many, many times over.

Designed in 1921 to commemorate the end of the war, this coin is so-named for the word “PEACE” emblazoned on the reverse of the coin, under the feet of an eagle in profile. The front features a stylized rendering of the artist’s wife, Teresa, as Lady Liberty.

The Peace Dollar is curious for having been struck in relatively low numbers while the Morgan Dollar, resurrected after a 17-year hiatus, had a massive run of over 40 million coins earlier in 1921. Rare coin projections are largely based upon the relative rarity of the minting in a given year, and several years of the Peace Dollar were extremely small.

The Peace Dollar was made possible, by the Pittman Act, signed into law by congress in 1918. This called for melting silver bullion and dollars – about 280 million ounces of silver (much of it found in Pittman’s home state of Nevada) – and selling most of it to UK. Subsequent US silver production would be purchased by the US Government at a dollar above the spot price for the manufacture of new silver dollars to replace the old ones, effectively functioning as a silver subsidy until the 280 million coin total mark was reached in 1928..

The first run of the Peace Dollar, in 1921, was problematic due to the unique features that led to such a dramatic design. The relief on the coins was too high, breaking the dies and making them difficult to strike. As a result, the coin was redesigned, with subsequent strikings conforming to the adjusted design.

There are very few proof sets of Peace Dollars in existence, and it is thought that the Peace Dollar is one coin that is most often used to fool inexperienced coin collectors into purchasing coins of lesser value based upon faulty grading. These coins are graded by slightly different standards than other Peace Dollars.

In the year of Francisci’s death, the Peace Dollar was minted one more time, just after congress decided to recall all silver coinage and melt it down in response to a silver shortage in the early and mid-1960s. Though over 300,000 of these last silver dollars were minted, they were all melted down at the special request of congress, making the last normal year of production, 1928. The few coins minted in 1934 and 1935 were issued to honor silver certificates.

Joseph Morton

April 12, 2009

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