What is a Peace dollar? The Peace dollar is a popular silver dollar coin that was minted from 1921 to 1928 and again in 1934 and 1935. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Peace dollar is a United States silver dollar minted for circulation between 1921 and 1935.

It was created as a commemorative to honor the peace following World War I and the negotiators involved in the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the Great War. The coin features an elegant image of the Goddess of Liberty on the obverse and a bald eagle clutching an olive branch (to symbolize peace) on the reverse.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the history, design, and significance of the iconic Peace dollar. We’ll explore why the coin was first produced, examine its classic design elements in detail, and discuss the reasons behind its discontinuation and periods of renewed minting.

We’ll also look at the Peace dollar’s popularity among collectors today and provide tips on how to identify, store, and appraise these silver coins.

The Origins and Meaning Behind the Peace Dollar

The Push for a New Commemorative Coin

In the early 1920s, there was a growing push for a new commemorative coin to celebrate the peace after World War I. Several Congressmen put forth proposals for a new silver dollar coin that would honor the peace and prosperity that many hoped would follow the end of the devastating global conflict.

Groups like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other civic organizations also advocated for such a coin to pay tribute to the veterans who served.

Honoring the Peace After World War I

Eventually, a proposal was approved to mint a new coin officially titled the “Peace dollar”, which would replace the Morgan dollar. As the name denotes, the coin was meant primarily to commemorate the peace treaties signed after World War I and celebrate the victory of the Allied forces.

But it would also signal hope for continued prosperity and serve as a lasting memento for those who fought.

The idea was first put forward in 1921 by the Director of the Mint, Raymond T. Baker. He envisioned the coin as a way to both honor the peace after the Great War and to generate enthusiasm for the silver dollar once again. At the time, Morgan dollars were very unpopular and poorly circulated.

Choosing a Design Representing Peace

There was a competition held to select the best design for the new Peace dollar that would appropriately symbolize peace.

The winner was Italian-born American sculptor Anthony de Francisci. His dramatic design depicted the head and neck of the Goddess of Liberty in profile on one side, and a majestic American eagle perched on a mountain crag clutching an olive branch on the other side.

The inclusion of the olive branch, a universal emblem of peace and triumph, was particularly key. As de Francisci explained, he wanted the arrangement of the eagle and olive branch “to symbolize the dawn of peace.”

It was a powerful imagery conveying the victory of the Allies over the Central Powers after years of bloody warfare.

The Elegant Design of the Peace Dollar

Liberty on the Obverse

The obverse (front) of the Peace Dollar features a left-facing profile portrait of the Goddess of Liberty. She is depicted with long, flowing hair with a diadem bearing the word “Liberty.” This elegant design was created by sculptor Anthony de Francisci to represent Liberty looking forward to the dawn of a new era of peace.

The portrait is an artistic rendering that does not depict any specific model. However, de Francisci’s wife, Teresa, is thought to have influenced some subtle design details. There are similarities between Teresa’s facial features and hair and those seen on the coin.

An Eagle Clutching an Olive Branch on the Reverse

The reverse (back) of the Peace Dollar was designed by de Francisci to symbolize peace through the depiction of an American bald eagle at rest clutching an olive branch in its talons. The olive branch has long been a symbol of peace and triumph.

De Francisci expertly integrated it into his design for the eagle on the reverse of the coin.

The eagle itself represents strong American values like strength, courage, and freedom. By clutching the olive branch, the eagle becomes a fitting symbol for securing a lasting peace after the turmoil of World War I.

De Francisci considered several designs, but ultimately this classic symbolism struck the right tone of representing both peace and patriotism.

Inscriptions and Other Key Design Details

Circling around the top perimeter on the obverse of Peace Dollars are the inscriptions “In God We Trust” and “Liberty.” The words “Peace” and “Dollar” flank either side of the date on the obverse. On the lower half of the reverse, the coin bears the motto “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning “out of many, one.”

Other key details to note are the mint marks indicating at which U.S. mint the coins were manufactured – Philadelphia (no mint mark), Denver (D), or San Francisco (S). Also, some Peace Dollars have a small “AW” designer mark, recognizing Augustus Weinman for his popular walking liberty design on the previous silver dollars that was replaced by the Peace Dollar.

