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The following is the handout given out by Mike Nourse to be used in conjunction with a presentation given on the evening of June 7TH, 1995.







Presentation by Mike Nourse

For the Anchorage Coin Club

June 7, 1995


General Information

Years produced: 1921-1935

Legislation: Pittman Act of April 1918

Designer: Anthony de Francisci

Obverse: Liberty head

Reverse: Eagle on rock with Peace, carrying Olive branch

Quantity minted: 190,577,279

Number of date - mintmark combinations: 24

Composition: .900 fine silver, contains .77344 oz silver

Origin of the Peace Dollar

    The Pittman Act of April 1918 authorized the melting of up to 350 million silver dollars for use in World War I. In the end, about 270 million dollars had been melted. One provision of the Pittman Act was that it required that all melted dollars had to eventually be replaced using silver freshly mined from United States mines.

    A series of papers were published on the subject of silver dollar design in the ANA's monthly magazine, The Numismatist. The first was by editor Frank Duffield who proposed an obverse design symbolic of the purpose for which the United States entered World War I, and a reverse design symbolic of the crimes against humanity perpetuated by the enemy. The second paper, by M. Sorensen, proposed a victory dollar commemorating the downfall of Germany and its allies.

    A third paper was presented at the ANA convention in Chicago in August 1920, and published in the October 1920 issue of The Numismatist. Entitled "Commemorate the Peace With a Coin for Circulation", the paper was written by influential ANA member Farran Zerbe. Although he did not propose specific designs for the obverse and reverse, he did specify that the new dollar would be a circulating commemorative.

    In mid 1921, the process was started toward the creation of a Peace dollar. Eight designers, which included past designers Victor D. Brenner, Herman MacNeil, and John Flanagan, were invited to participate in a design contest for the new dollar. Against this competition, an Italian immigrant named Anthony de Francisci won the contest. The entire contest was a rather hurried affair, with the artists being given only two weeks to prepare their designs. The original design featured a Liberty head on the obverse and an eagle breaking a sword on the reverse. Veterans groups opposed the reverse design because they felt it symbolized an admission of defeat. De Francisci modified the reverse to have the eagle standing on a rock with the inscription peace, while holding an olive branch. This is the design that we are all familiar with.

The Early Years of Production

    The new Janvier reducing machine was put to use to allow all design elements except for the date to be engraved into the master hub. The result of this is that the lettering for the legends and mottoes is fuzzy and indistinct, as opposed to the sharp hand punched lettering seen on the Morgan dollars.

    Working dies were created from the master hub, and production of the new design was started on December 26, 1921. The entire production of Peace dollars for 1921 was completed in the six days between the 26th and the 31st of December. The new coins were something of a disaster, as it seems that everybody had forgotten about the problems with the high relief Saint Gaudens double eagle in 1907.

    The strike was very flat on the 1921 issues, but as soon as the pressure was raised high enough to strike the coins up properly, the dies would wear out and break with unacceptable rapidity. In fact, 41 die pairs were used to produce the 1 million 1921 Peace dollars while the series had an average die life of 500,000 coins per die pair. Hence it was decided to keep the pressure low and continue producing flatly struck coins. This situation had to be resolved as only one third of the required 270 million silver dollars had been struck in 1921 (1 million Peace dollars and 87 million Morgan dollars). Chief engraver George T. Morgan re-engraved the design in lower relief for the years 1922 and on.

Later Years of Production

    All of the newly mined silver had been purchased by 1924 that was required by the Pittman Act. However, it would take the mint until 1928 to finish minting this silver into silver dollars. At that time, production was suspended with uncertainty whether or not it would ever be resumed.

    In the mid 1930's President Franklin Roosevelt was looking for ways to bring the great depression to an end. One of his plans was to purchase some silver at somewhat above current market prices in order to try to stimulate the economy in the mining states. This silver was used to produce the seven million Peace dollars minted in 1934 and 1935. This would be the end of regular production of the Peace dollar.

    Coinage of Peace dollars was resumed in May 1965 of 1964 dated coins at the Denver mint. However, after 300,000 coins had been produced, production was suspended and all of the dollars were ordered melted as a result of the suspension of silver coinage in the United States. A few of these 1964-D Peace dollars undoubtedly escaped the melting pot, but they are currently illegal to own.


