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The Five Rarest Date Peace Dollars in MS-65

NSDR Journal

VOL. XII

August 1995

 

The Five Rarest Date Peace Dollars in MS-65

By Randy Campbell, NLG

 

They’re popular.  They’re gorgeous.  They’re RARE!  And, yes, they’re expensive.  Most collectors can’t afford them.  But, most collectors love to look at them and dream, “maybe someday, I’ll own one.”

Rare date MS-65 Peace dollars are the coins I’m talking about.  Specifically, I’m referring to the five rarest dates in the series in Gem condition.  In the following analysis, I will examine the specific characteristics of each of the five rarest dates.  The strike, luster and surface abrasions of each date will be discussed.  Other factors, such as mintage vs. number of coins certified MS-65 will be factored into this analysis.  Also, the six year price history of each date will be examined.

 

Dates Not in the Top Five

Some Peace dollars enthusiasts probably would expect the lowest mintage date in the series, the 1928, to be in the Top Five.  Many others certainly would look for the “King of the Peace Dollars,” – the 1934-S – to make this list.  Still others might think that the elusive 1924-S would make the Top Five.  Wrong, wrong, wrong!

 

The Top Five

Recent population reports from the three major grading services (ANACS, PCGS, and NGC) have been analyzed in an attempt to determine the five rarest dates in the series in MS-65 condition.  Admittedly, this method is hardly foolproof.  Some coins have been submitted to the same (or different) grading services on more than one occasion, thereby artificially inflating the reported number of coins in that grade.  Also, vast numbers of raw (uncertified) dollars remain in collections that have never been submitted to any grading service.  Multi-roll quantities of some of these Top Five dates were sold to private individuals decades ago.  Should these coins be submitted to one of the services, they could alter substantially the current make-up of the Top Five.

Until then, though, the combined population reports of the three major services represent the best statistical evidence available to anyone attempting to determine relative rarity for MS-65 Peace dollars.

#5.  The 1923-S

Mintage:  19,020,000

Combined population in MS-65:  62 coins

6/2/89 High CCDN Bid:  $12,500            6/2/95 High CCDN Bid:  $3,150

 

General Characteristics:  If you like mediocre luster, severe surface abrasions and a below average to pancake flat strike, then this is the date for you!  Seriously, the overall eye appeal of the typical uncirculated 1923-S is arguably the worst in the Peace dollar series.

This date’s tendency for a very poor strike is undoubtedly its most serious shortcoming.  Weakness will be seen on the obverse in the central area where Liberty’s hair covers her ear and, just above the last two digits of the date where the high pint relief of the base of the neck is much flatter than usual.  On the reverse, the eagle’s feather detail will be greatly reduced, particularly the area where the bottom row of wing feathers meets the top of the eagle’s legs.

In his classic Morgan and Peace Dollar Textbook (1982), author Wayne Miller suggested that “The 1923-S is the rarest of all Peace dollars in strictly gem condition.”  And, indeed, as a percentage of its mintage (over 10 million), this date is the rarest in MS-65.  However, in absolute terms, it is the fifth rarest Peace dollar in Gem condition.

Like most dates in the series, the 1923-S has suffered a huge price decline since the height of the market in June 1989.  The drop in its MS-65 bid price from $12,500 to $3,150 constitutes a decline of nearly 75 percent.

 

#4. The 1927-D

Mintage:  1,268,900

Combined Population in MS-65:  61 coins

6/2/89 High CCDN Bid:  $11,000      6/2/95 High CCDN Bid:  $2,650

 

General Characteristics:  Unlike the other dates in the Top Five, the 1927-D typically is seen with an adequate to above average strike.  Luster tends to be average to above average on those specimens that have NOT been cleaned, overdipped, mishandled, or subjected to some other form of numismatic abuse.  Sadly, many uncirculated ’27-D’s have been abused, thereby giving the impression that this date suffers from inadequate luster.  Artificially tone 1927-D’s are also seen from time to time.

Excessively deep and severe bagmarks are the primary reason why this date is rare in Gem condition.  In a 1992 Sotheby’s auction, a hoard of 2,500 BU 1927-D dollars came onto the market (the largest hoard of this date I’ve ever heard of).  The vast majority graded MS-63 or below because of deep scrapes and abrasions.

