The Peace Dollar is a silver United States dollar coin minted from 1921 to 1928, then again in 1934 and 1935. Early proposals for the coin called for a commemorative issue to coincide with the end of World War I, but the Peace Dollar was issued as a circulating coin.
The original inspiration for the Peace Dollar was a paper published in the November 1918 issue of The Numismatist. In it, editor Frank G. Duffield called for a commemorative coin to mark the impending end of World War I. The paper was to be presented at the summer 1918 convention of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), but the convention was cancelled due to the Spanish flu pandemic. Duffield’s paper stated that:
“An event of international interest, and one worthy to be commemorated by a United States coin issue, is scheduled to take place in the near future. The date has not yet been determined, but it will be when the twentieth century vandals have been beaten to their knees and been compelled to accept the terms of the Allies… It should be issued in such quantities that it will never become rare, and it should circulate at face value.”
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries
The theme for the proposed coin was elaborated upon at the Chicago ANA convention of August 1920. A paper written by Farran Zerbe called for a coin that would showcase the ideals of democracy, liberty, prosperity, and honor. The proposal called for either a half dollar or dollar, in order to provide as much space as possible for the design.
Passage of the Pittman Act on April 23, 1918, sponsored by Nevada Senator Key Pittman, allowed the US government to melt as many as 350 million silver dollars, and then either sell the bullion or use it to produce subsidiary silver coinage. Additionally, the law required the government to mint replacement dollars for any that were melted, with domestically purchased silver.
Since the Act required the minting of new silver dollars, and since no new designs had been accepted, on May 9, 1921, the US Mint resumed production of the Morgan Dollar. More than 86 million Morgans were struck during that year, by far the single highest mintage in the coin’s history. The same day that mintage of the Morgan resumed, legislation was introduced in the US Congress that called for the issuance a new silver dollar to commemorate the post-World War I peace. The measure did not come to a vote, but one was not needed. Since the Morgan had been in production (during its original run) for more than 25 years, alteration of the design no longer required legislative approval.
The job of designing the new coin would normally have fallen to George T. Morgan, the mint’s chief engraver and designer of the Morgan Dollar. But in compliance with an executive order by President Warren G. Harding, an open design competition for the new dollar was held by the Commission of Fine Arts. Nine artists paticipated, including Adolph A. Weinman, Hermon A. MacNeil, and Victor D. Brenner, designers of the Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter, and Lincoln cent, respectively. The winner of the competition was an Italian immigrant and sculptor, Anthony de Francisci, whose most recent work had been the design of the Maine Centennial half dollar in 1920.
Roughly one million examples were struck before it was realized that the relief on the coin was so high that it was difficult to strike, and the dies used were breaking at a high rate. The relief was lowered starting with the 1922 issue, resulting in the High Relief 1921 Peace Dollar being both the First Year of Issue and the Only year for the Type.
Designer: Anthony de Francisci
Mintage: 1,006,473 – Proofs estimated at 15-16
Denomintion: One Dollar
Diameter: 38.5 millimeters
Metal content: 90% Silver – 10% Copper
Weight: 412.5 grains (26.7 grams)