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Half Cents

Peace Dollar (1921-1935)

The dollar coin used to be one of the foundational coins of U.S. currency. These were sanctioned originally in the Coinage Act of 1792 and first minted in 1794. Though they were forced out of circulation a couple of times over the course of their run and are no longer commonly used, Silver dollar coins have proved enduringly popular with collectors even after their run in circulation ended. The Peace dollar ran from 1921 to 1935, with a brief break from 1928 to 1934.

Peace Dollar Design

Under the terms of the Pittman Act, 47 percent of all Morgan dollars were returned to the mint and melted. The metal was sold as bullion to the British government, and the coins were replaced by newly-struck Silver dollars from American Silver.

The numismatist lobby asked for a coin showing the peace of World War I, and though they were not able to influence the government directly Congress took action on their own and the official design was approved in 1921.

The Peace dollar came from sculptor Anthony de Francisci. De Francisci was chosen by a nationwide competition in which he was the youngest entrant at age 34. He was not a very experienced coin designer at the time, but nevertheless he was chosen by the Commission of Fine Arts. The design was changed slightly from the original, as de Francisci’s inclusion of a broken sword inflamed public opinion when it was revealed. The obverse of the coin is a Liberty based on de Francisci’s wife. The reverse is an eagle at rest with an olive branch. The coin was struck from 90% Silver.

1921’s issue had a higher relief, but it was found impractical and changed in 1922. There are a few of the high relief still available in the 1922 but they are very hard to find and extremely expensive.

The Peace dollar was resurrected for one more year in 1965 (dated 1964), but plans were scrapped and all were melted down.

Historical Significance

The Peace dollar was the first time that the numismatist lobby showed major influence in the striking of a new coin. Their idea for a commemoration of the World War I peace was directly traceable to an article in the Numismatist in November 1918, and the idea took hold in the community. The 1920 American Numismatic Association convention brought the idea to the public eye.

Numismatic Value

Peace dollars are mostly available for only a small premium over Silver price, but there are a few key dates that can be much more expensive, particularly in higher grades. In particular the 1921 and 1922 high relief coins are rare and very hard to get one’s hands on. Many of them are available in bulk in lower grades for their Silver content.

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