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APMEX Showcase: The 1921 Peace Dollar – Almost a One-Year Type Coin

1921 Peace Dollar MS-65 NGC at APMEX

This is part of our APMEX Showcase series, highlighting unique products in our inventory. Every month, a new batch of products will be selected. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up with the entire series.

The 1921 Peace Silver Dollar is a beautiful coin and dramatically different in style from its predecessor, the Morgan Silver Dollar. Millions and millions of Morgan Dollars were struck between 1878 and 1904. Americans, especially those in the Western states, loved the Morgan Silver Dollars. The coins were struck of 90% Silver, were big and heavy, and clearly plentiful. Due to legislation passed in the 1870s, the U.S. government bought more than 2 million ounces of Silver from Western mines every month to turn into Silver Dollars!

At we hit the turn of the 20th century, Americans in the cities did not like carrying around a pocketful of these heavy coins.  Americans were, instead, enjoyed the convenience of paper currency. Demand for the heavy coins trickled from the population centers and the coins piled up in Treasury vaults by the millions. The surplus of Silver Dollars created a long hiatus for the striking of Morgan Dollars from 1905 throughout 1920.

Beginning in 1914, a World War was raging in Europe. The U.S. entered World War I in 1917, which sped up the demise of Germany and its allies. Late in the war, Germany tried to destabilize Great Britain by convincing the people of India, a British colony, that the British couldn’t redeem all the paper currency it had issued in India with Silver as promised. Britain turned to the United States for help.

Congress passed the Pittman Act in 1918, permitting our government to sell Britain up to 350 million Silver Dollars to help purchase the Indian notes that were being redeemed. These 350 million Silver Dollars represented almost half of all Morgan Dollar ever struck. Now, once again, there was a shortage of American Silver Dollars.

Morgan Silver Dollars were once again struck, but they were dated 1921. There was a public outcry for a new coin – one that would celebrate the end of the “The War to End All Wars.” As Morgan Dollars had been struck since 1878, the 25-year minimum for a design had been exceeded so a new design could be requested.

Sculptor Anthony de Francisci and his wife and model, Teresa de Francisci, who posed for Lady Liberty on the Peace Silver Dollar

A competition to design a new Silver Dollar was held, which an Italian immigrant won. Anthony de Francisci, the winning artist, thought the coin should be struck much like certain varieties of the 1907 Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle Gold coin. They should be struck in a “high relief’ to display and accentuate the design, regardless of any commercial issues with the coins. The 1921 version is almost a one-year type coins with that “high relief.” But de Francisci did not get his wish. Some of the 1921 issues have relief that is noticeably higher than the 1922 and later issues.

His model for Lady Liberty was his young wife, Teresa. Her posing as was without incident but the reverse of the new Silver Dollar did raise some controversy. The reverse had an American bald eagle standing on a rock on top of a broken sword with the word “PEACE” underneath. World War I veterans complained about the broken sword. It was meant to convey we had vanquished our enemies, but to veterans it made the United States appear to be a defeated army. So de Francisci removed the broken sword and replaced it with an olive branch, representing peace.

Obverse of de Francisci's accepted design for the 1921 Peace Silver Dollar Reverse of de Francisci's accepted design for the 1921 Peace Silver Dollar

Some of the coins bearing the “high relief” design and striking are graded by PCGS or NGC and designated as “high relief” coins. But this new design was welcomed by an American public who was glad the war had ended and that we played such a crucial role in the victory.

The Peace Silver Dollar was struck from 1921 until 1935, sporadically at all three mints – Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. More than 190 million coins were struck, including just over one million coins dated 1921, the first year of issue.

NGC graded coin in holder notating the coin as High ReliefPCGS graded coin in holder notating the coin as High Relief

Regardless of whether the NGC and PCGS holder says “HIGH RELIEF” or if is missing from the insert, all 1921 Peace Solver Dollars are struck in high relief. However, some grading services didn’t attribute them as “HIGH RELIEF” until 2013.

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