1921 Silver Dollar

The 1921 Silver Dollar refers to two coins - the Morgan Silver Dollar which was minted from 1878 to 1921, and the Peace Dollar which was first minted in 1921.

Morgan Silver Dollar (1878 - 1921)

The Morgan Silver Dollar has an amazing history. This coin went from the most reviled mass-produced Silver coin to one of the most treasured mint condition coins today. The coin features Lady Liberty on one side and an American Eagle clasping arrows and an olive branch on the other side.

The Morgan contains 90% Silver and 10% Copper, with 0.77344 oz of Silver (unlike 1 oz Silver coins issued by most mints and private dealers today).

The Morgan Silver Dollar came into being only because miners hit a massive Silver lode - the Comstock Lode - in Nevada which yielded Silver worth $35 million annually. Even though there was no monetary demand, Silver interests successfully lobbied for the minting of coins and the first Morgan was struck in 1878 at the Philadelphia mint. Even though its Silver content was worth less than $1, the Morgan was nonetheless assigned a value of $1 which led to an inflation of Silver prices despite the glut.

Amid some controversy, George T. Morgan was selected as the coin's designer. He then secretly commissioned a Philadelphia school teacher, Ms. Anna Willess Williams, to be his model for the face of Lady Liberty (Ms. Williams was subsequently fired when school authorities found this out because her teaching contract prohibited other assignments).

Further, Morgan's American Eagle drew quite some flack because many thought its long neck made it look more like a buzzard than an eagle, and some resorted to derogatorily calling this the buzzard dollar.

Morgan also designed the eagle with 8 tail feathers whereas earlier coins featured 7, so Morgan made some design changes on this too, with some of the rarest Morgans featuring 7 feathers superimposed over the original 8.

657 million Morgans were minted - in Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, Denver and Carson City (Nevada), with dies that differed slightly, resulting in many original series of Morgans.

Morgan Silver Dollar Value and Scarcity

Millions of Morgans were melted in 1918 so the resulting Silver could be sold to Britain to counter German propaganda claiming Britain had no Silver left to back its currency during World War I. Then, in 1921, minting of Morgans was briefly resumed before they were ultimately discontinued and replaced by the new Peace Dollar in 1921.

In 1975, over 400,000 uncirculated mint condition Morgans were discovered in the basement of Nevada multi-millionaire, LaVere Redfield, upon his death. This sparked off renewed collector frenzy for Morgans. Today, the Morgan is a collector's favorite because of its colorful history, multiple designs, multiple mints and slight imperfections - making each series unique.

Morgans vary in price based on their condition, rarity and grade. Highly prized amongst these are proofs that were made for every series.

The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS at www.pcgs.com) puts out daily prices on collectible coins of various grades. As of May 2011 (spot Silver $35/oz), a complete set of PCGS Grade 67 Morgans carried a fair market value of $1,420,390. Pretty amazing!

Other high priced Morgans include the 1893-S #67 ($1 million - only 1 mint condition coin known to exist), 1886-O #67 ($650,000 - only 1 in known existence), 1884-S #67 ($500,000), 1892-S #67 ($485,000 - only 5 in existence), 1893-CC Grade # 67 ($285,000), 1895 #68 ($210,000), 1883-S #67 ($200,000) and the 1897-O #67 ($115,000). Not bad for a humble $1 coin with less than an ounce of Silver.

The Peace Dollar (1921 - 1928, 1934 - 1935)

After the Morgan, numismatists rallied for a new design for the 1921 Silver dollar - one that embodied peace and celebrated the end of World War I in a dignified manner. In 1921, the U.S. Mint invited selected artists to submit designs - the winner's prize was $1,500 plus bragging rights, every one else that submitted designs would receive $100.

While many of the artists were experienced coin designers, the winner was the youngest of the lot and a rather inexperienced coin designer - Anthony de Francisci.

Francisci's 1921 Silver Dollar design featured Lady Liberty on one side and on the other side, a resting eagle clutching just an olive branch (as opposed to the belligerent, spread-winged arrow-and-olive-branch clutching Morgan eagle).

Francisci's original design had an eagle clutching a broken sword in addition to an olive branch but this design was quashed because many thought a broken sword represented defeat. So the broken sword was covered up by an elongated olive branch. For Lady Liberty, Francisci used his wife as a model because he did not have time to hire a model, or so he claimed.

The Peace Dollar was far less controversial in its design and history than the Morgan Dollar.

1921 Peace Silver Dollar Value and Scarcity

The first 1921 Silver Peace Dollar was struck on December 28, 1921. Peace Dollars were minted in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. In total, 190,577,279 Peace Dollars were struck. At the Philadelphia mint, 1,006,473 coins were struck in 1921 - their first year of minting and only 360,649 in 1928 - making 1921-P and 1928-P collector favorites for their rarity.

1921 Silver Dollar Values

As of May 2011 (spot Silver $35/oz), a PCGS Grade 66 1922 matte finish high relief Peace Dollar commanded $350,000. A PCGS Grade 67 1934-D commanded $80,000 and a PCGS Grade 67 1923-S commanded $59,500.

When you compare 1921 Silver Dollars (Peace Dollars with Morgans), you see that rare Morgans in mint condition are a lot more expensive. However, both Morgans and Peace Dollars have appreciated significantly in value and delivered rich returns to their owners. The 1921 silver dollar whether a Morgan or Peace, represents a mint date that is historically significant as the end of the Morgan dollar minting, and the beginning of the Peace Dollar.