Before 1965, silver was used extensively in U.S. coins, possibly most significantly in its dollar currency. There have been a few different designs used by the mint in its silver dollars. In particular, the Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars are among the most well-known of these designs.
The use of silver as a base metal for coinage is ancient; the rarity of the metal makes for a stable value. Precious coins have what is called a “”melt value,”” or the core price of the weight of the metals used in the striking of the coin, which provides a guaranteed price.
Coin collectors and investors seek out U.S. silver coins like the Morgan and Peace dollars for their aesthetic value, historic significance, and persistent value. A coin is considered by collectors and investors to be a “”true”” silver coin if it has a purity of at least 90%. Several U.S. coin lines have been made with this standard.
Although there are several lines of silver dollars in the history of U.S. currency, two of the most well-known are the Morgan and Peace Dollars. Below we will go into detail on each design.
The Morgan Dollar was created to fill the need for silver pressing created by the Allison-Bland Act, finalized in 1878 (although it was passed by Congress in 1876, amendments and a presidential veto slowed enactment). Initial efforts to redesign the U.S. Silver Dollar began in 1876, the brainchild of Mint Director Henry Linderman. In 1877, during the period of wrangling over the Allison-Bland Act, the Mint prepared the design. The first Morgan Dollar was pressed on March 11th and given to President Hayes.
Henry Linderman personally selected George Morgan, an English-born assistant engraver whom Linderman had hired a year earlier, to design the new coin. George Morgan was an Englishman who apprenticed at the Royal Mint before being brought on board the at U.S. Mint. Although only an Assistant Engraver, Morgan was picked to make the design, which was a tremendous honor. Morgan went on to a long career at the Mint, working on many projects and eventually becoming the 7th Chief Engraver.
The model for Morgan's version of Lady Liberty, Anna Willess Williams, was the daughter of his friend Henry Williams. A schoolteacher, Williams was a private woman and was somewhat dismayed when her status as the face of Liberty was discovered by a Philadelphia reporter. The design was considered unusual because it moved away from the Grecian classicism of older designs to a modern look.
The obverse of Morgan's coin features the head of Lady Liberty in profile, as discussed above. The face also features thirteen stars, symbolizing the colonies, the U.S. “”E Pluribus Unum”” motto, and the year of issue.
The coin's reverse side features an eagle in flight, carrying an olive branch and a bundle of arrows, showing strength in peace and war. Although initial pressings featured an eagle with eight tail feathers, this was adjusted down to seven in later issues, to fall in line with a U.S. Mint tradition. The motto In God We Trust also appears, as does the name of the country, the value of the coin, and the mintmark.
The Sherman Act of 1890 overwrote the requirements of Allison-Bland, leading to a reduction of silver coining. This act was itself repealed in 1893 to fend off an economic panic. Congress ordered the mint to work through the remaining U.S. silver bullion reserves, a feat that they accomplished in 1904, ending the main run of the Morgan Dollar. The design was revived for a year in 1921, after the Pittman Act but was quickly replaced.
The Morgan Dollar today provides a link to the history of American coinage and a stable unit of value; a Morgan Dollar is now worth considerably more than its face value. The celebration of immigrant heritage contained in the features of Williams as Lady Liberty celebrates changing standards and America's rich heritage.
In the aftermath of World War I, pressure emerged in numismatic circles to produce a coin celebrating the allied victory. The Pittman Act of 1918 required the U.S. to purchase and mint a set quantity of silver, providing an impetus for the celebratory coin to be pressed from that metal.
The design of the Peace Dollar was the product of a 1921 competition sponsored by the Mint wherein selected professionals were given the chance to propose a new coin. The first Peace Dollar coin was pressed on December 28th of 1921 (the coin was supposed to be sent to President Harding, but records seem to indicate that the coin never arrived).
The design competition was won by relative newcomer Anthony de Francisci, an Italian immigrant whose design was unanimously picked by the judges.
Francisci was a sculptor and designer whose previous work had included plaques and the National Guard Bureau insignia. After being selected as the designer of the new dollar, his fame escalated, and his later works include other coins, medals, buttons, and awards.
Francisci used his wife, Teresa, as the model for his version of Liberty, thus fulfilling her childhood desire to pose as the famous symbol. The designer submitted two designs for the reverse, one featuring an angry eagle snapping a sword; although the other version was selected, the broken sword was initially added to the chosen design. After protest from the New York Herald, which claimed a broken sword would be a sign of defeat, the element was removed.
The obverse of the Peace Dollar features a profile of the windblown face of Lady Liberty with a radiating crown, the symbol of a new dawn. The face also has a U.S. motto (In God We Trust), the word Liberty, and the year of pressing.
The reverse features a resting eagle clutching olive branches, a symbol of peace. There is a sunburst in the background. The back also has the nation's name, the motto “”E Pluribus Unum,”” and the value, as well as the mintmark.
The Peace Dollar went into decline in 1928 when the Pittman-purchased silver ran out. A brief resumption occurred in 1934; the run only lasted two years. An attempt to restrike a run of the coins for use in casinos was eventually scuttled, with only test coins being pressed.
As with the Morgan dollar, the precious metal content of the peace dollar makes it a stable repository of value. At the same time, the relatively robust production runs of these coins places them within the reach of many coin collectors.
Silver coins declined internationally with increases in silver prices and the movement to fiat (or non-precious-metal-based) currency. In the United States, the 1976 ending of the gold standard was the final nail in the coffin of mass-produced precious coins.
The value of silver dollars is attached to two factors: their status as collectibles and their value as precious metals. Although the value of silver dollars today far exceeds their face value, the large runs of silver dollars make them relatively available and thus a popular item for collection purposes or for investment. Coin services often provide grading based on condition, which affects collectible value; other factors relating to the price of any individual piece include the rarity of the mintmark and the year produced.
If you're looking to add some eye-catching US Silver Dollars to your portfolio or collection, then check out our considerable selection at JM Bullion today. We offer a wide selection of both Peace and Morgan Silver Dollars from different years and in varying degrees of condition.