The Official Guide to the Top 50 Peace Dollar Varieties by
Jeff Oxman and David Close presents a set of some of the most
desirable elements within the series.
The book’s first entry, the VAM-3 1921 Peace dollar
(Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of U.S. Morgan and
Peace Silver Dollars by Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis),
is well known but still holds a mystery.
Its diagnostic feature is a re-engraved ray that passes over the
first L in DOLLAR on the reverse. It is duly noted that the ray should
pass under the letter.
The mistake makes it a favorite among collectors. But why was the
repair work undertaken? What forced the engraver’s hand?
Other areas of the reverse show evidence of touch-up work. This is
particularly apparent in the lower portions of the rays to the right
of the olive branch. Repair work of this nature is found on other
Peace dollars. Typically it is used to replace or strengthen detail
lost through heavy polishing to efface clash marks. Usually, such a
coin still exhibits some trace of the offending clash. However, the
VAM-3 1921 Peace dollar shows no clear evidence of a clash or its remnants.
Some other type of die damage could have been the motivating
factor, but it is also not clearly evident. Further, repair work of a
die already in use would make the resultant variety a stage. No
earlier use of these exact dies without the touch-up work has been
noted to date.
The most likely possibility is this reverse was modified prior to
its first use. The variety appears to be in the exact relief as found
on other 1921 Peace dollars, so the sort of tinkering with the design
undertaken in 1922 could be ruled out with some confidence.
I suspect this is an example of hand strengthening of a die that
did not hub properly to its full depth.
Such dies would normally be condemned and discarded, but it is
well documented that the 1921 Peace dollar was fighting a deadline.
The 1921 Peace dollars were struck between Dec. 28 and 31.
John Roberts is director of attribution services for ANACS. He is
a longtime collector of Morgan dollar varieties and is considered an
expert in attributing Morgan varieties.