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. Designed by Anthony de Francisci, the Peace Dollar was so named because the word PEACE appears on the bottom of the coin's reverse. It contains 0.77344 troy ounces of silver, and was the successor to the Morgan Dollar, which had not been regularly minted since 1904. With the passage of the Pittman Act in 1918, the mintage of dollar coins was enabled to start again. Prior to the design and acceptance of the Peace Dollar, the Morgan Dollar was minted again in 1921. After a six-year pause in minting, the Peace Dollar was again minted in 1934 and 1935. It was minted briefly in 1965 (dated 1964), but all examples of this issue were never released to the public and were melted. The Peace Dollar is the last silver dollar minted for circulation in the United States.
HISTORY 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."
The theme for the proposed silver 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.
Return of the silver dollar
The biggest hurdle faced by proponents of the new coin was that no dollar coin had been minted for circulation in the United States since 1904, the last year of the Morgan Dollar. The demand for silver dollars was so low that vast quantities of Morgans were still sitting in bank vaults. That hurdle was overcome with the passage of the Pittman Act on April 23, 1918. Sponsored by Nevada Senator Key Pittman, the Pittman Act 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 participated, 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.
Production of the Peace Dollar commenced on December 21, 1921, and it was placed into circulation on January 3, 1922. That same day, President Harding was presented with the first Peace Dollar. 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. That year more than 84 million Peace Dollars were struck, the highest mintage of the series.
End of production
By 1928, the US Mint had struck enough silver dollars (Morgan and Peace combined) to satisfy the requirements of the Pittman Act. Since public demand for silver dollars did not materialize, the mint halted production of the Peace Dollar that year (with fewer than two million struck). The Peace Dollar returned briefly in 1934 and 1935, as the government needed additional backing for Silver Certificates.
The coin almost made a return in 1964, when Congress approved the mintage of 45 million new silver dollars to fulfill the needs of the booming casino industry in Nevada. The decision was controversial due to a critical silver shortage in 1965, which led to widespread hoarding of silver coinage. In response to the shortage, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1965, which authorized the removal of silver content from circulating coinage (except for the Kennedy half dollar) minted after December 31, 1964. But under pressure from some members of Congress from the Western states, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued an order on May 15, 1965 to resume production of the Peace Dollar (dated 1964 to allow silver to be included). 316,076 Peace Dollars were struck at the Denver mint that month, before Congress overrode the Presidential order and demanded that production cease. All the coins produced to that point were ordered to be melted. Although rumors persist that some examples still survive, owning them is illegal, making it unlikely that anyone who does own one will ever come forth publicly.
Production of dollar coinage did not resume until the Eisenhower Dollar in 1971. That coin, however, has no silver content, except for ones included in special Mint proof sets. Likewise, the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollars minted for circulation contain no silver, making the Peace Dollar the last true silver dollar.