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1921 saw both the return of the Morgan Dollar as well as the creation of the Peace Dollar. From a coin collectors standpoint, the 1921 Peace Dollar commands a much higher value in all grades than the 1921 Morgan Dollar. This is partially due to mintages, there were 44 million Morgan Dollars minted in 1921 compared to 1 million Peace Dollars but also the 1921 Peace Dollars were high relief and are more visually appealing than the low relief 1921 Morgan Dollars.
The return of the Morgan Dollar had a lot to do with the events of WWI. The first round of Morgan Dollars were struck from 1878 to 1904 and at the time it was believed that Morgan Dollars would never be produced again, so the hubs used to create the Morgan Dollar dies were destroyed in 1910.
In 1921, the U.S. resumed production of the Morgan Dollar as a side effect of a British silver shortage due to WWI. The British had oversold silver certificates to India to fund the war efforts and needed to buy silver from the United States to back up these certificates. This required the U.S. to melt silver coins to supply the British demand. This idea upset the politically powerful silver industry who was worried this melting would eliminate the silver dollar, and with it the demand for silver. To placate the silver industry and still fund the U.S. allies, the U.S. government passed the Pittman Act which required the U.S. to remake the silver coins they melted and sold abroad, and thus the 1921 Morgan Dollar went into production.
While the Pittman Act may seem like a waste of taxpayer dollars, as the act required the U.S. government to replace the melted silver at above market rates ($1 per oz), it was a little more nuanced than that. Essentially there were several politicians in Washington who represented silver mining states. So the U.S. government had to gain their support in order to help U.S. allies win WWI. Additionally, the U.S. had significant war debts that would have been traditionally paid in gold, gold that the U.S. wanted to keep for the post war period. However Britain’s unique silver debt to India allowed the U.S. to pay their debt in silver, which the U.S. was particularly flush with. The Pittman act is often criticised as a horrible monetary policy, but when viewed as a wartime strategy it has a much more successful connotation.
This resulted in the recreation of the Morgan Dollar in 1921 after a 16 year gap in production. Since the original Morgan Dollar hubs were destroyed in 1910 George Morgan, chief engraver at the U.S. Mint made new hubs from scratch with a low relief so as to get the most use out of the coin dies. High relief coins dies wear out much faster than low relief dies. As a result every Morgan Dollar produced in 1921 is unappealing and flat compared to their predecessors.
These Morgan Dollars were not produced to delight the population, instead they were used to back the silver certificates and to follow the guidelines of the Pittman Act. The majority of these dollars were stored in Treasury Department Vaults and rarely saw the light of day.
Contrary to the 1921 Morgan Dollar, the high relief design of 1921 Peace Dollars was loved and accepted by the U.S. Population. The 1921 Peace Dollar is the only high relief version of this coin, in 1922 the coin was redesigned to have a lower relief and thus prolong the life of the dies used to make the coin. This significance as well as the beauty of the coin makes the 1921 Peace Dollar highly collectible.
Numismatists lobbied the U.S. Mint to create a new silver dollar that commemorated the peace following WWI. The Pittman act still required the U.S. mint to create silver dollars, and the population was tired of the Morgan Dollar design, especially with its lowered relief. U.S. citizens eventually convinced the U.S. government to change the design, and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon approved a design that was the winner of a competition for the design of the new dollar. Anthony De Francisci won the competition with a Liberty design that was based on his wife Teresa’s features.
The Peace Dollar went into production in December of 1921 where a remarkable 1 million coins were struck in the high relief design. All coins were minted in Philadelphia for this year. While the mintage was still high compared to other Peace Dollar coins, this year is particularly collected due to the high relief as well as the unique history surrounding the coin.