The Peace Dollar
The men and women of the United States have shed their blood, and sacrificed
their lives in the name of Freedom and Liberty for themselves and others around
the globe. It is the foundation upon which the United States was built.
Each citizen has been engrained with the Don't Tread on Me mentality, and
they are reminded of it daily through the use of their coinage. Look at
the national symbol which has appeared on most U.S. coins. It is a
majestic bald eagle with wings spread wide, holding arrows in the talons of one
foot, and an olive branch in the other. It tells the world that we are
willing to fight for the inalienable rights of 'Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit
of Happiness' as it is guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States.
A new concept was about to be born in 1918. It was the concept of Peace.
World War I, "the war to end all wars," was concluding; peoples of the world
would bathe in peace; and, a number of political strategies would be utilized to
create a new U.S. coin, the Peace Dollar.
The Peace Dollar was produced for circulation from 1921 through 1928, and
then once again released for circulation in 1934 and 1935; however, the political
posturing for this coin began in 1918 when the U.S. Congress enacted the Pittman
Act. The Pittman Act of 1918, when stripped to its bare bones, was nothing
more then a subsidy for the silver-mining industry, just as the Bland-Allison
Act of 1878 and the Sherman Act of 1879 was. Under this mandate, the
government could melt a quantity of up to 350 million silver dollars for
conversion to silver bullion for sale on the world market, or to produce
replacement coinage equal to the number of coins destroyed. This law also
provided aid to our wartime ally, Great Britain, who needed silver to deal with
a crisis in their colony of India. In 1918 and 1919, the United States
government destroyed more then 270 million silver dollars. Over 259
million of them were converted to bullion for the British, and the rest were to
be used as raw material for new coinage. Since the silver dollar was only
being minimally utilized, and since the Mint had not produced a silver dollar
since 1904, the effect to the national economy and commerce was negligible.
As the Pittman Act was being legislated, a rather quiet group of people decided
to flex their lobbying muscle in an effort to shape the history of the United
States through its coinage. The group was the American Numismatic
In 1918, the editor of the ANA's publication the Numismatist, Frank G.
Duffield prepared for a paper presentation at the national convention in
Philadelphia, PA. This paper called for a coin to be issued for general
circulation to commemorate America's pending victory in the World War.
When the convention was cancelled that summer due to an international influenza
epidemic that caused the loss of lives in the tens of millions worldwide,
Duffield published his paper in the November issue of the magazine. At the
1920 national ANA convention in Chicago, IL, a paper written by Farran Zerbe of
California was presented by Moritz Wormser. In his paper, Zerbe made the
proposal for a commemorative coin for general circulation that would demonstrate
America's influence for peace. He also suggested that an open competition
should be held for the coin's design, and that the coin should be either a half
dollar or a dollar which would allow a large pallet to display the artist's
work. The ANA and its members lobbied Congress heavily, and in February of
1921, the Numismatist reported to its members, "The outlook at this time
for the issue by the United States Government of a Victory or Peace coin for
general circulation is quite promising." On May 9, 1921, a convert to the
cause, Rep. Albert H. Vestal (R- Ind.), who was the chairman of the House
Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures, proposed a joint resolution for a
Peace Dollar. On that same day, the U.S. Mint started producing the Morgan
Dollar once again. The proposed bill was referred to committee for further
Fearing a stall tactic; that the proposed coin would not be issued for
general circulation; and, that the design of the coin would fall on the
shoulders of the U.S. Mint's chief engraver, George T. Morgan, rather then
through open competition, the ANA turned to its members for help. They
urged their members to write, or better still, personally visit their
Congressmen and insist they support the original proposal for a dollar coin as
laid out by the ANA. The lobbying effort worked, and the ANA pretty much
receive everything for which they asked.
On November 23, 1921, the federal Commission of Fine arts convened to
announce the design competition for the Peace Dollar. Eight of the
nation's finest sculptors were invited to participate. The artists were
given only two weeks to complete and submit there entries. Normally, they
would have had a few months. By December 19th, the choice was made and
reported to Congress. Anthony De Francisci (Dee Fran-chee-shee) was the winner.
Anthony De Francisci was Italian born, and immigrated to the United States in
1903. He became a naturalized citizen in 1913. He studies sculpting
under the tutelage of James Earle Fraser (known for his Buffalo Nickel), and
served as an assistant to several sculptures, among those were: Hermon A.
