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Morgan and Peace Dollars, Old and New

In the year 2021, the United States Mint got just about every collector to sit up and take notice when they unveiled the 2021 Morgan and Peace dollars as centennial versions of the two classic series. The ever-present interest in the Morgan and Peace dollars went up a further notch and stayed there as the new versions were unveiled. To the chagrin of many in the collector community, the very next year the official word was that silver from suppliers to the Mint had been disrupted by the COVID pandemic, and there would be no Morgan and Peace dollars dated 2022. That announcement got many of us thinking that the 2021’s were going to be a one-hit wonder or the proverbial flash in the pan, and thus the dust settled a bit. But right now, the Mint is planning to release a set of 2023 Morgan and Peace dollars – probably with the same wealth of mint marks or privy marks as before – and this means we might be at the beginning of a new series. Whether this will grow over time to something as established and respected as the silver Eagles is still a mystery. But the time may indeed be ripe to look at collecting the classic Morgan and Peace dollars, or if we have already done so, at examining just what might still qualify as a good deal.

1921 marked the first year since 1904 that the design had been used. The Morgan dollars were minted in record numbers.  (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions) 

1921 marked the first year since 1904 that the design had been used. The Morgan dollars were minted in record numbers. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions) 

Staring in 1921

Since the new silver dollars of 2021 mark a centennial for the two classic series, perhaps the easiest way to look at both series at the same time is to start with that linking date, 1921. This is a stand-alone year for the Morgan dollar, because the design had not been minted since 1904. The three Mints that pounded out Morgan dollars that year did so in amazingly high numbers – the highest ever seen for silver dollars in the Mint’s history. Those from Philly were tens of millions above anything that had come before. Today, each of them, from Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco, are pretty inexpensive if we stay away from the higher mint state grades.

On the side of the Peace dollar, plenty of collectors are aware that the 1921 is one of the key dates of the series, even though over a million were produced. The high relief featured for this year, and for a few of those dated 1922, has always been something of a draw, with aficionados going over hair lines and other design elements in gory detail. If the price for one of these is too rich for our blood, then why not start any new collection with a good looking 1922. Once again, this coin came from three Mints, and once again the production in Philadelphia was record setting. In the higher circulated grades, and even the lower mint state ones, these also are not too expensive.

Going Backward, Going Forward

When it comes to forming a larger collection of either Morgan or Peace dollars, or of both, it becomes a matter of going backwards for the Morgans, and forward for the Peace. Since the annual production at the Philadelphia Mint usually far outstripped that of any of the branch Mints, it seems logical to think that some date run of Morgan dollars would be the way to go, all of them from the City of Brotherly Love. But there are a few hiccups along the way here. Some of the later dates, like the 1893 and the 1894, are actually rather expensive Morgans. And some of the ‘S’ marked pieces from San Francisco are much more affordable than we might think. It’s worth checking any price list in the back of this issue of Coins, or of Numismatic News carefully when deciding what to buy.

When it comes to the Peace dollar series, many collectors are aware that the key dates are the 1921, as well as the 1922-high-relief, and the 1928, all of them issues from Philadelphia. But the most common dates in the series are also from the main Mint, and certainly qualify as a good place to start any collection. The 1922, as well as the 1923, the 1924, and the 1925 are all pieces with very high mintages, and correspondingly low prices today. Beyond this, even though almost the entire series saw healthy mintages from each facility each year, the prices tend to rise. Picking just one example, the 1935-S saw just over 1.9 million pieces produced – a number that ought to qualify it as common for collectors today – but in MS-60 still costs much more than the common dates we just mentioned.

1921 is a key date for the Peace dollar series.  (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions) 

1921 is a key date for the Peace dollar series. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions) 

Mint Marks

We’ve mentioned a few mint marked pieces already, but it’s worth looking at them in a bit more detail. The 2021 dollars came out with a series of mint mark and “privy” marks, and we can assume the same will occur this year. But our two classic series have what might be called a pecking order when it comes to mint marks. For the years in which the branch Mint in Carson City put out Morgan dollars, that ‘CC’ mark virtually guarantees we’ll have to pay big for just about any example.

The ‘S’ of the City by the Bay is next on any list or pecking order, with many of them being expensive. But a careful look through the standard price guides will reveal the ‘S’ marked Morgan dollars which are common enough that their prices are reasonable for any collector today. The same holds true for the ‘S’ mark on Peace dollars.

Several of the Morgan dollars were also issued from the branch Mint facility in the Big Easy – New Orleans, that is. Interestingly, these do not really carry an automatic premium. The ‘O’ generally is only expensive when the mintage total is low, as we might expect. Right along side the New Orleans coins, any dollars with the ‘D’ of Denver tend to have prices that are reasonable, meaning there is no real premium attached to them simply because they came from the Mile High City. There is only one of these in the entire Morgan series, but the Peace dollar series adds a few dates to the total.

To Slab, or Not to Slab?

For those of us who do a significant part of our buying at coin shows, it’s fair to say it is almost impossible to attend a decent sized one and not see Morgan and Peace dollars for sale that have been slabbed. Sometimes it seems that these two series, plus Walking Liberty and Franklin half dollars, make up the lion’s share of certified U.S. silver coins. And thus, it’s fair to ask whether any collection of these silver dollars that we choose to build should be slabbed or not. The easy answer is always: it’s up to each of us. The more detailed answer looks at just what we are trying to do. If we simply want good looking coins, and it does not matter what grade they happen to be, well, raw coins – those that have not been slabbed – are probably the smartest, least expensive way to go. If we are keen on each coin being in a specific grade of mint state, then slabs are most likely the best way to go.

While we are on the subject, not long after any 2023 Morgan and Peace dollars are made available, it’s a sure bet that these will show up in some third-party grading services holder. It’s almost as sure a bet that someone will claim that in grades like MS-69 or MS-70 these are rare coins, worth some premium. The reality check is that they are probably going to be common in those grades. After all, the United States Mint is one of the best in the world when it comes to producing gorgeous, flawless coins, bar none. The surprise would actually be to find one of these modern silver dollars in a grade that is not at the top tier as far as a grade goes.

The U.S. Mint released the 2021 Morgan and Peace dollars for the centennial of the two coins. It was later announced that the coins would not have a 2022 date, but would return in 2023. 

The U.S. Mint released the 2021 Morgan and Peace dollars for the centennial of the two coins. It was later announced that the coins would not have a 2022 date, but would return in 2023. 

Where to Stop: Finding a Price Point

As with any series, each of us will have to decide just how much to spend on any piece we add. Some of us will wait on the 2023 Morgan and Peace dollars, hoping that their price will drop after the initial offering from the Mint – the calculated gamble. Others will opt to buy right away. And when it comes to the two classic series, all of us will most likely shop around to see what deals are still available. Here’s to the new and the old, and to some good silver dollar collecting in 2023.