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Coin Clinic: Mint Didn’t Learn High Relief Lesson

By Richard Giedroyc

Since the U.S. Mint had so much trouble striking Ultra High Relief double eagles in 1907, why did they once again attempt to strike very high relief coins in 1921, these being the Peace dollars?

Since when has the United States government ever learned from its past mistakes? This is the same government that produced the unsuccessful 20-cent coin, then introduced the equally unsuccessful Susan B. Anthony dollar a century later. The coinage dies for the first Peace dollars were made on short notice with little time given to test those dies. It is likely that Mint employees had more confidence in the newly acquired Janvier reducing machine than perhaps they should have had.

Why were some 1922 Peace dollars struck in high relief?

Mint engraver George Morgan made some alterations to the initial Peace dollar dies for 1922 to correct the debacle experienced with the 1921 issuance. As soon as it was learned that the die breakage was almost as bad as it had been for the 1921 coins, Morgan reworked the relief for both the obverse and reverse.

How can I tell if my 1922 Peace dollar is one of the rare high relief coins or not?

The easiest way is to compare the coin to other 1922 Peace dollars, or to a 1921 Peace dollar. All 1922 High Relief Peace dollars were struck in matte proof.

What was the purpose of striking 1907 Ultra High Relief Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle coins?

President Theodore Roosevelt was an admirer of ancient Greek coins in high relief. He carried an Athenian tetradrachm in his pocket. He also wanted to send a message to other countries suggesting the increasing stature of the United States of the early 20th century.

I just purchased a 1961 Jefferson nickel in proof certified in a slab that reads, “Certified by INB KPR70.” Since we know there are no perfect proofs in Jefferson nickels from this era (and 1961 being pre-ANACS), who was INB?

The International Numismatic Bureau was an early third-party certification service that was never accepted by collectors or dealers as being able to grade consistently. Since the company graded its own inventory, it was also viewed as having a conflict of interest.

I understand there are only three third-party certification services that are generally accepted in U.S. coin collecting circles. Just how many off-brand services have existed?

It is difficult to get an accurate count; however, the American Rarities website lists 61 companies that are identified as “lesser known, off brand, and non-mainstream coin grading companies.” Many of these no longer exist. Just because a service may be on this list doesn’t mean the service isn’t doing a good job – some of these services are reliable but aren’t well-publicized.

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