From mid-1989 to mid-1995, the MS-65 1927-D has dropped from $11,000 bid to just $2,650, a decline of 76 percent.

 

#3. The 1927-S

Mintage:  866,000

Combined Population in MS-65:  48 coins

6/2/89 High CCDN Bid:  $17,800             6/2/95 High CCDN Bid:  $3,200

 

General Characteristics:  Most uncirculated 1927-S dollars will display satiny to semiprooflike luster. This is especially true of those specimens that were dispersed from the Redfield Hoard in 1976.  A minority of 1927-S dollars will have frosty luster, similar to that seen on 1923-S dollars.  Quality wise, this date’s luster is usually average; rarely exceptional.

The vast majority of mint state 1927-S dollars evidence a below average strike (typical of most San Francisco mint Peace dollars).  High point detail will be only slightly better thatn it is on dates like 1923-S, 1925-S, and 1928-S.  Indeed, weakness in strike is the #1 reason why this date is the third rarest date in the series in MS-65 condition.

Bagmarks are not a major problem with this issue.  However, there are usually just enough abrasions present to prevent an MS-65 grade, even on the nicer BU specimens.

This date’s low mintage is another factor which contributes to its scarcity in Gem condition.  Is it just a coincidence that the date with the third lowest mintage is also the third rarest in MS-65?

The MS-65 1927-S has the dubious distinction of suffering the biggest price decline of any date in the series since mid-1989.  During the last six years, this date has collapsed from $17,800 down to $3,200, a decline of 82 percent!

 

#2. The 1925-S

Mintage:  1,610,000

Combined Population in MS-65:  43 coins

6/2/89 High CCDN Bid:  $10,900      6/2/95 High CCDN Bid:  $5,200

 

General Characteristics:  The usual 1925-S dollar will have a very flat strike.  Typically, there is a lack of high point detail on the eagle’s shoulder, wing feathers, and at the top of the legs.  1925-S dollars with even an average strike are seldom encountered.

The last significant quantity of 1925-S dollars to enter the market were the four BU bags of this date that were dispersed from the Redfield Estate in 1976.  Every coin that I personally examined from this hoard had a strike that ranged from below average to well below average.

Surface abrasions tend to be noticeable and distracting.  Luster usually is just average.  The minority of 1925-S dollars with above average luster have a maddening tendency to be heavily abraded.  For all these reasons, the 1925-S Peace dollar is a legitimate rarity in MS-65 condition.

Since June of 1989, the MS-65 1925-S has dropped from $10,900 bid to $5,200 bid.  Amazingly, this 52 percent decline represents a much better than average performance among all dates in the series during the last six years.

 

#1. The 1928-S

Mintage:  1,632,000

Combined Population in MS-65:  39 coins

6/2/89 High CCDN Bid:  $16,000      6/2/95 High CCDN Bid:  $8,000

 

General Characteristics:  Say it loudly.  THE 1928-S IS THE RAREST PEACE DOLLAR IN MS-65 CONDITION!  As of early 1995, ANACS, PCGS and NGC had certified just 39 1928-S dollar sin MS-65.  However, just a few weeks ago, ANACS had the privilege of certifying the 40th Gem, a well struck, lustrous MS-65 from the fabulous Bill Lower collection.  It is the best example of this date I have seen in the last five years.

Like the 1923-S, the 1928-S suffers from an extremely poor strike.  On the worst examples, the eagle’s wing feathers are partially obliterated.  I have seen some of these technically uncirculated 1928-S dollars trade dealer-to-dealer for AU money, due to their extreme eye appeal.

The luster on this date is generally adequate.  However, the numerous deep scrapes and marks that plague the 1928-S tend to be obscure the quality of the coin’s luster.  Artificial toning, abrasive cleaning, gross over-dipping and coin counting wheel damage are just some of the problems that beset this date.  Some have even had the “S” mintmark crudely removed in an effort to sell them as 1928-“P” dollar!  Given these traits, it is somewhat surprising that even 40 Gems have surfaced during the certification era.

