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The United States Peace Dollar

9th National Silver Dollar Convention

St. Louis, Missouri

November 10 – 13, 1988


The United States Peace Dollar

By Scott T. Rottinghaus


Among collectors of United States coins, one of the most popular pieces is the Peace silver dollar, which was struck between 1921 and 1928, and again in 1934 and 1935.  This essay focuses on the development and minting of the Peace dollar.

A Peace coin was first suggested at the ANA convention in 1920 by Farran Zerbe.  Zerbe wanted a coin to be struck for circulation that would commemorate the ending of World War I.  Since no dollars had been struck since 1904 the Peace coin would probably have been a half dollar.  But in May, 1921, coinage of silver dollars was resumed under the Pittman Act of 1918, which had caused 270,232,722 silver dollars to be melted and sold as bullion.  Since the Pittman Act also provided for the melted coins to be replaced, it authorized the striking of 270,232,722 silver dollars.

On the day that the coinage of silver dollars was resumed, a joint resolution was introduced in Congress which proposed the Peace dollar.  However, this resolution was never passed.  But in the end, the Peace dollar was authorized under the terms of the Pittman Act.  Although the Pittman Act didn’t have any control over the designs of the coins, the Secretary of the Treasury approved a design change on the silver dollar so that a Peace dollar could be issued.

A limited competition was held for the new dollar’s design, and Anthony de Francisci’s designs were approved on December 19, 1921.  Mr. Francisci used his wife as a model for some of the features of the Liberty head on the obverse because of the limited amount of time that he had to produce the design.  The dies were quickly produced and the coinage of the Peace dollar began on December 26, 1921.  1,006,473 Peace dollars were struck before the end of the year.

The 1921 Peace dollars were struck in high relief, which was not practical for coinage.  The high relief Peace dollars, while very attractive if well struck, were usually weakly struck on Liberty’s hair and on the eagle’s feathers at the center of the coin.  The coins were also criticized because it was felt that they would not stack as well as they should as a result of the high relief.  These original problems with the Peace dollars can be attributed mainly to the fact that there was very little time in which to make designs that would work well on circulating coins.

In 1922, George T. Morgan, who was the engraver at the mint, modified the design on the Peace dollar.  He made some minor changes in the design of the coin, lowered the relief, and made the coin’s concave fields smooth.  This made the coin less attractive but more suitable for use in circulation.

In 1928, after the 270,232,722 dollars authorized by the Pittman Act had been struck the coinage of the Peace dollar was suspended.  But because of the Thomas amendment to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, Peace dollars were again struck in 1934 and 1935 to back silver certificates.  A Presidential proclamation of 1933 also caused more Peace dollars to be struck to pay for new domestic silver.  “Under the Thomas Amendment and Proclamation o f1933 7,021,528 silver dollars were minted in 1934 and 1935.”[1]

After 1935, no more Peace dollars were issued for circulation.  However, in 1964, legislation was passed that would have allowed the mints to strike up to forty-five million new Peace dollars.  The Denver mint struck 316,076 coins before the order to strike them was revoked.  All of the 1964 Peace dollars were supposedly melted.

The Peace design was finally retired after 1964.  While the Peace dollar is currently not quite as popular as its Morgan counterpart, it is very common, and widely collected.

[1] Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis, The Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of U.S. Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars (New York:  Arco Publishing Co., 1976), p. 13.

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