The 1927 Peace dollar might be the most unlikely sleeper of all U.S. coins. It’s also a sleeper that has a pretty good chance of waking up, which is not characteristic of most.
Sleepers are usually fairly obscure coins from the 1880s. Most coins of the 1900s are still heavily collected and, consequently, usually well-known. Peace dollars would normally not be considered sleepers.
A lot of Peace dollars are at very reasonable price levels, but that is because there are supplies available. After all, Peace dollars were produced after the Pittman Act melting so they were not destroyed that way.
Additionally, almost any silver dollar date saw years when numbers were released in the form of $1,000 bags. Of course, those bags were frequently given to casino owners or others who were not going to save any. Even when the bags went to dealers and collectors, they often saved just a few coins. So the assumption that Peace dollars are available may not be totally correct.
By 1927 the era of large Peace dollar mintages was basically over. The pressure to mint silver dollars day and night was finally easing, and in 1927 the Philadelphia mintage stood at 848,000. That total was a record low Peace dollar mintage, but barely below the 1927-S mintage of 866,000.
In 1927 there was very little interest in silver dollars. The denomination was too high and there were still bags and bags of assorted dates coming out. Normally, there would be some trail of information telling us when and sometimes even where coins would have been released in $1,000 bags, but the record is silent when it comes to the 1927. The assumption is that it appeared here and there a couple bags at a time, slipping quietly into circulation.
By the time anyone seemed to notice that the 1927 was not to be found, one could find no supply. With Mint State supplies not appearing in any number in the Treasury bag release of 1962-1964 or in major hoards, the 1927 was quickly becoming a problem.
There is little doubt that for years the 1927 Peace dollar was in the shadow of the 1928 that came along with a much lower mintage of 360,649. The result of the lack of concern for the 1927 is that it is not that available today, even in MS-60 where it is priced at $70. In MS-65 it is much tougher at $3,350, but even that price may not tell the story as the 1928 is at $4,650, which most would expect based on its lower mintage.
The grading services give us a very different picture of the situation. In MS-65, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation has found 55 coins, as well as two in MS-66, out of 1,882 graded. In the case of the more expensive 1928, the total in MS-65 is 53 with one coin in MS-66. Professional Coin Grading Service has graded a total of 156 examples of the 1927 in MS-65 with five in MS-66. The total for the 1928 stands at 154 in MS-65 plus eight more in MS-66.
There is no way to be sure which date is tough. Certainly the current significant price difference in MS-65 cannot be justified based on these totals. This seems like good news for the 1927, and it may not be too late to obtain one now before the price increases.