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High-grade 1922-S Peace dollars tough

 There was little demand for the 1922-S Peace dollar when it was issued. Bags released in later years were not examined for high-grade examples, so fewer exist today than otherwise might.

There was little demand for the 1922-S Peace dollar when it was issued. Bags released in later years were not examined for high-grade examples, so fewer exist today than otherwise might.

Almost no one considers the 1922-S Peace dollar as one of the better dates in the series. While it certainly is not a key date, it has become (at least in grade MS-65 and above) a better date than many imagine.

The 1922-S belongs to a period when Peace dollar mintages were high. There was good reason. The mints were under extreme pressure from the Secretary of the Treasury to make as many dollars as possible in a short period of time.

The reason for the rushed production was the Secretary’s desire to issue new Silver Certificates and to retire other bank notes backed by short-term notes paying 2 percent interest. To avoid paying that interest, he ordered heavy Peace dollar production. Mint employee shifts were increased from 8 to 12 hours, and facilities operated 24 hours a day for 6 days a week.

The impact of this focus on dollars at the assorted mints in 1921, 1922 and 1923 can be seen by the mintages of other denominations, which were unusually low (if they were even produced at all). The facilities could be busy producing dollars because recession reduced demand for dimes and half dollars.

The 1922-S Peace dollar had a final mintage of 17,475,000. That total meant it was never going to be especially tough unless they were all melted, and that is seen in its $23 price today in G-4 condition. Even at $64 in MS-60, it is safe to say that it is not especially tough.

Given its $2,000 listing in MS-65, however, we need to be more cautious. While that price does not make the 1922-S a key Peace dollar date in that condition, it does make it better than a number of other lower-mintage dates. The reason can be traced back to when the coin was produced.

In the 1920s, new Peace dollars were not really circulating dollars. Many simply sat in vaults for decades. That was just fine with the Secretary of the Treasury, who was only concerned that they exist to serve as backing for the new Silver Certificates.

The 1922-S was certainly not needed in circulation right away. In fact, there had been a mintage of almost 21.7 million 1921-S Morgan dollars the previous year, so there was certainly no shortage of dollars in San Francisco at the time.

It is possible, of course, that some 1922-S Peace dollars reached circulation about the time they were produced. There should have been some nice coins in a mintage that large, and we do have some today. As a rule, however, Peace dollars were not well made in San Francisco. We see that in their MS-65 prices, which are uniformly high because flat strikes were the rule and not the exception.

In the case of the 1922-S, there were reports of large numbers being released in 1941, along with the 1926-S. At the time, however, there would have been little saving by collectors or dealers. There were other bags released in 1942, but again with little saving.

In fact, a significant number of 1922-S coins are thought to have ended up on the card tables in Reno, Nev. They also reportedly were the largest single group of Peace dollars in the famous Redfield hoard, but once again they were weakly struck MS-60 to MS-63 examples.

In later years, the San Francisco Mint continued to pay out bags, with reports of bags coming from 1949 through the mid-1950s. The 1922-S was still not seen as a better date, and there was little or no saving.

A couple of decades later, the 1922-S would be very common. But the fact remains that no one took the time to really see what top-quality examples might have been in the bags. So we find the 1922-S is tougher to find, especially in high grades.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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