By Mark Benvenuto
Recently we took a close look at the rather hefty series that is the Morgan silver dollars, because these big coins always seem to be in the limelight when it comes to the sale of high-end pieces, and always seem to have a place in collectors’ hearts. But right along with them, perhaps eclipsed a bit in that limelight by the scope of the Morgans, are the Peace dollars. This series is relatively short in comparison, being issued for only 10 years, not all in a row. But the Peace dollars combine some truly beautiful artistry, the work of Mr. Anthony de Francisci, with years of large enough production that we ought to be able to find some bargains for those of us who don’t like to spend too many of our own dollars when buying just one of these.
As we always do when hunting for bargains, we can go through the entire series looking at both official mintages and the prices in major references, and rule out the rarities. For the Peace dollars, that kicks the 1928 out the door right away. The 1922 high relief variety, as well as the 1922 with “ear ring” also get the boot. We’ll see later about one other date that might join them, but also may not.
We also need some upper limit as far as what we want to spend when it comes to ferreting out inexpensive Peace dollars. For that, we might disappoint some of our collector friends and choose not one, but two. We’re going to pick both $60 and $125. Before anyone gets up in arms about us pulling this punch, it is worth pointing out that the most common of the Peace dollars cost about $60 at the MS-64 grade, but about $125 at the MS-65. Some of us are fine with an MS-64 coin, in just about any series. They are never going to be called ugly. But some of us hear that siren song of the MS-65, and are willing to pay for it. So, we have two prices to watch.
Armed then with a dual price ceiling, we come right away to a quartet of Peace dollars issued from the main Mint in Philadelphia: the 1922, the 1923, the 1924 and the 1925. The 1922 has the highest mintage in the series at just over 51.7 million. On the low end of our quartet, the 1925 has a total of 10,198,000 to its official tally, which is lower than the output of the 1922-D, the 1922-S and the 1923-S. But apparently, the “D” and “S” mintmarks add some value to these three, or at least the lack of one for coins from the City of Brotherly Love means their prices will be somewhat lower.
These four Peace dollars from Philly are those that cost $60 in MS-64, or no more than $125 in MS-65 grade. They become our baseline really, something against which we can compare all the others.
Since a collection of four is a rather small one, the next step is to look at all the dates and mintmarks that are not small enough to qualify as scarce or rare. And wonderfully for us, that includes almost the entire series, less those key dates we just mentioned, and some scarce varieties.
Getting our hands on all the other dates is not a problem, but is not going to land us MS-65 specimens for the price range we want. And the presence of a “D” or an “S” mintmark will generally mean we dip in grade a bit, again to stay in what we can call our financial comfort zone. For example, the 1927 has a total just less than one-half that of the 1935-S. Yet right now we might be able to land a 1927 for roughly $100 in MS-60. That’s pretty squarely in the middle of our two price points. And that 1935-S? Well, yes, we can land that one for about the same price as well – but as an AU-50 specimen.
This quick comparison of prices and grades cuts to the heart of the matter when it comes to building a good collection of Peace dollars, and of doing it at some bargain level. We can definitely do it, but we will have to be flexible when it comes to grades. A quintet of mintmarked pieces will have to be at the AU grade, the 1924-S, the 1927-D and -S, the 1928-S and the 1935-S, at least if we want to stay near $100 per coin. The others we can land in a lower MS grade for about the same price.
We have gotten this far, tramped through the entire Peace dollar series, found that there is some low-hanging fruit here for the picking, and yet have conspicuously left out the one dollar that we can argue has gotten the most press over the course of time, the 1921. The 1921 seems to exist on its own plane. It is not particularly rare, with an official total of 1,006,473 coins. Yet that high relief seems to keep it in a class all by itself. If we want to add one of these to any collection, and do it at a grade like MS-65, we’ll have to part with a couple thousand very modern dollars. If we want it in MS-66, the price jumps to about $6,000. Hardly the stuff a bargain-hunter will even think about. Yet these coins must have circulated, since many of them can be found with some wear on them. We can conceivably grab one for ourselves for that $125 price tag, assuming we are willing to drop to something like a VF-20 specimen. There we have it: a key coin that is doable, just not in the best of shape.
The Peace dollars do have a lot to offer the bargain collector. There are even some excellent Mint State pieces to be had at decent prices. Here’s to building some collections, and to bringing this attractive-looking series fully into the limelight.