Peace Dollar: A Glimpse into American Numismatic History

The Peace dollar is a silver US coin with a face value of $1 USD but a much higher market value from its metal content, historical significance, and collectibility. The coin’s sophisticated design was symbolic of the ending of World War I.

When it was first minted in 1921, the Peace dollar was designed to replace the previous silver dollar: the Morgan dollar. The coins share similarities, as the Peace dollar has a similar Lady Liberty design — thus, some call it the Liberty dollar coin.

In modern times, the silver Peace dollar has become one of the most collected silver US coins. It was also the last US silver dollar struck for circulation when the series ended in 1935.

Heard of the Peace dollar before? Well, our experts here at Coins Auctioned are here to tell you all the details you may not know, including the Peace dollar’s history, value, errors, and significance.

1923 peace dollarPictured above: Obverse and reverse of 1923 Peace dollar coin | Image credit: Windrain, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Historical Background

The first Peace Dollars were struck in December 1921. Peace dollars were made for two reasons: 1) fulfilling two Congress acts in 1918 and 1934, and 2) celebrating post-World War I peacetime.

Why Peace Dollars?

The first Congressional act was the Pittman Act in 1918, which allowed the mint to melt hundreds of millions of silver dollars, then sell them for $1 per oz of bullion to Great Britain, as the British needed silver to back their money during WWI.

The silver coins being melted were Morgan dollars, and this mass coinage melt meant almost half the current supply of Morgan dollars was melted. However, the Pittman Act also allowed the mint to replace every melted silver dollar when WWI ended.

In 1921, the US Mint resumed minting Morgan dollars for replacement until they could create a new design.

Many experts credit the idea of making a new silver dollar celebrating post-war peace to two men:

  1. Frank Duffield, editor of The Numismatist who wrote an article with the recommendation in November 1918, and

  2. Farran Zerbe, renowned collector and president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) who proposed the idea in a paper read to the ANA in August 1920, noting “we gave our silver dollars to help win the war, we restore them in commemoration of victory and peace.”

In response to Zerbe’s paper, a committee was appointed to get Congress to adopt the plan. This was the first time a coin collector made strides in persuading the US Mint and Congress.

anthony de francisci designing the new peace dollar in 1921Pictured above: Anthony de Francisci designing the new 'Peace Silver Dollar' (1921) | Image credit: Press, Public domain

Peace Dollar Designer Chosen

Once the new idea was approved, The Commission of Fine Arts held a competition among 8 sculptors to design the new silver dollar. Italian-American sculptor Anthony (Antonio) de Francisci won, despite being the youngest and least established.

According to a 1999 book by Tom LaMarre, Francisci stated that in choosing the Peace dollar design, “his goal was to capture the spirit of the country—its intellectual speed, vigor, and vitality.”

The US continued minting the Peace dollar until 1928, when they met the silver requirement laid out in the Pittman Act.

1930s and 1960s Peace Dollars

When Congress passed the Silver Purchase Act of 1934, the US Mint was required to buy American-mined silver to coin for a higher price than its current market value. The goal was to offset silver’s significant value dip caused by the Great Depression.

Commercial demand (in part from the Great Depression) was low for these new Peace dollars, though, so the US Mint stopped minting them in 1935.

When coin hoarding caused increasing silver prices in 1964, Congress tried to reissue the Peace dollars. Negative feedback from the public about the coins just being hoarded led the Mint to cease production of Peace dollars.

All 1964 Peace dollars struck were declared “trial strikes” and reportedly melted before they could be circulated.

The Design and Minting Process

First, let’s break down the Liberty dollar’s basic specs:

  • Diameter: 38.1 millimeters (1.5 inches)

  • Thickness: 2.4 millimeters (~0.094 inches)

  • Total weight: 26.73 grams (~0.94 standard ounces)

The Peace dollar coins had a composition of 90 percent silver (900 fineness) and 10 percent copper. That makes their silver content 0.77344 troy ounces.

The coin’s edge is reeded, meaning it has a series of narrow ridges.

1923 peace dollar obversePictured above: Obverse of 1923-P silver Peace dollar

Creation of the Peace Silver Dollar: Obverse Design

Anthony de Francisci designed the Peace dollar to embody both American pride and the post-WWI peacetime era.

The Peace dollar’s obverse (heads side) features a left-facing profile of Lady Liberty (aka the Roman goddess Libertas, the mythical Goddess of Liberty) similar to the Morgan Dollar that preceded it.

