The 1921 Peace Dollar

Imaging going through a collection of old items belonging to someone in your family from generations gone by. As you’re sorting through the pile of assorted keepsakes and mementos your fingers fumble across and old coin. Looking at it you know right away it is a little different, for starters it’s a dollar coin which aren’t regularly circulated at the best of times. Looking for more information you turn the coin over and you see on one side the “PEACE” written below an eagle and on the other side is Lady Liberty. The coin is dated 1921. Any normal person would then begin to wonder how much is a silver dollar worth from those days?

The first answer is that it all depends. If the coin were just kicking around the drawer in amongst everything else and was in poor condition by coin collector standards then it would probably be worth just over $100. On the other had, if the coin had been properly cared for, delicately kept in a secure case, then that is a different story altogether.

After the First World War there was a movement to commemorate the country’s victory with a new coin. The government had been slowly phasing out the old Morgan coins since 1907, but had dragged its feet on the silver dollar. In 1921 the Pittman Act was passed which required the US Mint to melt down older coins and increase the use of silver in the replacements. The Act was designed to improve the fortunes of American silver miners and appease the demand for a commemorative victory coin.

By the time the law had passed and the US Mint had gotten around to striking the new Peace Dollar coins, it could only complete, 1,006,000 coins in 1921. This rarity obviously attributes to the value of the coin. By comparison, in 1922, the US Mint was able to produce 51,730,000 Peace Dollar coins. The thing to bear in mind with both of those numbers is that not all of those coins were able to be circulated, some never left the mint and were recycled, others have been lost to the sands of time.

With the relatively small number of 1921 Peace Dollar coins made, a coin in perfect mint condition would have a numismatic value of something in excess of $7500. There are probably less than 1,000 specimens of this coin in existence today when all factors are brought into play. If you were lucky enough to stumble across one in this condition, it would be a very rare find indeed.

That is the odd thing about coin collecting; some of the most unlikely coins are also the most valuable. A rather innocuous year in the minds of most people, 1921 was the beginning of a new start for the silver dollar coin in the United States, clearly a fact that only collectors would know. On the other hand, it is not out of the realm of possibility to come across the belongings of a grandparent or great-grandparent from that generation who may have just tucked one away for posterity. Lucky you if they were careful enough to wrap it up and keep it undamaged!

The Beginning of the Silver Minting Era in the United States

When you look at the early history of silver dollar coins in the United States you come to realize that it reflects the complex political and economic beginnings of a nation just finding its feet after the War of Independence. It also reflects the personalities and stories of the numerous people involved in coin design and production in the 19th century. This is one of the reasons why the people who study or collect coins – the numismatists – are often so passionate and dedicated about their field of interest.

One interesting story of the early production of coins is about the minting of the series of coins called the “Gobrecht Dollars”. America had to wait until 1794 to mint its very first silver dollar, as it was not until then that it had enough requisitioned silver to be able to produce any coins at all. Production continued until 1804, when the Mint ended production of silver dollars because many of the coins were being exported to Asia, and in 1806 an official halt was placed on the minting of the coins.

Later in 1831 when it was noticed that the United States was actually receiving large shipments of silver coins the government decided to lift the prohibition. A new series of silver coins began production in 1836, mainly as a “toe in the water” to see how the denomination would be greeted by the public. The actual total of the run of coins was quite small, with 1,900 Gobrecht dollars being struck in total.

The silver dollars were called “Gobrecht Dollars” after the coin’s designer, U.S. Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht. Gobrecht created what has now become a well-known image on the coin of “Liberty” sitting on a boulder, holding a Union shield in her right hand and looking over her right shoulder. In her left hand she holds a pole with a liberty cap on it, while an eagle soars on the reverse side of the coin.

There are many reasons why this series of coins is unique and therefore more valuable to collectors. One reasons is that all Gobrecht Dollars were struck with a “proof finish”, including those intentionally released into circulation, and are the only proof coins ever minted in the United States for everyday use. Another great story is that after a small amount had been put into general circulation, people started complaining that Gobrecht’s name took up too much room on the coins. The design of the coins were subsequently changed and included a smaller version of his name in a different location. Finally, and this is perhaps the most poignant story (or myth) of the coins, apparently the eagle found on the reverse side of the Gobrecht Dollar coin was actually modelled after the Mint’s own pet eagle, Peter. He came to a sticky end – trapped in a coining press – and was taxidermied and placed on display at the Mint (he’s still there today!).

How much is a silver dollar worth? Well in the case of the Gobrecht Silver Dollar, it is very valuable. Because of its history and background, as well as its rarity, the Gobrecht Silver Dollar coin is very collectable item. They can be very expensive to buy – for example Proof-65 examples can sell for over $100,000. Whether you’re keen on becoming a collector of silver coins, or just a student of history, the Gobrecht Dollar coin certainly captures the imagination!