Obverse Inscriptions Reverse Inscriptions
In God We Trust E Pluribus Unum
Liberty Peace
Date (flanked by Peace and Dollar) United States of America

The Checkered Minting History of the Peace Dollar

First Minted 1921-1928

The Peace Dollar was first minted in 1921 to commemorate the peace following World War I. Production started strong, with over 51 million coins minted in 1921 and 1922. However, demand declined in later years, and the last Peace Dollars of this era were struck in 1928.

Treasury vaults were soon overflowing with 270 million Peace Dollars, prompting Congress to halt production. Little did they know that this abundance would not last…

A Brief Revival in 1934-1935

In 1934, a shortage of silver coins led the U.S. government to start minting Peace Dollars again. Almost 20 million more coins were produced before the revival was cut short in 1935.

These mid-30s Peace Dollars can be identified by a few distinguishing marks:

  • No mint mark (struck in Philadelphia)
  • A faint two lines on the mountain below the word “Peace” on the reverse

Failed Attempts to Restart Production

In the mid-1960s, Congress authorized new Peace Dollar production after prominent coin dealers lobbied for a revival. However, no coins ended up being minted during this authorization.

The same story played out in 1979-1980 when Congress approved one final Peace Dollar mintage. Exciting designs were created, but ultimately, zero coins made it to circulation.

Year Mintage Authorized Coins Minted
1965 45 million 0
1979-1980 300 million 0

While disappointing to collectors, these unused authorizations only add to the fascinating history of the Peace Dollar.

Collecting and Appraising Peace Dollars Today

Popularity Among Silver Dollar Collectors

Peace dollars remain incredibly popular among silver dollar collectors today. As the last silver dollar minted for circulation, they hold an important place in US coin history. Peace Dollars feature a beautiful design by Anthony de Francisci depicting the Goddess of Liberty looking to the dawn of peace after World War I.

According to recent statistics from the Professional Numismatists Guild, over half of their members reported seeing increased demand for Peace silver dollars in 2022. This demand stems from silver investors and coin collectors alike, attracted by their 90% silver composition, classic design, and rich history.

Identifying Key Date Peace Dollars

When appraising your Peace dollars, be on the lookout for these low-mintage key dates:

  • 1928 (one of the lowest mintages at only 360,649 coins)
  • 1927-D (1,268,900 minted)
  • 1927-S (866,000 minted)
  • 1934-S (1,011,000 minted)

High-grade examples of these key dates can be worth thousands of dollars each. Carefully inspect the date and mint mark of your Peace dollars under a magnifying glass before determining value.

Grading Condition and Estimating Value

The condition or grade of Peace dollars greatly impacts their collector value. Advanced collectors prefer uncirculated coins showing no wear with excellent luster and eye appeal. Heavily worn Peace dollars or those with damage may only sell for their intrinsic silver melt value.

Professional coin grading services like PCGS and NGC provide numismatic standards to evaluate conditions. Mint state Peace dollars graded MS-60 through MS-70 can quickly rise in value from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

MS-70 grade Most perfect specimens worth a premium
MS-65 grade Attractive condition for serious collectors
MS-60 grade Mint state but with numerous bag marks/wear

With Peace dollars remaining enduringly popular with coin collectors, now is an excellent time to learn more about the series by visiting resources like PCGS CoinFacts or getting your coins professionally appraised by a reputable dealer.

What Is A Peace Dollar – Conclusion

In closing, the Peace dollar remains one of the most iconic American coins. Minted to commemorate the peace after World War I, it features beautiful allegorical imagery celebrating liberty and peace. Though minting was inconsistent during the 1920s and 30s, existing Peace dollars are still widely collected and traded today.

With stunning detail and an interesting history behind it, the Peace Dollar is a unique memento of early 20th-century America.

We covered the Peace dollar’s origins, design details, minting history, and modern significance for collectors. Whether you have inherited a Peace dollar or want to start your own collection, we hope this guide gave you insight into this classic silver coin.

Our final advice is to always properly store your coins and have them appraised by a reputable dealer before any purchase or sale.

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