Collectors will soon have the opportunity to collect 2021-dated Morgan and Peace dollars made using modern minting technologies combined with the U.S. Mint's legacy assets used to produce the original 1921 coins. These anniversary issues mean that collectors will, for the first time in minting history, be able to purchase silver dollars of both designs that grade Mint State 70!
The Mint's Chief Engraver Joseph Menna, who led the team that developed the 2021 coins, says the new silver dollars are even better than the originals, though there are some slight differences between them and the 1921 coins.
Here is what you need to know about these coins:
Why aren't the 2021 Peace and Morgans Commemoratives?
The new silver dollars are being issued to commemorate the centennial since the last Morgan dollar issue in 1921 and the first Peace dollar release in late 1921, but are not technically commemorative coins.
The coins were initially proposed as a commemorative coin program in 2019 in legislation that was the brainchild of Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee members and numismatic authors Thomas Uram and Michael Moran, acting in their personal capacity. Several years before this, the two men had proposed issuing coins to mark the centennial of both 1921 coins during CCAC meetings.
The 2019 bills did something no prior commemorative coin program has done. A direct part of the surcharges from the sale of the coins would go back into the numismatic community by going to the American Numismatic Association and significant regional coin associations.
However, Congress only allows the Mint two such programs per year. The 2019 bill failed to reach the high threshold Congress requires -- that two-thirds of the House and Senate co-sponsor a commemorative coin bill.
Thomas Uram and Michael Moran went back to the drawing board. They worked with several members of Congress to craft a different approach – one in which the silver dollars would be issued not as commemoratives but as legal tender collector coins similar to the collector versions of the American Silver Eagle sold in capsules and boxes.
This change in tactics only required a majority of members of Congress to approve the legislation, which both the House and Senate did last year before then-President Trump signed the bill into law in January 2020.
Are the New 2021 Coins Part of the Morgan and Peace Silver Dollar Series?
The Mint considers the coins to be the new Morgan and Peace dollars, but the numismatic community is still debating how to classify the coins. Numismatic Gaurunty Corporation (NGC) has decided to include them with its census reports and registry sets for the original Morgan and Peace dollars, while Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) is still thinking about it, as are numismatic publishers such as Whitman, which produces the various Red Book catalogs.
Are the 2021 Peace and Morgans the Same Composition and Dimensions as the Originals?
The 1921 silver dollars, like all silver dollars issued until 1935, were made of 90% silver and 10% copper, which made them suitable for circulation because the copper alloy hardens the metal.
Since 2019 the U.S. Mint has used only .999 fine silver planchets, and the new silver dollars will be made of .999 silver. However, they will be issued in the same diameter (38.1 millimeters) and weight (26.73 grams) as the original silver dollars. Given the difference in silver purity, while retaining the actual weight and diameter, the new coins will be just slightly thinner than the originals. The difference is only about 1.5% or .40 of a millimeter, which should not be noticeable.
In addition, the coin's new silver weight will be slightly higher at .858 oz of silver, whereas the original coins had .7734 oz of silver because of the higher silver purity.
Do the New 2021 Peace and Morgans Look like the Original Issues?
The new silver dollars, which the Mint refers to as "updated renditions" of the two famous and iconic silver dollars, are being issued with an uncirculated finish. They were created using various legacy assets at the Mint such as coins, dies, plaster models, metal galvanos, and high-resolution images used to capture the intent of the artists who created the originals (George T. Morgan and Anthony de Francisci respectively for the Morgan and Peace dollars, as most collectors know).
According to Chief Engraver Menna, "We used original models that were formatted different. The digital technology allows for greater fidelity. I wouldn't call them reproductions. They manifest the same intent of the sculptor's original design."
When will the 2021 Peace and Morgans be available?
The Mint began a staggered period of pre-orders for the five Morgan dollars (2021, 2021-D, 2021-S, 2022-CC, and 2022-O) and one Peace dollar on May 24th, 2021 with two products offered during one of three two-week periods. The pre-orders began on May 24th with the CC and O privy mark coins, with both coins selling out. However following the rapid sell-out and issues customers experienced with the United States Mint website on the 24th, the Mint is delaying the sale of the remaining four coins until they can figure out how to address website problems people encountered.
The coins were not planned to ship from the Mint until October and November of this year. This delay in release is to enable the manufacturing facilities to coordinate their production plans. In addition, adhering to the covid-19 protocols necessary to protect Mint staff also means it takes more time to produce the coins.
Why Will Some Have Mint Marks and Some Privy Marks?
As with the originals, coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint, including the Peace dollar and Morgan dollar, will not carry mint marks, while the Morgans made at the Denver and San Francisco Mints will carry D and S mint marks.
The law that created these coins also called for issuing coins with privy marks for the Carson City and New Orleans Mints that made Morgan dollars in the 19th century. Since these branches no longer operate, the legislation called for using privy marks that are raised ovals with the original CC and O mint marks incused on top.
Will the 2021 Peace and Morgan Silver Dollars be in High Relief?
As proposed by Mr. Uram and Mr. Moran, the original plan was for the 2021 coins to match the relief of the 1921 coins, which means the Peace dollar would be struck in high relief.
However, the 2021 Peace dollar will not be in the same high relief as the 1921 coin. This lack of high relief is because, as the Mint explained, "the 1921 high relief design rose higher than the border, which makes the design elements susceptible to damage. The relief of the 2021 Peace and Morgan dollars matches modern commemorative coin specifications."
In addition, the level of relief of the original coins would not adequately fit in the Mint's capsules for the coins.
An expert consulted for this article said that he believes the slightly reduced thinness of the new coins means less metal to move to the center where the central design motifs appear on both sides of these coins. That is why in his view, the Mint could not make them entirely high relief, but the coins should still be very aesthetically appealing.
Paul Gilkes, “2021 Morgan and 2021 Peace silver dollars may become annual series,” www.coinworld.com, May 24, 2021; “What are the new silver dollars?,” same issue.
Louis Golino, “The Coin Analyst: US Mint Roundtable on 2021 Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars,” www.coinweek.com, May 5, 2021
Stephanie Meredith, “Celebrating the Iconic Morgan and Peace Dollars,” www.usmint.gov, May 5, 2021