Learn About the 1921 Peace Silver Dollar
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, minted in large quantities. The coins were struck out of 90% silver, big and heavy, and plentiful. Due to legislation passed in the 1870s, the US Government was compelled to buy more than 2 million ounces of Western Mines Silver every month and turn that Silver 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 in most cities were, instead, spending paper currency and they enjoyed the convenience of it. So the demand for the big heavy coins was at a trickle 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 Silver Dollars from 1905 throughout 1920.
A World War was raging in Europe, which began in 1914. The US entered World War I in 1917 and our entry 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 of the paper currency it had issued in India with Silver as promised. Britain turned to the United States for help. The US Congress passed the Pittman Act in 1918 which permitted our Government to sell Britain up to 350 million silver dollars to help Britain purchase the Indian notes that were being redeemed. These 350 million Silver Dollars represented almost half of all Morgan Dollar that had ever been struck. Now, once again, there was a shortage of American silver dollars.
So the Morgan silver dollars were once again being struck, but now 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 threshold had been exceeded so a new design could be requested.
A competition to design a new Silver Dollar was held. The winner was an Italian immigrant. Designed by Anthony de Francisci, the artist thought the coin should be struck much like the certain varieties of 1907 Saint-Gaudens $20 Double Eagle Gold coins. 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 coin 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 Miss Liberty was his young wife, Teresa. Her posing as Miss Liberty was without incident but the reverse of this new Silver Dollar did raise some controversy. The reverse had an American bald eagle standing on a rock and 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 that 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, just above the word “PEACE.”
Some of the coins bearing the “High Relief” design and striking are graded by PCGS and 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 3 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.
Regardless of whether the NGC/PCGS holder says “HIGH RELIEF” or that is missing from the insert, ALL 1921 Peace Solver Dollars are struck in high relief. Some grading services didn’t attribute them as “HIGH RELIEF” until 2013.
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