This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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In the 1950s there was a prejudice of sorts on the part of many collectors. It was a prejudice that came from the hard-to-ignore pattern that coins from Philadelphia, generally speaking, had higher mintages and were more available than those from Denver or, especially, San Francisco. It’s not that collectors didn’t like Philadelphia, it was just that they liked rare coins. However, an exception to the Philadelphia mintage rule is the 1928 Peace dollar.
By 1928 the crisis that had resulted in the Peace dollar was over. The heavy and hurried production of the early 1920s had been designed to replace silver dollars melted under the provisions of the Pittman Act in 1918. The dollars were needed to back Silver Certificates, as without enough silver dollars the government had to take out short term notes and pay 2 percent interest. The silver dollars could retire these notes.
The final year that all three mints produced Peace dollars was 1927. In 1928 only Philadelphia and San Francisco minted them.
In 1928, the San Francisco mintage was below peak totals at just 1,632,000, but it was Philadelphia that had the lower total of just 360,649. This created a highly unusual situation where Philadelphia had not only the low mintage for the year, but that total made the 1928 the lowest mintage regular date Peace dollar by quite a margin. No other date had a total under 800,000.
The 1928 Peace dollar’s prices today show that it is the key in lower circulated grades with a listing of $385 in VG-8. It is not, however, the key date in Mint State as it is priced at $495 in MS-60. This puts it second behind the 1934-S, which is at $1,800 in MS-60. In MS-65 the 1928 is at $4,850, which is certainly a premium price, but it is safely behind a number of dates that in a few cases are between $10,000 and $29,500.
Trying to find out the reason for these prices other than the known numbers is an interesting exercise. There is the historic factor that Philadelphia issues tend to be more available in Mint State than issues of the branch mints. That was more pronounced in the 1800s, but it still could play a role in the 1928 pricing. Coming from Philadelphia, the coins might have had a small amount of extra saving.
The 1928 probably had such a low mintage because the use of silver dollars in the East was not that strong. As a result, despite a very low mintage, a significant part of the 1928 mintage would have ended up in the vault waiting for demand.
As it turned out, the demand would have been slow in coming. In his book, American Coin Treasures and Hoards, Q. David Bowers observed, “I have never seen, nor have I a firm record of an original mint-sealed bag being preserved. However, rolls come on the market occasionally.”
Bowers suggested that individual coins ranging from perhaps AU-50 to MS-63 did appear in bags in the 1950s and that they were easily found because, “Dollars of this date have a distinctive beveled rim, making them easily detectable in a bag.”
Evidence shows that the 1928 simply trickled. Rumors of bags cannot be verified. Today the 1928 seems to be about as available in assorted grades as might be expected for a low mintage Peace dollar. It is possible that the lower circulated grade supplies are weaker than expected because the 1928 did not circulate for long. It is a tough date and one that should always be excluded when making the claim that Philadelphia dates are more available.