This year, a new coin act might be the making to bring back the Peace and Morgan Silver Dollars in 2021. This will honor the centennial of the transition from the Morgan to the Peace Silver Dollar. However, in the United States, only two commemorative coin programs can be active per year – and Congress has already passed the Law Enforcement Commemorative Coin Act and the Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act. Because of this, it seemed that the bill for the 2021 Peace and Morgan Silver Dollars failed. But on March 11, Representative Andy Barr brought forth a new approach with the 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act. If passed, this coin act will not be a third commemorative coin program. Instead, the 2021 silver dollars will be legal tender coins issued on January 1, 2021, made from at least 90% silver.
If enacted, the 2021 Morgan Silver Dollars and 2021 Peace Silver Dollars will be issued. This anniversary program will effectively mark the 100 year anniversary of when the Peace Silver Dollar replaced the Morgan Silver Dollar. This transition from the Morgan to the Peace Dollar is laden with symbolism for modern US history. What was once the coin that came forth during Westward expansion became the coin that signified the US as a superpower after the “War to End All Wars.”
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What are the Peace and Morgan Silver Dollars?
The Morgan Silver Dollars and Peace Silver Dollars are already two iconic coins for many silver dollar enthusiasts today. Collectors and investors love these particular silver coins for their designs and high silver content. The Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars contain approximately 90% silver and 10% copper. The history behind both these coins is extensive and carries the US’s economic past. If the US Mint can strike the 2021 silver dollars, these coins just might be among the top-sellers for the year.
The Morgan Silver Dollar
US Mint Assistant Engraver George T. Morgan is the man behind the Morgan Silver Dollar. This coin features a rendition of Lady Liberty on the obverse and the US Seal on the reverse. Four different US Mint facilities struck the Morgan Silver dollar from 1878 until 1904, then three mints struck these again in 1921. Because of the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859, the Morgan Silver Dollar’s history is inextricably linked to the US's westward expansion. This incredible discovery flooded silver into the US market.
The Morgan Silver Dollar is also the first standard silver dollar struck since the Coinage Act of 1873. This act moved the US towards the gold standard, which effectively stopped private silver coining to prevent inflating silver. This act allowed only certain silver dollars to be struck, and this act included the Morgan Silver Dollar.
The history of this coin does not end there. By 1918, the Pittman Act came into play. This required melting about 270 million Morgan Silver Dollars to help support Great Britain’s failing economy during WWI. German propaganda in India falsely convinced many citizens they couldn’t redeem silver with British banknotes. Consequently, this increased demand for silver that Britain didn’t have enough to cover. So, the Pittman Act authorized melting down Morgan Silver Dollars to sell to the UK for $1 per troy ounce.
Over 270,000,000 Morgan Silver Dollars were lost forever, which was about half of the total mintage for these coins. Although the US discovered a large number of silver dollars in the Treasury vaults years later, many of these coins were not released to the public. Today’s prices for collecting uncirculated Morgan Silver Dollars are diverse. Prices per coin vary by condition, mintmark from the five different mints that struck the silver dollars, and the coin’s grade.
The 1921 Peace Silver Dollar
An additional provision to the Pittman Act also mandated replacing the lost coins after the war. But because there was no newly approved coin design, the Morgan Silver Dollars briefly came back in 1921. A competition for the new design helped determine the obverse and reverse of the new silver dollar. By December 1921, the Peace Silver Dollars entered the US economy after a design discrepancy delayed production.
Originally designed for May 2021, the new coin earned its name to honor the WWI armistice treaties. Anthony de Francisci is the designer of the Peace Silver Dollar. His wife, Teresa Cafarelli de Francisci, modeled as his Lady Liberty for the obverse. She told him that her family immigrated to the US when she was five. On her way in, she was awestruck by the Statue of Liberty. Thus, she posed for him in the way that she saw the statue as she entered the US.
Issues with the Peace Silver Dollars
The reverse caused slight controversy. The accepted reverse of this coin depicts a bald eagle with an olive branch in its talons. It sits atop a rock as the sun rises. In the original illustration, the eagle clutched a broken sword. Many deemed this as a mark of defeat and elected to remove the broken sword. So, the US Mint delayed production until the end of the year to fix by hand the dies used to strike the coins.
The Peace Silver Dollar is the only classic circulating US silver coin struck with high relief. This high relief caused manufacturing problems. The dies frequently broke from the high pressure needed to produce the high relief. Therefore, the December 1921 Peace Silver Dollar has a relatively small mintage of just over one million. In comparison to the silver Morgan dollars, this coin is extremely rare. After seeing this issue with production, they lowered the relief. Thus, the mintage of the Peace Silver Dollars skyrocketed in 1922 with over 50 million coins, the most for this coin in its history.
What is the plan for the 2021 Peace and Morgan Silver Dollars?
For the Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars to see new production in 2021, it’s important to know that these coins are not technically commemorative coins but legal tender coins. Currently, there are no plans to continue this as a commemorative program every year. However, there is flexibility in the act to create these coins perhaps every ten years. Thomas Uram, Chairman of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), and CCAC member/numismatic author Michael Moran created the legislation itself.
Key Points of the Legislation:
- The Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Mints can strike the Morgan Silver Dollars with mintmarks.
- Some Morgan Dollars might feature a Carson City and New Orleans privy mark to honor the history of these two former facilities.
- The Philadelphia Mint can strike the high relief Peace Silver Dollars.
- Mintages, finishes, and pricing for these potential coins are unknown at this time.
To pass this bill, Uram and Moran only need a simple majority in Congress. This bill seemed to be tabled because of COVID-19. Now that the country is beginning to reopen, the Silver Dollar bill could potentially move forward. If you want to see these coins in 2021, you can support this bill by reaching out to your Congressional representative!