1921 Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars

Updated on March 12, 2017

Mr. George T. Morgan

The Young Apprentice
The Young Apprentice | Source

Assistant Engraver on Loan from London

To fully appreciate both the Morgan and Peace silver dollars, I believe it necessary to provide a review of the man who designed the U.S. Morgan silver dollar and became its namesake.

George T. Morgan was an assistant engraver born in Birmingham, England in 1845. He worked for Messrs. J.S. & A.B. Wyon and was contracted to the Royal Mint in London.

In 1876, the United States Mint realized it lacked skilled die engravers so it contacted the London Mint for help. The London Mint referred George T. Morgan in response to the please for help from overseas, knowing that they were giving up a very skilled engraver.

George was about 30 years old when he traveled across the sea to North America. He immediately reported for work on a six month trial as the new Special Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint. His first years there were not appreciated by everyone, as he drew negative attention from the other engravers. The existing Master Engraver, William Barber, would not open up any office space for George, so he had to work from his boarding house rooms in those days.

George specialized in the pattern of coins. He designed several half dollar coins and others. William Barber died and the role of Master Engraver passed to his son, Charles. George was next in line for the Master position, which he acquired after the death of Charles Barber in 1917.

The Morgan Silver Dollar

His namesake coin, the Morgan silver dollar was minted from 1878 to 1904, when the U.S. silver reserves attained from the 1989 Sherman Silver Purchase Act began to run out.

The coin's artwork included a portrait of the "Lady Liberty" using Greek-Style on the front, and the Eagle with an olive branch and arrows on the back. The inspiration for the Lady Liberty design came from a portrait of Philadelphia school teacher, Anna Williams.

The Morgan coin was minted in the U.S. at Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Carson City. Each U.S. Mint carries a "Mint Mark" to identify itself except the Philadelphia Mint. In those days, there was no Mint Mark on coins from Philadelphia. Carson City used the "CC", San Francisco used the "S", New Orleans used the "O", and Denver used the "D".

These Mint Marks can be observed on the back of the coin, center bottom, above the letters "D" and "O" from the word "ONE DOLLAR". Remember, if there is no Mint Mark that is viewable on your coin, it most likely came from the Philadelphia Mint.

In 1918, the Pittman Act allowed for the return of the silver dollar and the Morgan design was minted again in 1921. This final minting of the Morgan coin occurred only at the Denver Mint.

1879 Morgan Silver Dollar


Mint Facts for the Morgan Silver Dollars

Name of U.S. Mint
Total Coins Minted
Carson City
San Francisco
New Orleans
Total Morgan Silver Dollars Minted Between 1878-1904, and 1921. The data from this table were manually added by year, so there exists a small chance for error.

The Peace Silver Dollar

The Peace silver dollar was approved by the U.S. Mint to commemorate the end of the "Great War" (also known as World War I) and the time of peace experienced thereafter.

Several designers submitted their artwork in hopes of winning the commission. The designer who won the commission for this new coin was Italian-American sculptor Anthony de Francisci (July 13, 1887 - August 20, 1964).

The coin he designed had the "Lady Liberty" image on the front as required. Since he could not afford to hire a model, he used his wife Mary Teresa as the model and so the design differs from the Greek Style used by George T. Morgan.

There was one major issue with his design though. On the back he used the required eagle design and verbiage, but he also included a broken sword. At that time, the image of a sword carried different symbolic references, depending on how it was displayed.

A sword in a sheath symbolized peace. A sword unsheathed symbolized war. A broken sword symbolized disgrace to its owner, or the battle was lost. When this design was published prior to the minting of the coin, the public outcry was immediate.

If the artist had sheathed the blade or blunted it there could be no objection. Sheathing is symbolic of peace, of course; the blunted sword implies mercy. But a broken sword carries with it only unpleasant associations.

A sword is broken when its owner has disgraced himself. It is broken when a battle is lost and breaking is the alternative to surrendering....

— Editor, New York Herald. Dec 1921

Re-enter the Master!

You may be familiar with the old phrase " The Die is Cast" (Latin iacta alea est, Suetonius, 49 BC).

This phrase is synonymous with the common meaning - there is no turning back, or the point of no return. I mention this as the de Francisci design was already die and cast into plaster.

George T. Morgan, the Master Engraver at 72 years old, was called in just days before Christmas. A correction to the die and plaster had to be made - and fast!.

On December 23rd, George and the designer de Francisci met together to refashion the offensive artwork and re-engrave the design.

Using his vast years of experience and skills, George was able to correct the engraving with his fine toolkit of tiny engraving tools. His challenge surrounded the fact that they could not simply erase or remove the broken sword image. He actually had to create a new design to modify the existing art. This new artwork was approved just in time for the Philadelphia Mint to begin production on December 28th, 1921.

By the end of the month the mint had produced 1,006,473 new coins for distribution starting in January 1922.

1921 Peace Silver Dollar

The 1921 Peace is the most notable one for all collectors due to the significance of the first year mint for this design.
The 1921 Peace is the most notable one for all collectors due to the significance of the first year mint for this design. | Source

A Very Bad Bet

Anthony de Francisci was only 34 years old and the most in-experienced artist to submit a design for the competition.

Apparently, de Francisci had assumed he would not win the design competition for the 1921 Peace dollar. He made several bets that he would lose the competition.

He had already paid for fifty of the new dollar coins and Morgan sent them to de Francisci on January 3rd, 1922. All of those coins were used to pay off the debt.

Ironically, Anthony de Francisci was left with no 1921 Peace dollars!

de Francisci and the Mint Director Raymond Baker

Director of the Mint, Raymond T. Baker (on the right of the photograph), and Anthony de Francisci examining model of new silver dollar.
Director of the Mint, Raymond T. Baker (on the right of the photograph), and Anthony de Francisci examining model of new silver dollar. | Source

Peace Silver Dollars

Name of U.S. Mint
Total Coins Minted
San Francisco
Total Peace Silver Dollars Minted Between Dec 1921-1928, and 1934-1935

Silver Dollar Quiz

Which Art Design Do You Prefer?

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One Last Note

One interesting note concerning the minting of the Peace silver dollar. In 1964, the U.S. Congress approved minting an additional 45,000,000 Peace silver dollars. It was later determined that these dollars would only be used by casinos and coin collectors. Deemed a waste of the mint resources, the 316,076 1964 Peace dollars actually minted in Denver were melted down and destroyed prior to any distribution.


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