Dollars : Peace Dollar : Type 1, High Relief

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Obverse of 1921 Peace Dollar Reverse of 1921 Peace Dollar

Ron Guth: The first of the Peace Dollars were struck and issued in 1921 from designs by Anthony de Francisci, winner of a competition held by the Commission of Fine Arts.  De Francisci beat out seven other artists, some of whose names will be familiar to numismatists (Victor D. Brenner, John Flanagan, Hermon MacNeil, Adolph Weinman, and other coin designers).  De Francisci presented three models: an obverse similar to the adopted design but with a date below the bust in Roman numerals; a reverse almost exactly as adopted but without the word "PEACE"; and a reverse reminiscent of the reverse of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, with an aggressive eagle bending a sword in its beak.  A revised model of the first reverse showed the eagle with a broken sword in its talons, meant to represent the destruction of implements of war.  However, this symbol met with derision from those who interpreted it as a symbol of defeat or disgrace.  The sword was removed from the design (by hand from the hubs!),  other minor modifications were made to the obverse and reverse, and the first Peace Dollars were struck on December 28, 1920.

The high relief of the dies created numerous problems for the Mint, including shortened die life and difficulties in bringing up the details with a single strike.  The coins would not stack properly because of uneven thickness and raised "fins" on the rims.

Considering the haste with which the first Peace Dollars were designed and produced, the problems with the 1921 Peace Dollars were understandable.  However, the designer and mint employees, aware of the problems, began planning revisions for the 1922 Dollars.  The obvious solution was to reduce the relief of the coin, which was eventually accomplished, the result being a coin with diminished appeal and aesthetics in comparison to the original.

Matte (sandblast) and Satin Proofs were created in very limited quantities by Mint Engraver, George Morgan.  Today, these are highly prized by collectors. 

Sources and/or recommended reading:
Roger W. Burdette, "Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921"