Eisenhower Dollars and Their Value

Eisenhower Dollars, also called “Ikes” or “Eisenhower “Silver” Dollars, were a series of coins minted annually between 1971 to 1974 and 1975 to 1976. As the name suggests, the coins were struck to commemorate the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Apart from his face in profile, the first four years of coins included a tribute to the Apollo 11 Mission with an eagle flying over the moon holding an olive branch, while the bicentennial design of 1975 included a picture of the Liberty Bell.

Although the coins are sometimes referred to as “Silver Dollars”, the majority of the series for circulation were actually composed of copper-nickel, and indeed were the first dollar coin minted in the United States without containing a precious metal. Confusingly, the Mint did produce a series of Eisenhower Dollars that did contain silver – 40 per cent worth – but they were only designed as collectors’ items. These “Ike Silver Dollars” were all struck at the San Francisco Mint during the years 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976. They were designed to be uncirculated or proof coins, and include the “S” mint mark on them. Even more confusingly there was an error at the production of the coins at the Denver Mint in 1974, 1976 and 1977 where the “Ike Silver Dollars” were struck with the “D” mint mark and subsequently released for circulation.

While at the time the circulated coins and the uncirculated coins were both mistakenly referred to as “silver dollars”, today most coin valuers and dealers will tell you that there is an easy way to tell them apart, and that’s by their weight: the “Ike Silver Dollars” are heavier at 24.59 grams, while the circulated copper-nickel coins weigh in at just 22.68 grams. Another quick and easy way to distinguish between the two types of coins is to check to see if the coin has been worn away – this will undoubtedly be because it has been in circulation.

It is always a good idea to get the advice of a professional valuer or grader when you’re considering the question, how much is a silver dollar worth. The “Ike Silver Dollar” is a very collectable coin for several reasons. Its rarity, and the fact that it commemorates both a popular President and the extraordinary feat of man landing on the moon makes it a special and valuable coin. In terms of value on today’s market, a collector needs to consider two elements: one is the coin’s intrinsic or “melt” value, and its numismatic value. Its melt value is dependent on the market silver price (for example, at this moment it is worth just over $10 US), while its numismatic value will be dependent upon its condition, its rarity and whether it is a Proof. Don’t forget, also, that if you do happen to find a circulated, copper-nickel Eisenhower Dollar then it is still worth collecting as people can pay more than face value for them (sometimes up to $3), especially if it has remained in relatively good condition.

How Much are Morgan Silver Dollars Worth?

When asking the question, how much is a silver dollar worth, it is worth keeping in mind the old adage that “a coin is only worth what someone will pay for it”. This can be called its “numismatic” value, and this is true with many assets and collectable items such as antique furniture, vintage cars and old toys. There are, of course, a range of other important factors, including their “melt” value, that you must consider when considering buying, collecting or selling silver coins.

The Morgan Silver Dollar is a great example of a series of coins that be very difficult to price today because of the various element that go into valuing a silver dollar coin. The coin is named for its designer, Englishman George T. Morgan, an one side of the coin shows a profile portrait representing “Liberty”, while the other side shows an eagle with outstretched wings. The Dollar was minted from 1878 to 1904, and then finally in 1921 in the United States, and is historically important as they represent an attempt to provide a market for the fledgling silver mining industry at the time – the so called “Comstock lode” of silver had just been discovered in Northern Nevada, and the mine owners needed a market for the millions of dollars of silver being produced.

The Morgan Silver Dollar is a highly collectable coin, both because of their aesthetic appeal and their affordability on today’s market, but also because the fact that they are historically significant. However not all Morgan Silver Dollars were created equally. As with all coins, their value is directly linked to their age, their condition, their design and mint mark and their rarity. At first collectors ignored the Morgan Dollar as there were a lot still in circulation and their value was low.

Because of this millions of the coins were melted down for their silver. However, over time, the silver dollar coin has gradually become rarer, and depending on their condition a uncirculated coin from the series could fetch up to $11,000 or more at auction. If you do find a Morgan Silver Dollar, check for its mint mark, as this will tell you how common it is. For example, if the coin contains an “O” mint mark, then it will be considered by dealers to be common and only be worth a few dollars. Because the 1901 Morgan Silver Dollar was made out of 90 per cent silver, then it is worth more than the other coins simply for its intrinsic or “melt” value (that is, whatever the current price today for silver is an ounce).

