What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare? The 1921 silver dollar is one of the most iconic coins in American numismatics. Highly sought-after by collectors, a small variation in the coin’s design makes certain 1921 silver dollars extremely rare and valuable.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The 1921 Morgan silver dollar and 1921 Peace silver dollar were transitional designs marking the shift from the Morgan dollar to the Peace dollar. Key dates like the 1921-D, 1921-S, and 1921 High Relief Peace dollars had very low mintages, making them rare and expensive for collectors.
Background on Morgan and Peace Dollars
Brief history of Morgan silver dollars
The Morgan silver dollar was introduced in 1878 and minted until 1904, then resumed minting in 1921. Designed by George T. Morgan, the coin features Lady Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap on the obverse side and an eagle surrounded by wreaths on the reverse side.
These 90% silver coins quickly became popular in American commerce and trade.
Over 578 million Morgan dollars were minted between 1878 and 1904 at mints in Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Carson City. When coin shortages arose after World War I, the Morgan dollar was again minted in 1921 in a total of 140 million more coins.
Introduction of the Peace silver dollar in 1921
The design was quite familiar to Americans. However, partially due to anti-war sentiments after WWI, the Morgan dollar design was replaced in late 1921 by the Peace silver dollar bearing the word “PEACE” and an image of the Goddess of Liberty.
The Peace silver dollar was designed by medalist Anthony de Francisci to symbolize a world free from conflict. Only a little over 90 million Peace dollars were minted before production stopped in 1935 due to the Silver Purchase Act and other economic factors.
The shift from Morgan to Peace dollars
Peace dollars share the same weight and 90% silver composition as Morgan dollars but feature a vastly different design. The shift from Morgan to Peace dollars was reflective of America’s desire to move beyond World War I toward international harmony.
While Morgan dollars bear images of an eagle surrounded by laurels and arrows, Peace dollars depict an olive branch signifying victory and peace. Additionally, the 1921 Peace Dollar marked a transition toward more modern coin relief and design.
Both Morgan and Peace silver dollars are avidly collected today due to their historical significance, mintage varieties, and silver value. According to professional coin dealers NGC, 1920 and 1921 Morgan dollars with mint marks are among the key rarities in the series.
Key Factors Making 1921 Silver Dollars Valuable
Low mintage of certain 1921 issues
The 1921 silver dollar had a few key issues that resulted in lower mintage numbers, making certain dates rare and valuable for collectors. Specifically, the 1921-D Morgan dollar and 1921-S Morgan dollar had quite low production totals of just 208,000 and 548,000 respectively.
With far fewer coins struck for these branch mints, the surviving pieces tend to sell for higher premiums.
Condition and grade of surviving coins
Since the 1921 silver dollars saw some significant circulation, finding specimens in pristine uncirculated condition is exceptionally difficult. Most have wear and bag marks from use over the last century.
Collector demand for transitional dates
An interesting aspect of the 1921 silver dollar is its transitional status, as the last Morgan dollars struck and the first Peace dollars as well. This uniqueness certainly adds appeal for many date and type coin collectors.
The “end of an era” for the Morgan design spikes desire to own the final date Philadelphia issues before the changeover.
Mint Marks and Variations of 1921 Silver Dollars
1921 Morgan dollars from Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco
The 1921 Morgan silver dollars were struck at three different mints – Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. The Philadelphia Mint produced the highest number of coins – over 44 million! The Denver mint had a more modest mintage of 20 million coins.
The rarest coins were struck at the San Francisco mint, with a tiny mintage of under 1 million.
The small number of San Francisco mint Morgan dollars makes them highly desirable to collectors and investors. An extremely rare coin in top condition could fetch over $100,000 at auction. Even coins in average condition command premium prices compared to their Philadelphia and Denver counterparts.
High relief vs regular relief 1921 Peace dollars
The 1921 Peace silver dollar represents a radical departure from previous designs. Sculptor Anthony de Francisci created a stunning high-relief portrait of Liberty on the obverse. However, the design proved difficult to strike properly, delaying production.
To solve the issue, the relief was lowered starting in January 1922. As a result, the few 1921 Peace dollars have a noticeably higher relief compared to later issues. These high-relief coins are worth a considerable premium to collectors and stackers.
Identifying wear, damage, cleaning, etc.
When evaluating any 1921 silver dollar, it’s essential to check for impairments like wear, damage, and cleaning. Even minor issues can seriously impact value. For rare dates like 1921-S Morgans, top grades command giant premiums.
Examine coins under bright light to check for hairline scratches or other abrasions. Compare wear patterns against images of mint state examples. Note if any design elements are weakly struck. Also, inspect coin rims and fields for signs of cleaning.
Authenticating 1921 silver dollars is critical before purchase.
Current Market Values of Rare 1921 Silver Dollars
Record prices at auction for finest known specimens
The 1921 silver dollar is considered the “King of Morgan Dollars” among collectors due to its rarity and demand. The finest known specimens with near-perfect grades have fetched astronomical prices at auction over the years.
In 2021, an incredibly rare 1921 Morgan silver dollar graded MS-68 by NGC sold for a record $660,000 at Stack’s Bowers Auctions. Only a dozen 1921 Morgans have achieved this lofty grade, putting them among the finest known examples.
Back in 2013, Legend Numismatics paid $887,500 for a 1921 Morgan-graded PCGS MS-66, setting a new benchmark for the date and demonstrating how sought-after gem-quality pieces are on the open market.
Average values based on mintage, condition, and demand
With a relatively low mintage of just 1.1 million coins, the 1921 silver dollar has always commanded strong premiums over common date Morgan dollars. Its scarcity simply outweighed the production output at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints that year.
For coins grading Extremely Fine-40 through Mint State-64, average retail values today range from $200 to as much as $8,500 depending on eye appeal, strike sharpness, luster quality, and surface preservation.
Coins that grade below Extremely Fine detail trade for silver value in the $15 to $20 range nowadays.
Long-term price appreciation potential
Rare coin experts widely regard the 1921 Morgan silver dollar as one of the best collectibles for long-term growth potential and asset appreciation.
Over the past 25 years, values for MS-63 and MS-64 examples have averaged about 6% gains annually. With rising precious metals prices and continuous demand from collectors, most market analysts predict this escalation to continue over the next decade.
Owning one of America’s most popular classic silver coins, especially the vaunted 1921 date, remains an excellent inflation hedge and store of value for investors looking to diversify their portfolios.
What Makes A 1921 Silver Dollar Rare – Conclusion
In the transition from the Morgan dollar to the Peace dollar in 1921, several key date coins had very low mintages, making them prized by modern coin collectors. Understanding the different mint marks, design types, condition factors, and market trends can help you identify valuable 1921 silver dollars.