It?s just one of those rules of rarity that except for the 1921, almost every early Peace dollar is relatively common. You see that in prices of just around $20 in MS-60 and lower circulated grades at silver-related prices. It makes it easy to make assumptions, although they do not work in every case.
There were heavy mintages of the Peace dollar in its early years. The secretary of the Treasury wanted silver dollars and in a hurry. He probably was not too concerned about their design, as he needed a new series of Silver Certificates released so that other notes backed by notes paying 2-percent interest could be retired. The silver dollars were vital, as they were the backing for the Silver Certificates, so he needed more than 200 million to replace over 270 million that had been melted under the provisions of the Pittman Act.
The situation saw heavy mintages in 1921 of Morgan dollars, which were replaced in late 1921 by Peace dollars, but the large mintages continued. It was still going on in 1923 when Philadelphia topped 30 million, while San Francisco nearly reached 20 million.
The exception in 1923 was in Denver, where the Peace dollar mintage was just 6,811,000. That is not a low total for a Peace dollar, as there are a number below 1 million and a number more below 2 million. In 1923, however, compared to the others, it was a low total.
Even though the total was low compared to the other dates of the period, the 1923-D received little attention. In his book, American Coin Treasures and Hoards, author Q. David Bowers points to what may be the first indication that the 1923-D was tougher in a letter from collector E.S. Thresher, who had been trying to find every Peace dollar date in circulation. He was missing the 1923-D, as well as the 1925-D and 1925-S, which were just being released.
It is possible that the 1923-D was released late, so it may not be unusual that a collector in 1925 could not find an example, but the fact remains that at least one collector was having trouble locating a 1923-D in circulation.
Another point worth noting is that a collector in 1925 would have been the exception. There were few collecting silver dollars at the time, especially new ones. A silver dollar was too much money for most, keeping demand down.
When bags were reported from the 1930s through at least the early 1950s, the likely destination for them were the gaming tables in Reno. Even if a few examples of the 1923-D Peace dollar did find their way to collectors, it must be remembered that to collectors then, any Mint State example was fine. How nice it really was did not figure into the transaction, as to the collectors of the day, a coin was uncirculated or not.
Today, we find the 1923-D priced at available date prices in circulated grades, but even in MS-60 it is $55, suggesting a lower number available. In MS-65, the 1923-D is $1,050, which is a fairly strong price, especially if the date is not from. San Francisco. There are only about half a dozen Peace dollars at $1,000 in MS-65 that are not from San Francisco, so the price of the 1923-D suggests a lower-than-average supply.
The 1923-D, like other branch mint dates, had a problem with bagmarks. It was characteristic of Peace dollars that they picked up bagmarks easily and that was especially true of branch mint issues like the 1923-D. That makes a truly nice example a real challenge.