Since mid-1989, the MS-65 1928-S has declined from $16,000 bid down to $8,000, a 50 percent drop.  Percentage wise, this is the best performance among the five rarest dates in the series during the last six years.

 

To Grade MS-65, They Must Have…

1923-S, 1925-S, 1928-S:  Luster must be well above average to exceptional.  Only minor surface abrasions should be visible.  Liberty’s cheek, neck, and the fields in front of her face should be especially free of major marks.  On these three dates, the strike should be well above average for the date.  This, of course eliminates over 99 percent of all mint state ’23-S, ’25-S and ’28-S dollars form consideration for MS-65.

Light peripheral toning usually is considered to be a “plus” for those dates.  Heavy dark toning is generally regarded as a “minus” grading factor.  Obviously, noticeable spotting and hairlining are not permissible.

Outstanding eye appeal and an overall pleasing appearance must be present before any 1923-S, ’25-S or ’28-S can be considered for MS-65 status.

 

1927-S:  The requirements are basically the same for this date as for the previous three dates.  However, MS-65 examples of the 1927-S could have a slightly better strike than, say, the 1928-S.

Distracting marks on Liberty’s cheek are not acceptable for coins hoping to attain Gem status.

 

1927-D:  Gem 1927-D dollars will have a very sharp strike.  Both the luster and the overall eye appeal will be exceptional.

The first thing many specialists look for on this date in the absence of offensive abrasions, particularly on the obverse.  Do not buy 1927-D dollars at MS-65 prices that have significant marks in the prime focal areas.  Also, coins with dark and/or suspicious toning should be rejected.

 

Buy Them Certified

A one point grading mistake on any of these Top Five issues could result in a multi-thousand dollar loss on the part of the buyer.  Given the huge difference in bid levels between MS-64 and MS-65 (over a $7,000 difference in the case of the 1928-S) purchase of raw (uncertified) mint state examples of these dates is NOT recommended to novice collectors.

Indeed, it is my view that most hobbyists who have the interest, and the money, to buy MS-65 examples of these Top Five dates should buy only those coins that are already certified by one of the three major grading services.

If considering the purchase of any Gem examples of these dates, make sure the coin is pleasing for the grade.  Do NOT buy a given coin just because it is certified.  Buy it because you like the coin at the price it is being offered to you.

 

Are They Undervalued?

Some collectors and investors may believe that these Top Five Peace dollar dates are grossly undervalued.  They point to the 1927-S, whose bid level has dropped from $17,800 to $3,200 in MS-65 during the last six years.

However, just because a given date has dropped 82 percent of its value during the last six years doesn’t mean it can’t lose even more of its value during the next six years.  Simply put, there are no guarantees!

On the other hand, the incredible rarity of these Top Five dates (in MS-65) has been clearly established during the certification era.  Given their rarity, it seems unlikely that these dates would suffer another major round of losses over the next six years.

The popularity of the Peace dollar series is another reason why I believe that the five rarest dates may be nearing the bottom, pricewise, in MS-65 condition.  Literally thousands of collectors and dealers have a strong interest in this series.  Indeed, at any given coin show, Peace dollars are among the most popularly traded items.  And, among specialists, there is a growing consensus that the key dates in this series have gotten too cheap in Gem condition.

Will this consensus opinion be proven correct?  Only time will tell.

 

Conclusion

Six years ago, only the wealthiest dealers and collectors could afford to buy MS-65 examples of these Top Five issues.  The cumulative bid for these dates was $68,200 in MS-65 grade.  The current cumulative bid of $24,200 represents a $44,000 decline during the last six years – collapse that is unprecedented in the history of the Peace dollar market.  However, even at today’s much lower prices, these Top Five dates are still beyond the means of the vast majority of Peace dollar collectors.  Some collectors, though, can afford to buy an example of one of these rare dates in Gem condition.  To them, today’s much lower prices may spell “opportunity.”

Admit it.  Even if you had to stretch your coin buying budget, you might be tempted to buy a blazing MS-65 1927-D or 1927-S at, say, $3,000 to $3,500.  For it is EXACTLY this combination of rarity and beauty that has attracted numismatists for centuries!

Good luck, and good fortune, to all of you!

 

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