1921 Peace Dollar

As the guns fell silent across the battle torn fields of Europe in November 1918, a great yearning swept throughout the United States to commemorate the restoration of peace.

At the American Numismatic Association Chicago convention in 1920, collector Farran Zerbe proposed that a new dollar coin be minted to exemplify America’s commitment to peace and liberty.(1)

Zerbe’s peace coin proposal was taken to Washington, DC, where it eventually found powerful friends. On November 19, 1921, the advisory Commission of Fine Arts invited nine of America’s finest sculptors to submit a “Peace Dollar” design to memorialize the Great War armistice. The winner of the competition was Anthony De Francisci, a naturalized citizen from Italy, whose wife, Teresa, posed as his model for Miss Liberty.

De Francisci’s Peace dollar obverse portrayed a svelte Miss Liberty, wearing a radiant crown. His original reverse depicted an eagle smashing a sword, which brought howls of protest from many Washingtonians, because in their eyes, the image suggested defeat, not victory or peace.

De Francisci’s reverse design was modified to remove the sword and insert an olive peace branch in the eagle’s talons. The word “PEACE” was superimposed at the bottom. De Francisci's majestic eagle was perched on a rugged, steep slope, gazing toward a sunrise, symbolizing the dawn of a new era.

Production tooling was quickly fabricated, and on December 28, 1921, the first Peace silver dollars were minted. Before the end of the year, a total of 1,006,473 Peace dollars dated 1921 were made.(2)

All 1921 Peace dollars were struck in high relief, meaning details of the coin “stuck out” away from surface of the coin, more than usual. As attractive as this effect was, high relief coining proved problematic in the manufacturing process, so virtually all Peace dollars dated 1922 and later featured less appealing, low relief details.

Although the 1921 Peace dollar is one of the lowest mintage coins of the 20th century, it is not considered extremely rare in grades sought by average collectors. Being the first year of its type, approximately 10% of its original mintage has survived.(3)

What makes this coin so popular is the high relief effect, making it a one-year design. Type set collectors must have the 1921 dollar to finalize their collection, thus generating additional demand for the coins.(4)

Because of the challenge of striking high relief 1921 Peace dollars, most of them are missing some detail on Liberty’s hair at the center of the obverse. The reverse likewise shows weakness in the eagle’s feathers. Only about 1% of 1921 Peace dollars are sharply struck and these examples carry significant premiums.(5)

Just about everybody admires the 1921 Peace dollar… it is the first year of the series, a beautiful design in high relief, historically interesting, and relatively scarce. This truly is a classic American numismatic treasure.

Estimated survivors in all grades: 100,000
? The survivor estimate from PCGS represents an average of one or more experts' opinions as to how many examples survive of a particular coin in all grades. Survival estimates include coins that are raw, certified by PCGS, and certified by other grading services.
Learn more at PCGS.
PCGS Rarity Scale: 2.0
? The 'PCGS CoinFacts Rarity Scale' assesses the relative rarity of all U.S. coins, based on estimated surviving examples. The scale runs from 1.0 to 10.0. The higher the number, the rarer the coin.
Learn more at PCGS.
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1. Taxay, Don.  The U.S. Mint and Coinage.  New York, NY: Sanford J. Durst Numismatic Publications, 1966.

2. Heritage Auctions.  1921 $1.  Jan 2018 Auction.

3. PCGS.  1921 $1 High Relief, Peace (Regular Strike).

4. Heritage Auctions.  1921 $1.  Jan 2020 Auction.

5. PCGS.  1921 $1 High Relief, Peace (Regular Strike).

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Coin images by Stack's Bowers Galleries.