Many still debate whether the 1921 Peace dollar should be seen as a different type from the Peace dollar dates that follow it. It’s an interesting situation that deserves some attention, as it could have significant price consequences.
In 1921 the three U.S. mints were up to their ears in work. Silver dollars were needed in a hurry. The melting of more than 270 million silver dollars as a result of the Pittman Act in 1918 had caused problems. Those dollars were required to back Silver Certificates.
There had been a competition to design a new silver dollar and a design by Anthony de Francisci had won, but it was not ready so the first 1921 silver dollar mintages were Morgans. The new Peace dollar design was rushed into production by the end of the year with the 1921 production standing at 1,006,473.
Right away there were reports that the coins did not stack properly, so the relief had to be lowered. The differences between the 1921 Peace dollar and the business strikes that came after are subtle but nonetheless real. The 1921 has concave fields, heavy letters, three berries on the branch and 22 rays. All the others have flat fields, light letters, four berries and 25 rays.
The 1921 was always lightly struck at the center of the obverse where the hair covers the ear. On the reverse the area just behind the eagle’s neck is often indistinct. Other areas of potential weakness include the lines of the neck truncation.
The 1921 created a good deal of interest at the time. There probably was some limited saving, although it was still more money than many could afford.
The 1921 appears to have totally paid out at the time. Q. David Bowers, in his American Coin Treasures and Hoards, suggests the lack of bags and rolls of the 1921 paid out at a later date makes it unique among Peace dollars in that respect.
The 1921 supply today suggests that there was some saving. Despite a fairly low mintage, it lists for $125 in VG-8, with an MS-60 at $245 and an MS-65 at $2,400.It seems to be relatively stable in terms of price. The long term issue, however, involves the question of whether the 1921 will be treated as a separate one-year type.
The design was not changed dramatically in 1922. The Walking Liberty half dollar also had changes that year, but they are not generally seen as enough to make for a different type.
In his book, A Guide Book of United States Type Coins, Q. David Bowers recommends that the 1921 be considered a type by itself because it is visually different. The views of someone like Bowers can change a lot of minds.
If enough people agree, the 1921 could see more demand, especially in the highest grades, and that could put a lot of pressure on a suspect supply. By definition, it will have to rise in price. Paying a little extra for a 1921 would be money well spent.