The story of the Peace silver dollar

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peace dollar

The Peace Dollar

The “Peace Dollar” is unique to the United States. It was born of an idea of Ferran Zerbe, the resident historian of the American Numismatic Association, after the turmoil and carnage of World War One had settled.

World War One or “The Great War” threw much of the world into chaos between 1914 and 1918. There were around 40 million military and civilian casualties. Of these, Military deaths accounted for 15 to 19 million, and around 23 million wounded personnel. By contrast, The Vietnam War saw 2,450,000 deaths from 1954 to 1975.

Zerbe’s idea was to both commemorate the sacrifices made by service and civilian personnel of all nations, but also act as a memorial to those US military personnel who gave their lives and as a gesture to ensure that such a protracted and wasteful battle never happened again.

He prepared a paper called, “Commemorate the peace with a coin for circulation.” this was presented to Congress along with a bill.

Around this time, the Pittman Act of 1918 was in force – this obliged the US Government to convert some silver coins into bullion. The Peace Dollar was, in part, produced to replace the Morgan silver dollars which had to be removed from circulation to accommodate this requirement.

It took until November 1921 for the Federal Commission of Finance to announce the competition for a design for the coin. In the end, they settled on a draft by Anthony (Antonio) de Francisci, an immigrant to the United States, originally from Sicily in Italy. He was the youngest designer in the competition, and he won the $1500 prize as well as the commission for the new coin.

Into production

De Francisci could not afford to hire a professional model, so he used his wife, Teresa, as the basis of the head of “Liberty” on the coin. He always insisted that the relief was not photographic but gave a generic presence to the image of Liberty, capturing, “the spirit of the country – its intellectual speed, vigor, and vitality.”

Once President Hardy gave his approval, the US Mint in Philadelphia moved swiftly to get some of the production done for the 1921 run of coins. The first coin was struck, with three days to go, on December 28th, 1921. Ultimately, over one million Peace Dollars were minted with a 1921 date on them.

Made of 90% silver and 10% copper, for durability and strength, the Peace Dollar was, and remains, the largest US coin ever struck for circulation. With a diameter of 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) and a mass of 26.73 grams.

Interestingly, the first coins released received complaints because they featured a sword which was broken. Many felt that this did not underline the “peace” theme of the release – so the Mint erased the sword from the final design.

The Peace Dollar was struck for a further seven years, ceasing production in 1928.

For reasons which are not clear, it was decided to restart striking the coin in 1934 – and production of this run stopped in 1935.

In yet another anomaly, it was decided to strike another run of Peace coins in 1965. The US Mint in Denver minted more than 316,000 coins which were dated as 1964. These were never circulated and it is thought they were melted down to be added to the silver stocks of the US Treasury.

Collectibility is key

Silver Peace Dollars are not particularly valuable – but this makes them very collectible as the coin values are much lower, making them far more affordable than other types of coin. The Peace silver dollar is one of the most collected of all the United States Mint issues across the years.

Peace silver dollars from the first issue in 1921, which were high relief and only minted at the Philadelphia mint, together with the coins from the last year of the first series, minted in Philadelphia in 1928, are the rarest of the dollar coins. These do tend to fetch higher prices.

Because the United States Mint warned, in advance of minting, that the 1928 coin would be limited, people saved it and this meant many more were rescued and saved in collections rather than being spent. However, because the 1935 coin was not considered as a limited run when it was released it was not widely collected. This has resulted in prices of thousands of dollars for some examples.

Another factor affecting the price is the mint at which the coins were struck. Philadelphia minted coins in each year of production but Denver and San Francisco were not operational in some of those years – making these silver coins more sought after.

Collin Plume

Collin Plume

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The Morgan Silver Dollar is an essential part of American History. The first was released in 1878 and became an immediate success. We have sourced 3 different versions of this iconic coin. These will be an investment as well as a family heirloom for generations to come.

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