    Huge numbers of silver dollars have been melted over the years, both of the Morgan and Peace designs. During the production years of the Peace dollar in the 1920s and 1930s, many thousands of mixed dollars were melted annually at the mint, mostly worn out or damaged pieces.

    Early in the 1940s, during World War II, about 50 million silver dollars were melted to provide silver for use in the war effort. One of the biggest users of this bullion was the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb. Also during the late 1930s, the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s, thousands to millions of silver dollars were melted by the treasury and a variety of private sources for conversion into bullion bars.

    The largest melting episode occurred in the late 1970s and 1980 as the tremendous increase in the price of silver bullion made it profitable to melt silver coins into bullion bars. Several tens of millions of Peace dollars were melted down at this time along with silver coins from all other recent series.

    The final result of all of the years of melting is that of the original 190 million produced, about 150 to 160 million have been melted leaving 30 to 40 million in existence today.

Selected Rarity and Pricing History


The highest mintage of any pre-1935 silver dollar. The most common date in every circulated grade as well as in MS-60. Tied for most common in MS-63 grade.


The most abundant issue held in the Redfield hoard.


These dollars were not needed in commerce, so most were stored in bank vaults. This resulted in 1923 becoming a rare date, peaking as the key to the entire series in 1945 at $9 for a BU specimen. Quantities were released in the late 1940s making it worth only face value. The most common date in MS-64 and above grades.


Also held in banks, making it a rarity in the marketplace. Price rose from $2.50 in 1935 to $12.00 in 1938 in BU condition. Bags were released in 1938 causing the inevitable plunge in price.


This is the worst struck of the low relief {non 1921) issues due to the dies being spaced too far apart.


The scarcest of the four super common (22, 23, 24, 25) issues.


Another once rarity. Price increased steadily up to $10 in the mid 1950s when bags were released.


Two and a half bags auctioned off in 1992.


Lowest mintage Peace dollar. Readily available from EF through MS-64. Can be identified easily by their distinctive beveled rim.


Not considered important until the late 1940s when it was found to be the one Peace dollar missing from many dealers stocks. Presently abundant in circulated grade, it is the key in low mint state grades. By the time we reach MS-65, it is not the key, it is only the seventh rarest. In MS-66, it is tied for eleventh place.

Investing in Peace Dollars

    In circulated grades, a Peace dollar set can be put together for a very affordable price. In Very Good condition, the Greysheet bid (low wholesale price) is currently $255, so a retail customer should expect to pay about $300 for the set, one third of which is for the 1928 Philadelphia issue. In Extra Fine condition, the bid rises to $440 with a retail probably in the $500 range. In EF, there are two keys to worry about: the 1928 and the 1934-S, each of which retails for about $125 in this grade. In AU condition, the price doubles to a retail of about $1000 with over half the set costing over $20 per coin.

    Certified uncirculated sets are reserved for individuals with deep (!) pockets and an ability to ignore large price swings. Bid prices from several recent years are presented below to show how the price has gyrated in the last decade:

                1988         1989         1990        1994      1995

MS-64    $19,585    $25,475    $12,350    $8,345    $8,970
MS-65    $91,550   $144,700   $87,425    $41,575  $46,600 

    For the super ambitious among us, MS-67 bid is $381,900

    Keep in mind that having the money is only half of the battle. In MS-64, the theoretical limit on the number of sets that can be built is 254, the combined total of pieces graded by both PCGS and NGC. In reality, many of these pieces have been broken out of their slabs for resubmission to try for a higher grade. In addition, at least 10% or so of the remaining coins are either over graded or simply ugly, leaving the number of sets that can be completed closer to about 150. At current levels, a set of certified MS-64 Peace Dollars can be built for about 35% of their 1989 levels.

    In Mint State 65, the chances of completing a certified set decrease yet further. At this grade level, the limiting factor is the 1928-S of which only 38 have been graded. Accounting for the breakout factor and the ugly factor, only about 25 sets can be completed. In MS-66, the situation becomes impossible as several of the dates do not have any coins certified at this level.



Reference Books Used:

A Guide Book of United States Coins by R. S. Yeoman

Coin Dealer Newsletter

Complete Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins by Breen

Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars by George Mallis and Leroy Van Allen

Comprehensive US Silver Dollar Encyclopedia by John Highfill

MS-64 Peace Dollars: Now They're Affordable by Randy Campbell

NGC Population Report: January 1995 Issue

PCGS Population Report: March 1995 Issue

Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States by Q. David Bowers