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20 May 2021

The BIG and BOLD History of the Peace Dollar

National Coin Week | user_95183

Hello, Everyone! This will be my submission to the 2021 National Coin Week Blog Post Competition. It will also be my first ever blog post, so here goes! I hope you like it!


The Peace Dollar was a beautiful silver dollar minted from 1921 - 1928 and again from 1934 - 1935. It is an amazing coin with a rich history and a bit of a shaky start. So what are we waiting for? Let's dive in and uncover the secrets of the Peace Dollar!


The Pittman Act of 1918

First off, the Peace Dollar was stuck all thanks to the Pittman Act. The act required 350 million silver dollars to be melted into bullion, and the result was the melting of over 270 million silver dollars. After these coins were melted, George T. Morgan, the designer of the Morgan Dollar, started making dies to strike new silver dollars to replace the ones that had been melted. However, in this process, author Frank Duffield wrote a Numismatist article. The article suggested that a new silver dollar should be designed to represent victory in World War 1. The Mint liked this idea and started the journey of making the Peace Dollar a reality.


A Quick Start

Right off the bat, things got bumpy. The bill to start striking the Peace dollar was rejected in August of 1921. However, U.S. Mint officials decided that they could strike the Peace Dollar without approval from Congress. On November 23, 1921, artists were notified of a new design competition for the new silver dollar. On December 13, one day after the submission deadline, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts met to choose a winning design. After several hours of discussion, Anthony de Francisci’s design of the Peace Dollar was chosen. Time was ticking, so after making a few design changes with U.S. Mint director Raymond T. Baker, de Francisci’s new dollar coin design started production on December 21.


Design Problems

After a quick beginning, a problem arose. The chosen design pictured an eagle holding a broken sword in one talon and a laurel wreath in the other. People saw the broken sword as a sign of defeat and thought it was offending. So, on December 23, George T. Morgan carefully removed the sword from the hubs under close supervision of Anthony de Francisci. 1,006,473 1921 Peace Dollars were struck in the last 8 days of 1921.


Once this problem was resolved, another problem arose. The Peace Dollar was being struck in high relief, which means the coins were being struck with more force to make the design stronger and bolder. This made the dies not last as long. In fact, the Peace Dollar dies only struck about 25,000 coins while the Morgan Dollar dies could strike 200,000 or more coins. The high relief also made it so that the coins could not be brought to full detail. Even with incredible striking force, the obverse hair couldn’t capture its full design detail. Also, the deep recesses of the obverse field caused the eagle on the reverse to not be able to reach full detail as well. Something had to be done, so in 1922 the U.S. Mint started discussing a lower relief.


Modified High Relief

In 1922, the Mint started experimenting with solutions to the High Relief problem. When trying out different solutions, the Mint struck a few Modified High Relief Peace Dollars. On these coins, the head is slightly larger, it is in slightly lower relief, and it is placed lower in the field. The reverse features strongly struck letters and a rock reduced in relief. These coins are very rare, as only 3,200 were struck and only a couple are known to exist today.


The first 2 Modified High Relief Peace Dollars to be authenticated happened in 2014 when 3 coins were submitted to PCGS. The coins are related to this letter from the Philadelphia Mint Superintendent to U.S. Mint Director Raymond T. Baker :


“I beg to submit herewith three Peace Dollars struck from the die reduced in relief.


You will notice the head is lower in relief and slightly larger. It is placed a little lower in the circle.


On the reverse die, all the lettering has been strengthened and the rock reduced in relief. All these changes are absolutely necessary and were arrived at after considerable experimenting.”


The whole letter can be found in Roger Burdette’s Renaissance of American Coinage. In the book, the coins were said to be Medium Relief Peace Dollars, but after a long phone call with PCGS in 2014, they were authenticated as “Modified High Relief Production Trials”. One coin had 3,200 written on it. This was because it was the 3,200th struck, the last one before the die broke. It was graded MS65. Another Modified High Relief coin graded MS67. The third coin ended up actually being a High Relief coin, and not a Modified High Relief coin. These are the only 2 Modified High Relief Peace Dollars authenticated and graded by PCGS.


Low Relief

After the Modified High Relief failed, the Mint decided to go all out and create a coin with a very low relief. They flattened the hair details and the dished obverse fields were removed. Finally, the design was able to be brought to full detail and the dies lasted much longer! However, even with these changes, striking problems were still common, especially at the San Francisco Mint.


The low relief also changed the design a little bit, making it easy for us to determine whether a coin is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or $25. On the low relief coin, the sun ray closest to the rock was removed. Also, the sun ray above the N in “ONE” was shrunk. On the High Relief coins, the ray goes well past the N, while on the low relief, it hardly goes past the N at all. Finally, the date was moved closer to the rim on the low relief coins.



Peace Dollars are great coins with a rich history. Even with a rough start, new design changes made the coin one of the greatest coins in U.S. history. So now that you have the knowledge to know what the 100th anniversary of the first Peace Dollar really means, let’s sit back and celebrate together!


Sources

May 2015 Numismatist article “Evolution of the Peace Dollar” http://onlinedigitalpublishing.com/publication/?m=7883&i=255605&p=42


PCGS Coin Facts https://www.pcgs.com/coinfacts/coin/1922-1-modified-high-relief-production-trial-j-2020/97384


Coin World

https://www.coinworld.com/news/precious-metals/the-intriguing-history-the-peace-dollar.html




Comments

Mal_ANA_YN

Level 5

Really nice blog. A real troubled-process coin.

Kepi

Level 6

Nice research! Love that 1922 toned Peace Dollar! Thanks for an interesting blog. ; )

Longstrider

Level 6

Well done. Quite a first blog. Oh yeah, welcome! I am a huge Peace Dollar fan. I love them. Mostly VAMs. You did a very nice job. I wish you luck. Thanks.

Golfer

Level 5

Always enjoy reading about Peace dollars. I want to find a high relief for myself, but have not found one yet I like. Very nice informative blog. thanks

Mike

Level 7

Thank you for the information. This beauty of a coin as underrated for years. The 1921 high relief was called a commen. After breaking so many dies they had to change it in 1922.. Now this coin has taken its place were it should be . A respected piece of American coinage.Great blog thanks.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Thanks so much for an informative article. Very well written with quality research too

It's Mokie

Level 6

Nicely written history of my favorite U.S. coin. Good luck with the NCW contest.

coinsbygary

Level 5

This is a very informative blog, an easy read, and enjoyable. Please keep them coming!

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