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ZanzibarCoins's Blog

04 Aug 2021

Large Dollar Coins, the Peace Dollar, Part Two

Young Numismatists Exchange | ZanzibarCoins

Hey y'all! It is good to be back! Here is part two of my Peace dollar series -- hope you enjoy!


After Farran Zerbe's proposal was read at the ANA Convention in Chicago in that summer of 1920, a committee was appointed to transmit his proposal to Congress, and even to urge its adoption. Numismatic Historian Walter Breen noted that "this was the first time that a coin collector ever wielded enough political clout to influence not only the Bureau of the Mint, but Congress as well." This was a huge step for numismatists. The committee itself included the noted coin collector and Congressman William A. Ashbrook, who for a time had chaired the House Committee on Coinage, Weight, and Measures. In 1918, the Republicans gained control of the House, and so Ashbrook was defeated in his run for re-election in the 1920 elections. However, he was friends with the new chairman -- Albert Henry Vestal, a Republican from Indiana -- and he persuaded him to hold a hearing on the subject of the peace coin proposal for the 14th of December in 1920. No bill was actually presented to the Committee of Coinage, Weight, and Measures, instead the committee heard from delegates from none other than our very own ANA. The committee listened to the delegates, discussed the matter, and ended up in favor of the use of the silver dollar, because as a large coin it had the most room for an artistic design. The Peace Dollar was on its way to becoming a reality.


The committee took no immediate action, however, because a transition of office was about to occur. But, in March of 1921, after the Harding administration was in office, Albert Henry Vestal met with the new Secretary of the Treasury -- Andrew W. Mellon -- and the Director of the Mint -- Raymond T. Baker -- and found them to be supportive of the issue, so long as the redesign did not involve any sort of expense. Soon after this, on the 9th of May, the Philadelphia Mint resumed striking the Morgan dollar, thanks to the recoinage called for by the Pittman Act (see my blog posts on the Morgan Dollar to learn more about this). On that very same day, Congressman Vestal introduced the Peace dollar authorization bill, placing it on the Unanimous Consent Calendar. However, then Congress adjourned for a long recess -- once again, taking no action. When they returned from their recess (which literally lasted several months), Vestal pushed again for the bill, asking for unanimous consent, this time requesting that the bill be passed on the 1rst of August of that year, 1921. However, then the former Republican leader, James R. Mann objected to this. According to numismatic historian Roger Burdette, Mann's stature in the House practically ensured that the bill would not pass. Vestal was determined though -- telling the ANA that he hoped Congress would reconsider when it met again, this time in December of 1921.


Despite Vestal's optimism, if it weren't for the work of Charles Moore -- the chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts; James Earle Fraser -- a member of the Commission and the designer of the beautiful Buffalo nickel; and Mint Director Raymond T. Baker... the Peace Dollar may never have been brought into existence at all. Fraser and Moore, investigating the proposal of the Peace Dollar and its lull in Congress, met with Baker, and the three of them agreed that it would be appropriate to hold a design competition for this proposed dollar, under the auspices of the Commission. They formalized this in July of 1921 through a written recommendation from the Commission of Fine Arts to the Mint, suggesting that a competition, being only open to invited sculptors, be used to select designs for the proposed coin. They passed this on to President Harding, who quickly issued Executive Order 3524, which required that the designs be submitted to the Commission before approval by the Secretary of the Treasury. It looked the competition was all set to be underway, but then Baker contacted Moore in September -- following the failure of the bill -- and suggested they put the matter aside for the moment, pending congressional action.


