1921 Silver Dollar Value and History


As a coin collector, you should know about the 1921 silver dollar value and history. Not only was the 1921 silver dollar an important part of United States history, but the coin also featured two completely different dollar coin designs in the same year.

George T. Morgan vs. Peace Silver Dollars

When discussing a specific coin year, the conversation usually centers around the condition and the mint mark. However, there can be special circumstances that apply – especially for sought-after pieces like the “Cheerios” Sacagawea dollar.

This is also true for the 1921 silver dollar. One year, two designs. What’s the value for each dollar coin?  

Before we get into the value of the dollars, let’s look at the reasons there were two designs in the first place.

George T. Morgan was the United States Mint Assistant Engraver who designed the more common of the two 1921 coins, the Morgan Dollar. He worked on the design with various revisions from 1876 through 1877.

The Original Morgan Dollars

The previous silver dollar design, known as the Seated Liberty dollar, had ended production in 1873 following the Coinage Act of 1873, which banned the coining of silver.

Thanks to bills in the House of Representatives in 1876 and lobbying from bankers and silver miners, in 1876, a new coin could once again be made from silver. 

That same year, Henry Linderman, the Director of the Mint, started redesigning all of the country’s silver coins. Once Morgan’s design was chosen as the final one, the dies were prepared. 

Silver Dollar
Early Silver Dollars from 1879 and 1900

The Seated Liberty Coin

The Seated Liberty coin features Lady Liberty, modeled by Anna Willess Williams for the obverse design. In contrast, the reverse side features an eagle with its wings spread out, its talons grasping arrows, and an olive branch.

The Bland-Allison Act was passed by Congress in 1878, bringing back the silver standard, and the Secretary of Treasury began purchasing silver bullion for use in coining.

Director of the US Mint, Henry P. Linderman, was already preparing for the new silver coin and ordered Chief Engraver William Barber and his assistant, George T. Morgan, to begin the design of the new coin.

Preparing for the 1921 Silver Dollar

This coin was produced from 1878 through 1904. It was made from 90% silver and 10% copper. It features reeding (ridges) on the edge, and denticles on the surface of the obverse and reverse. 

The obverse Morgan Dollar displays the words, “Liberty; E Pluribus Unum; 1921,” while the reverse design on the Liberty dollar includes, “United States of America; In God We Trust; One Dollar.” The reverse of the Morgan Dollar shows an eagle with wings spread.

1921 Silver Dollar
1921 Silver Dollar

During this period, it was produced at the Philadelphia Mint, the San Francisco Mint, the New Orleans Mint, and thanks to the Comstock Lode, the Carson City Mint.

Mint marks are as follows for this era of the Morgan dollar:

Philadelphia: No mint

Carson City: CC

San Francisco: S

New Orleans: O

This dollar era came to a close thanks to the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which led to a massive increase in the mintage of dimes, quarters, and 50 cent pieces. It was also affected by the Panic of 1893, which led to the act being repealed just a few years later. 

All remaining silver purchased under the act went into making Morgan dollars, with the final silver bullion supplies getting used up by 1904.

The Rebirth

Near the end of World War I, there was a run on British silver due to a German propaganda campaign in India. In the U.S., the Pittman Act of 1918 passed, which was supposed to assist in financial relief efforts for England.

The United States ended up melting down over 270,000,000 silver dollars, the vast majority of which were sold to England for one dollar per troy ounce.

The Pittman Act

The Pittman Act also required new silver dollars to be struck, but several problems needed to be overcome. First, the original dies for the Morgan silver dollar were destroyed in 1910, so new dies had to be struck. 

Secondly, numismatists wanted a new design to honor the end of World War I and lobbied heavily to get their way. So, while a new design was being created, fresh dies were readied to produce the new Morgan dollars.

1921 Silver Dollar Value
1921 Silver Dollar

The 1921 Morgan dollar production was split between three mints:

Philadelphia: 44,960,000

San Francisco: 21,695,000

Denver: 20,345,000

This marks the first time the coin was struck in the Denver Mint. The Denver mint mark is a capital D. As before; the metals used were 90% silver, 10% copper.

morgan dollar
1921 Silver Morgan Dollar

Peace Silver Dollars

In 1920, a commission was put together to hold a new Peace dollar design contest. The winner was Anthony De Francisci, who had little previous experience designing a coin.

The obverse features a design of Miss Liberty modeled after De Francisci’s wife, Teresa, while the reverse featured a bald eagle perched and clutching an olive branch. 

Initially, the eagle was perched holding a broken sword, but public backlash led to changes being made.

The First Peace Dollar Coins

The first Peace dollars were struck on December 28th, 1921. They were all produced in Philadelphia, so there is no mint mark, and they feature the same 90% silver and 10% copper content as previous coins. 

1921 Peace Silver Dollars
1921 Peace Silver Dollars

These were the last U.S. high relief coins meant for general circulation. During minting, the dies had to be pressed at extremely high pressures to bring out all the details in the design, reducing the lifespan of the dies considerably. 

The Peace silver dollars were produced steadily through 1935, but they were discontinued when demand dried up by 1936. Believing there would be no more demand for new coins, Mint Engraver John R. Sinnock ordered the dies to be destroyed in 1937.