At the other end of the scale is the 1895 Morgan Dollar, known as the “King of the Morgan Dollars” which was issued in Proof only. Good condition specimens of these coins have been known to fetch over $100,000 at auction. As we said above, the numismatic value of silver coins can be hard to judge, but it is always a good idea to consult a professional grader or valuer if you are considering buying or selling a silver dollar coin.

The Silver Three Dollar Coin

The American Silver Eagle is the silver bullion coin produced by the US Mint starting in 1986. It is officially 99.9% pure and is made up of one troy ounce of silver. The coin itself is made at the Philadelphia, San Francisco and West Point mints and each location stamps the coin with its own mark.

The interesting thing about the American Silver Eagle is that despite being made of pure silver, the government has issued it with a face value of just one dollar. This begs the question, “how much is a silver dollar worth?”

In the case of this particular coin, if you were to take it to a restaurant or a bank, the legal tender value is just a single dollar. The intrinsic value (or meltdown value) of the coin is of course pretty much exactly what the going rate of silver is at the time – for example, at present the meltdown value of the coin would be about $31 at current silver spot prices.

To buy a 2012 Silver Eagle coin today would cost between $35 and $70 depending on the type of coin you acquired. The standard “uncirculated” Silver Eagle coin can be acquired online from a range of collectors for slightly above the intrinsic value of $31. However, the US Mint also releases to collectors some early “Proof” copies of the coin and those Proof coins can be picked up for as little as $60 and as high as $70.

Due to a lack of demand for the Silver Eagle coin in 2012, the West Point mint shutdown production early and had a shortened run. Over time, this will undoubtedly make this coin slightly more valuable to collectors because they will be more rare and there is the possibility that overstock by the US Mint could end up being melted down for future use, which would make these coins even more valuable.

For the average collector, the American Silver Eagle coin is just your standard mass produced collectors item by the US Mint and generally they hold very little numismatic value. This does not tell the entire story though because people with a self-managed Individual Retirement Account (IRA) are able to invest their funds in a select range of government approved bullion coins. The American Silver Eagle is one of the silver bullion coins approved for IRA holders as a means having their funds in a regulated precious metal.

So when you think of how much is a silver dollar worth, the answer is, it depends. If you had bought an American Silver Eagle on January 2nd, 2009, your dollar would have been worth just over $11. That very same silver dollar would today be worth just over $31. That is a very healthy return of nearly three times your investment when at the same time the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gone up by about 40%. For someone looking to save for his or her retirement, it might seem surprising that buying the humble silver dollar could make far more sense for them and their long term economic future.

The Price of Silver and Your Portfolio

Something very strange on the investment markets is happening when it comes to the price of Silver. Precious metals like Gold and Silver have always been considered safe havens in poor or uncertain economic times. While the world is currently in a period of uncertainty, what has actually happened to the price of silver is entirely unprecedented and disproportionate when compared with the other safe haven, gold.

For the ten-year period from 1993 to the end of 2003, the spot price of silver stayed relatively stable in the $4 to $5 an ounce range exclusively. Considering the massive explosion in wealth during that decade, it makes some sense that silver stayed stable although gold did drop a bit in value during the same time.

When you then look at the period from 2004 to the end of August 2012, the price of silver has risen astronomically and disproportionately to just about anything else. During that period the 5 year moving average of silver per ounce has increase a staggering 600%. At one point this figure was as high as 800% when silver reached an all time high of $48.58 per ounce.

During the same period of time, gold has also increased substantially in value. In fact the ever increasing price of gold has led to some speculation that large investors have lost confidence in government regulated fiat currencies because of out of control debt and these investors have shifted their wealth to the safety of gold. Gold has risen during the same period almost 400%, but today is trading an all-time near high. When comparing the heights reached during this explosive period of growth, silver’s growth was over double in price, that of gold’s!

So, just how much is a silver dollar worth going forward? Well strangely, the price of silver is currently being manipulated by a variety of factors. The first one is a dumping of silver contracts on the market to increase supply significantly. Silver is off its 2011 highs by nearly 40% because the price became a destabilizing factor for the US Dollar. When gold or silver his astronomical highs, investors forgo the safety of the US dollar in favor of the two precious metals. With the US government printing more and more money, if investors lowered the value of the dollar by getting out of it and into silver, this would have posed an economic nightmare for the American government. So to prevent that rush, the silver, and to a lesser extent the gold market is being flooded.

This can’t go on forever because silver miners are now responding, cutting production by as much as 25% in 2012. As a large majority of the 22,000 tonnes of silver mined and refined each year goes to industry, only a small percentage ends up in the investment markets. Eventually the short fall in supply will regulate the market and demand will rise dragging the price with it.

As a savvy investor, you get to ask yourself, even with silver at such a high price historically, it is worth considering your investment levels. Less than 18 months ago silver was at its high.

The American Silver Eagle

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