It looked like the Peace Dollar would never see the light of day, but then, in November, the men realized that they did not need congressional approval for the redesign after all! The Morgan Dollar had been struck for over 25 years, and this meant that it was eligible for a redesign, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury, thanks to an act issued in 1890 that allowed for the redesign of our currency without the long political process if the coin had maintained its current design for more than 25 years (the greatest example of a coin that utilizes this act is the Lincoln cent). And since the Morgan dollar was still being minted thanks to the Pittman Act, it would be relatively easy to do the redesign. Baker contacted Fraser in November to inform him of this and discuss the details of the competition. Roger Burdette stated that Baker was also newly enthusiastic about the prospects of a redesign because President Harding was about to formally declare an end to the war with Germany (this declaration was necessary because the United States had not ratified the Treaty of Versailles) and, on top of that, the Washington Conference on Disarmament was about to convene as well, and what better than a Peacedollar to come on the end of all of this? On the 19th of November, Fraser sent personal letters to the competition participants -- which included Hermon MacNeil, Adolph Weinman, and Victor David Brenner, all of whom, as I'm sure you all know, had designed beautiful previous U.S. coins.


These were the guidelines included in the letters: That the head of Liberty be depicted on the obverse of the dollar, made "as beautiful and full of character as possible." The reverse must depict an eagle (this was prescribed by the Coinage Act of 1792, not just the wishes of Baker and Fraser and et cetera), but the rest of the reverse design was left up to the artists. And finally, the coin must bear the denomination, name of the country, "E pluribus unum," our motto "In God We Trust," and of course, the word "Liberty." With these guidelines in mind, the artists set to work creating their designs...


On the 13th of December, the commission assembled to review the submitted designs, along with a set produced by Mint Chief Engraver Morgan -- this at Baker's request -- and a set from a Mr. Folio of New York City -- this set was not requested. No one knows, except of course, for the men in that room, how exactly the designs were displayed for the Commission. But they were displayed, admired, and then discussed by Fraser, Moore, and Herbert Adams - a sculptor and former member of the Commission of Fine Arts - (and they were discussed for a long time), until, finally, a unanimous decision was reached. That decision, that design selected, was to be that of Anthony de Francisci, an Italian-American sculptor who had designed many U.S. medals, and several U.S. coins (although not all of his designs were ever used).


Stay tuned for part three! I hope you guys enjoyed this installment of the series! I still can't get over the fact that one of my favorite coins was dreamed up and brought into circulation by our very own ANA! So cool! :)


(Also, this is over 1,250 words -- all of which I typed myself lol. No wonder my fingers don't know what to do with me any more...) :)


Bibliography:

The Numismatist, Archived, October 1920 (can be accessed through Google books if you can't find it in the archives)

Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, Walter Breen

Renaissance of American Coinage, Roger Burdette

Supplement to the Revised Statues of the United States, 1891, William Allen Richardson (lots of legal stuff lol)

The Comprehensive U.S. Silver Dollar Encyclopedia, John Highfill

Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars, LeRoy Van Allen and George Mallis

US Mint Catalog, Peace Dollar, https://catalog.usmint.gov/peace-2021-silver-dollar-21XH.html

Wikipedia - Peace Dollar

Comments

thatcoinguy

Level 5

Interesting! Thanks for sharing!

Kepi

Level 6

Great blog! Really well researched! Love that Peace Dollar! ; )

Longstrider

Level 6

Great job. Really top notch. This is my favorite coin series. I suggest that you look into Peace Dollar VAM searching. You will like it. Again great work with a bibliography as well. makes it much more professional. Thanks.

ZanzibarCoins

Level 4

Ahhhh VAM hunting. My dream some day lol. Thank you so much!

Mike

Level 7

It's finally taken its place in top with the great coins. It was very underrated for years and years. Great research well done thank you for doing your homework!! I enjoyed it. BOYCOTT THE MINT!

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Thanks for putting in your sources: perfect! Really great blog!

Golfer

Level 5

Very informative blog. Thanks!

Long Beard

Level 5

The Peace Dollar is one of my personal top three for design. I'm lacking the right 1928 and 1934s in AU plus to complete a well matched set. Great blog, well written.

ZanzibarCoins

Level 4

Thank you! And yes, I love the Peace dollar! I personally think it would be hard not to... I hope you find those pieces for your set -- I know how rewarding it is to finish a set. :)

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Well, this blog is full of good research and it is interesting to read, but I see no reference to the source of your information.

ZanzibarCoins

Level 4

Thank you for catching that! I always forget to add in my bibliography lol. I have now! Take a look... :)

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