Restarting the Peace Dollar Coins

In 1964, the Denver Mint began striking new Peace dollars, thanks to Congressional legislation that allowed for the production of 45,000,000 new dollar coins. Some dies escaped destruction in 1937, and these were used as the basis for new ones. 

The coins were ready in 1965, but a combination of coin dealers demanding high prices for them and the general sentiment that they were a waste of resources led to the few produced coins being destroyed. Any plans of making these coins were abandoned. Unfortunately, no known examples survive today.

Rebirth of the Morgan Dollar Coins

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of both coins in 2021, the U.S. Mint struck 475,000 new Morgan dollar coins and 200,000 Peace dollar coins. All Peace dollars were struck in Philadelphia, and as such, have no mint mark. 

The Morgan dollars were struck in three mints, each producing 175,000 each. These three mints were Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver. 

The Mints

While the Denver and San Francisco Morgan coins featured their expected mint marks – D and S, respectively – the Philadelphia coins featured three mint marks. One-third of the Philadelphia coins had no mint marks as expected, another third featured CC marks in honor of the Carson City coins, and the final third featured O in honor of the New Orleans coins. 

Both Carson City nor New Orleans Mints are defunct, so there was no possibility of striking the coins there.

These modern versions of the dollars have a much higher silver content than the original coins and are 99.9% silver.

1921 Silver Dollar Value

Both the more common Morgan and the much rarer Peace dollars are worth far more than face value.

The silver melt value of either coin will only be about $20, which is less than the value of a rough condition Morgan coin and far less than any Peace coin.

1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar Coin, Regular Strike
1921-S Morgan Silver Dollar Coin, Regular Strike

Let’s start with the Morgan 1921 silver dollar value. The values are all identical for each mint mark for most states of condition – however, we’ll explain the outlier in a moment.

Good Condition: ~$20

Fine Condition: ~$25

Extremely Fine Condition: ~$30

Zerbe Proof 1921-S Morgan Dollar Coin

One of the rarest and most valuable Morgan dollar coins is the Zerbe Proofs. The name comes from the former president of the American Numismatic Association, Farran Zerbe. One of the most colorful characters, to say the least, Zerbe had the political power to sway the design of the Morgan dollar coin to a fresh new look.

While in California waiting for the arrival of the new dies that would strike the first Peace Dollar coins at the San Francisco mint, Zerbe was disappointed. The new dies were for the Morgan design.

Zerbe – Fact or Fiction?

As the story goes, reports were that 24 coins were struck for the disappointed Zerbe. And of these 24 “Zerbe” dollar coins, only five are known to this day. Four Zerbe coins are graded by PCGS, and the fifth coin is in the collection of the American Numismatic Society.

Zerbe Proof 1921-S Morgan Dollar Coin
1921 Zerbe Proof Morgan Silver Dollar

If you think you might have found a Zerbe proof Morgan dollar, here’s what to look for. A sharply squared rim boarder, bold lettering throughout, and flattened stars that rise above the fields. Also, two diagonal lines from the denticles to the “E” and “S” in ‘STATES’, and a connecting line to the top “C” on the right side of the coin.

The highest graded Zerbe Proof coin sold for a record $117,500 at a Heritage Auction. Three other certified 64-grade level coins have been

1921 Silver Dollar Value Uncirculated

Because of the relative abundance of Philadelphia coins, the Denver and San Francisco coins carry a slight premium in uncirculated condition:

Philadelphia: ~$44

Denver/San Francisco: ~$48

As you can see, the Morgan dollar value dramatically increases in uncirculated condition. The more flatting and wear, the less the coin is worth, so the stark details of an uncirculated coin make them the most desirable.

1921 Silver Peace Dollar Values

As for Peace dollars, there are no separate 1921 mints you’ll need to watch for since they were all produced in Philadelphia.

Good Condition: ~$62

Fine Condition: ~$72

Extremely Fine Condition: ~$93

Uncirculated condition rare coins are more desirable and valuable, which means that the coin’s condition becomes highly important. For this level, the starting point is $218 but can increase dramatically as the Mint States (MS) numbers rise. 

The highest known rating for a 1921 Peace silver dollar is MS-67, nearly flawless. A recent example sold through Stack’s Bowers at auction for $132,000 in 2018.

Should You Add a 1921 Silver Dollar to Your Collection?

1921 Morgan dollars are among the most affordable dollar coins available, thanks to their production numbers. If your coin collection doesn’t currently feature a Morgan silver dollar, even an uncirculated example will cost less than $50. 

As for a Peace coin, they are more expensive. For those who are just starting to build their coin collection, the entry price still isn’t as high as it is for, say, $20 Liberty Double Eagle gold coins or a 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar.

The Desirable 1921 Silver Dollar

Purchasing either of these 1921 coins means that you’re buying a piece of history. They represent a time when coins were still popular with the American public, and U.S. currency was based on the value of precious metals. 

Whether you’re a new collector or an old pro looking to complete a collection with the finest condition 1921 silver dollars you can find, you won’t be disappointed. The artistry of George T. Morgan and Anthony De Francisci is evident in every example.


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