But this Liberty wears a radiate crown, which is also called a “radiant crown” and has narrow bands radiating outward resembling sun rays. The image evokes the Statue of Liberty.

Francisci used his wife, Teresa de Francisci, as the model for Liberty.

As an immigrant to America from Italy, this was the “realization of [Teresa’s] fondest childhood dream” according to a letter to her brother. When she immigrated at 5 years old, she was awestruck by the Statue of Liberty and even imitated the pose for her family.

Inscriptions on the obverse include “LIBERTY” along the top edge, the mintage year (e.g. “1923”) along the bottom edge, “A” (for Anthony) below the neck, and “IN GOD WE TRVST” on either side of Liberty. That “TRVST” isn’t a misspelling, by the way.

The obverse of the first Peace dollars struck in 1921 had a high-relief of around 0.03 in (0.762 mm) while their obverse had a low-relief of around 0.015 in (0.381 mm).

These high-relief versions were changed in mid-1922, so all Peace dollars after were not struck in any high-relief varieties.

1923 peace dollar reversePictured above: Reverse of 1923-P silver Peace dollar

Reverse Design

The reverse (tails side) of the Peace dollar features a bald eagle perched on a mountain in front of a sunrise.

The inscriptions include “PEACE” within the mountain rock along the bottom, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” & “E PLURIBUS UNUM” stacked along the top, and “ONE DOLLAR” on either side of the eagle. The mint mark, if present, is below the “ONE” near the bottom of the eagle’s wings.

Originally, Francisci had two options for the eagle: one with the eagle breaking a sword and one with the eagle holding an olive branch, both meant to symbolize peace. The Mint Director Raymond T. Baker wanted the design to include both the broken sword and the olive branch.

However, the public announcement of the design caused backlash.

Critics claimed the broken sword symbolized defeat. The US Mint issued a statement that the design would change and had Chief Engraver George T. Morgan (designer of the Morgan dollar) quickly and impressively adjusted the dies to remove the broken sword.

None of the Peace dollars struck contain the broken sword.

Minting Process

Three mints struck Peace dollars, with the mint marks:

  • “D” – Denver Mint

  • “S” – San Francisco Mint

  • None – Philadelphia Mint

The total struck was 190,777,279. Most were struck in Philadelphia (over 111.4 million), followed by San Francisco (almost 52.3 million), then Denver (over 27 million).

reverse of 1922-d peace dollar with denver mint mark and fine gradePictured above: Reverse of 1922-D peace dollar (with "D" mintmark) graded "F" for "Fine"

Collector’s Appeal

Today, Peace dollars have become some of the top US silver dollars to collect and top silver coins around the world for collectors.

While this Liberty coin already has historical appeal, its exact value depends on multiple factors:

  • Variety: Proof Peace dollars are struck more precisely from higher-quality planchets in lower quantities, making them more valuable than circulated varieties.

  • Rarity: What makes a Peace dollar rare? Having dates and/or mint marks from a lower-mintage batch (meaning fewer were struck) or a mint error.

  • Mint Errors: Unintentional errors that aren’t caught before distribution can greatly increase aPeace dollar’s value.

  • Condition: Most Peace dollars were circulated, causing considerable wear and tear. Better condition means higher value. Having your coin graded and certified by a professional is crucial for resale value.

  • Demand: Certain varieties fluctuate in popularity and thus, value.

Now let’s explore how those factors relate to Peace dollar varieties and values:

1921 peace dollar proof coin with satin finish from PCGSPictured above: Obverse and reverse of 1921 Peace dollar proof with satin finish | Image credit: PCGS Coin Facts, Free use

Rarity & Collectible Qualities

The Peace dollar isn’t particularly rare, but there are some valuable key dates and mint marks to keep an eye out for:

  • 1921-P — first batch, high relief, and limited mintage of 1,006,473

  • 1922 High Relief — temporary, low mintage of 35,401

  • 1922 High Relief Proof — only 10-12 known

  • 1924-S — low mintage of 1,728,000, rare in high grade

  • 1927-S — lowest mintage from San Francisco Mint of any year at 866,000

  • 1928-P — lowest mintage from Philadelphia Mint of any year at 360,000

While higher grades are usually required for a good price on these, the two exceptions are 1928-P Peace dollars and 1921 or 1922 High Relief (Type 1) Proof Peace dollars, which are rare enough to carry significant value even in poor condition.