MacNeil (creator the Standing Liberty Quarter) and Adolph A. Weinman (designer
of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar and 'Mercury' Dime). In 1915, he worked
as an instructor at Columbia University, and in 1917, he opened his own studio.
Prior to the Peace Dollar, De Francisci designed the 1920 Maine Centennial
Commemorative half dollar.
De Francisci's design for the Peace Dollar featured a portrait of his then 23
year old wife as Miss Liberty for the main device on the obverse. It has
been said; he had her pose facing an open window of their New York apartment so
that he could capture the essence of her hair being lightly wind swept.
The crown upon Miss Liberty's head was created to emulate a similarity to the
one worn by the Statue of Liberty. The original reverse of the coin design
featured an eagle breaking a sword. This was to represent disarmament
however, there were those, in Congress, who felt the design could be interpreted
as defeat rather then victory, and the reverse design was rejected. George
T. Morgan was enlisted to quickly design a new reverse, and that is the one
featured on the coin today. Morgan's design, of a lone eagle perched on a
desolate mountain peak inscribed with the word PEACE, was quickly approved.
The Mint hastily manufactured the necessary dies and between December 26th to
the 31st struck 1,006,473 new Peace Dollars. The first Peace Dollar
produced was delivered to President Warren G. Harding on January 3, 1922.
The original intent of De Francisci's design was to present a beautiful
high-relief image of Miss Liberty against a large mostly blank background which
would create a very dramatic effect, and it did just that, but because the
relief was so high, it required at least two strikes to bring out the details.
High-relief equates to high die breakage and low production in the manufacturing
process. De Francisci shuttled back and forth between New York and the
Mint in Philadelphia to supervise what seemed to be endless modifications to his
design. In the end, all he could do was stand by helplessly and watch
George Morgan destroy his creation in a lower relief version more suitable to
high speed manufacture, much in the same way George Morgan did as Charles Barber
modified his dollar design. The result of the modifications was a rather
bland, unimpressive coin.
Once the Peace Dollar was released for circulation, it was met by what seemed
to be endless criticism. The coin did not project enough symbolism.
The crown looked like German bayonets. The lettering is ugly. How
does one pronounce the word TRVST? The Wall Street Journal wanted
to know, why Miss Liberty's lips were parted. They said it made her look
like a "flapper" (term for a loose woman at that time). The rays of the
sun detract form the eagle. The critics wanted the coins taken out of
circulation. On February 9, 1922, the Director of the Mint issued a
statement saying the Peace Dollar would not be withdrawn from
The Peace Dollar saw its peak production years from 1922 through 1925, then
production began to curtail. With the onset of the Great Depression in
1929, production was halted with the 1928 issue. By that time, the U.S.
Mint had met its goal of replacing the 270 million silver dollars (which
includes the 1921 Morgan Dollars in the count) as dictated under the Pittman Act
of 1918. The Peace Dollar was manufactured in only three years after the
1928 year dated coins. Peace Dollars were produced in 1934, 1935 and 1964.
All of the Peace Dollars made in 1964 (mintage 316,076) were produced by the
Denver Mint, and it is believed that they were destroyed prior to release for
The key dates in the Peace dollar series are as follows: 1921, 1924-S,
1928 and 1934-S. There are also a few varieties within the series.
On the 1922-D and the 1922-S, one can find any number of slight positional
variations with the mintmarks. The mintmark can be found on the coin's
reverse below the 'O' of the word ONE. On the 1923, there is a variety
with a minor double die reverse. There is also a variety of the 1928-S
where the mintmark appears to be bolder then the regular mintmark, especially in
the center portion of the 'S.' The 1934-S not only hosts the normal
version but also one with a slight design modification. The 1934-D
displays four varieties. There is the large 'D' and the small 'D'
mintmarks, as well as the Large 'D' with a double die obverse, and the small 'D'
with a double die obverse. The 1935-S demonstrates a reverse die change in
that year. The two varieties that can be found are: three rays from the
sun below the word ONE and four rays of the sun below the word ONE.
Since the 1960s, the Peace Dollar has enjoyed a renewed interest among Coin
Collectors. Many believe that the history, the shortness of the series,
and the silver content of the coins are contributing factors, but I believe that
there is a real beauty to these coins especially in the higher grades, and there
is a faction of Coin Collectors who appreciate true beauty.
Peace Dollar Specifications:
Weight: 26.73 grams
Composition: .900 Silver, .100 Copper
Diameter: 38.1 mm
Mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco
Net Weight: .77344 oz. pure Ag
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