1921 high relief type 1 peace dollar from PCGSPictured above: Obverse of 1921 High-Relief (Type 1) Peace dollar | Image credit: PCGS Coin Facts, Free use

Grading Peace Dollars

You’ll always want to have a historical coin graded by a reputable organization, such as Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

Different coin grading systems exist, but the general grading categories for Peace dollars are:

  1. Uncirculated: Struck for circulation but never circulated; Looks like it did the day it was minted

  2. Mint State (MS): Like Uncirculated but with sub-grades from 60 to 70 for many visible marks to flawless, respectively

  3. Proof (PR): Struck as a proof coin; Sub-grades from 60 to 70 just like Mint State

  4. Extremely Fine (XF): Probably never used; Close to Uncirculated but with minor flaws usually not visible to the naked eye

  5. Fine (F): Circulated briefly but still in good condition; Some flaws visible to the naked eye but design isn’t damaged much

  6. Good (G): Circulated heavily but in decent condition; Many flaws visible to the naked eye but design isn’t worn away

Any Peace dollar graded MS-66 or MS-67 is astronomically more valuable.

In recent decades, Peace dollars from the San Francisco Mint have greatly increased in demand and value.

Graders can also identify potential Peace dollar error coins.

1923 peace dollar with whisker jaw error identificationPictured above: "Whisker jaw" error on 1923-P Peace dollar | Image credit: PCGS Coin Facts, Free use

Peace Dollar Errors

There are two features that you might mistake for errors.

First, the inscription “IN GOD WE TRUST” is actually “IN GOD WE TRVST” and this is on every Peace dollar. The “V” was chosen to represent victory in war.

Second, the inscribed “3” on 1923-P Peace dollars may look like an “8” sometimes, but the 1928-P varieties are rarer, so have an expert verify the date.

The valuable errors to look for on Peace dollars are:

  • Off-Center Double Strike: Accidentally struck twice and second strike was off-center; With a high MS grade, can be worth up to $18,000

  • “Whisker Jaw” or “Whisker Cheek”: Notch on Liberty’s jaw or cheek; Worth $100 to $500 (whisker jaw) or $275 to $2,000 (whisker cheek) in in MS-63 to MS-65 grades

  • Doubled Reverse: Double-struck batch with higher flange (rim around the edge); Worth $100 to $300 in MS-63 to MS-65 grades

  • Doubled Eagle Head: Beak of eagle on reverse appears flattened; Worth $900 to $1,750 in MS-63 to MS-65 grades

  • Die Adjustment Strike: Lack clear, precise details; Never circulated but some saved; Worth $2,000 to $3,000

Other known errors on this one dollar coin include partial collar, die crack, and lamination errors.

Value of Peace Dollar

The value of these one dollar coins is always higher than its face value of $1 USD.

In circulated condition, most Peace dollars are generally worth $30 to $40.

However, the liberty silver dollar's value can be $160 to $55,000 with grades of MS-65 to MS-67.

In general, Denver and San Francisco (e.g. "1923-D" and "1923-S") Peace dollars are more valuable than Philadelphia (e.g. "1923-P") Peace dollars.

Currently, the most expensive Peace dollar ever sold was a 1921 high relief proof graded PF-67, which sold for $329,000 in 2014.

2021 commemorative Peace dollar in display boxPictured above: 2021 Peace Dollar in Display Box | Image credit: US Mint, Public domain

The Peace Dollar’s Legacy

The last circulated Peace dollars were struck in 1935, unless you count the melted 1964 Peace dollars. But this legendary coin was given new life after Congress passed the 2021 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act.

In accordance, the US Mint released commemorative silver bullion Peace dollars (and Morgan dollars). The 2021 coins were made from 99.9 percent silver (999 fineness; 0.858 troy ounces) in uncirculated condition. All 2021 Peace dollars were minted in Philadelphia.

The series was picked back up in 2023, with Proof, Reverse Proof, and Uncirculated varieties available. Proof and Reverse Proof varieties were struck in San Francisco, while the Uncirculated variety was struck in Philadelphia.

The coin’s popularity has only increased since the release of these commemorative varieties. The 2023 Uncirculated Peace dollars sold out within one day!

Celebrate Peace and History with a Valuable Peace Dollar!

The Peace dollar not only symbolizes peace and victory, but it also represents America’s upward progression following WWI and the country’s coinage legacy. After all, this legendary coin is the last US silver dollar ever made for circulation!

Whether you’re just starting your coin collection or looking to add some investment pieces to an established set, there are plenty of Peace dollar varieties at accessible price points.

Buy US Peace Dollar coins today!

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