US Coins

1964 Morgan Peace dollar tooling at Philadelphia Mint

Whitman Publishing’s upcoming fifth edition of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars reveals a numismatic bombshell — evidence that the U.S. Mint considered striking 1964 Morgan dollars and actually produced hubs and master dies for the coin that survive to this day.

Researchers found models, hubs and master dies for a 1964 Morgan dollar during a July 2015 visit to the Philadelphia Mint, where they also found hubs and master dies for the 1964 Peace dollar, trial strikes of which were produced at the Denver Mint in 1965.

No trial strikes of either coin have been discovered, though, and it remains uncertain whether any trial strikes were made of the 1964 Morgan dollar.

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Any such production of a Morgan dollar would, in theory, have coincided with the Mint’s consideration of what designs to use for the silver dollar after Congress authorized resumption of silver dollar production for the first time since Peace dollars were last struck in 1935.

The known experimentation included production of an estimated 322,394 1964-D Peace dollars at the Denver Mint between May 13 and May 24, 1965, according to author Roger W. Burdette in A Guide Book of Peace Dollars.

All of the Peace dollar trial strikes were reportedly melted, with none officially released into circulation. No examples are known extant, not even in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Unsubstantiated rumors persist that Denver Mint employees were permitted to acquire examples of the trial strikes before the program was canceled and that not all examples were returned by employees despite orders to do so.

1964 Morgan dollars

The July 2015 visit to the Philadelphia Mint by four professional numismatists, during which 1964 Morgan dollar dies, galvanos and other tooling was discovered by accident, did not uncover any struck examples of a 1964 Morgan silver dollar.

The four numismatists are Dennis Tucker, publisher for Whitman Publishing LLC; prolific numismatic author Q. David Bowers, chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries and numismatic director at Whitman; John Dannreuther, numismatic researcher, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service and owner of John Dannreuther Rare Coins in Tennessee; and David Sundman, president of Littleton Coin Company in New Hampshire.

Dannreuther and Sundman are also Whitman authors.

The Philadelphia Mint’s inventory of historic dies, galvanos, tooling, experimental and trial strikes and similar materials — many of which have never been seen by numismatists or publicized outside the Mint — numbers in the thousands.

The items are “heritage assets” that the U.S. Mint is in the process of cataloging and photographing for eventual posting on its website. The archiving also includes similar assets at the Denver, San Francisco and West Point Mints, as well as at Fort Knox and U.S. Mint headquarters.

During the July 2015 Philadelphia Mint visit, Tucker was photographing galvanos and plaster models of Philippine coins struck under U.S. sovereignty in the 1900s. For the then-in-progress Guide Book on Morgan dollars, Bowers and Sundman were jointly examining materials related to Eisenhower and Anthony dollars.

And Dannreuther was randomly combing through a cabinet of trays, when he came across obverse and reverse galvanos for Morgan dollars. 

Tucker interrupted his photography to see what Dannreuther had found. Almost simultaneously, the two men’s eyes focused on the date — 1964.

“Our excitement grew as all doubt was dispelled — these clearly were models for a 1964-dated Morgan dollar, a creature never before known, or even hinted at, in numismatic research,” according to Tucker. “Conventional numismatic wisdom held that in 1910 the Mint destroyed its dies, hubs, and other working materials relating to the Morgan dollar, since there was no expectation the coin would ever be minted again.

“When it was brought back, for one final round of coinage in 1921, the dies used were from shallow, low-relief hubs recreated from an 1878 coin. A generation later, when Congress decided to issue a silver dollar again in 1964, the design the Mint used was that of the 1921 to 1935 Peace dollar, rather than the Morgan.”

From a process no longer used by the Mint, a galvano is a metal model, larger than life, of one side of a coin. This large model would be mounted in a reduction engraving machine. The machine would trace the design elements of the galvano, reduce them in size through a series of gears, and cut an exact replica in the blank face of a piece of steel to create the master hub. From this hub, dies were created.

Dannreuther said the 1964 Morgan dollar galvano was unlike any other galvano he has even seen, being smaller than any galvano he has previously seen. Circular lines at the center on Liberty’s face indicate it was probably used on the Janvier reduction lathe, he said, which routinely left such marks as the hubs were being created.

Tucker said the 1964 Morgan dollar tooling examined is more in line with the 1878 to 1904 Morgan dollar dies rather than the shallower relief 1921 dies — “an interesting anomaly given that the original older materials were ordered destroyed by Mint Director Andrew in 1910.”

Leroy Van Allen, co-author with A. George Mallis of the seminal reference, Complete Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars, said it would be enlightening to definitely know if the 1964 Morgan dollar tooling replicates the version from 1878 to 1904, or is closer to the 1921 issues.

Van Allen said the 1921 issues exhibit numerous differences from the earlier releases, primarily in the weaker hair detail on Liberty, without sharp definition, and weakness in the lettering.

Tucker said he, Dannreuther, Bowers and Sundman were informed by the Mint’s lead archivist that there were dies and other materials associated with the 1964 Morgan dollar in a vault within a locked steel cage at the Philadelphia Mint.

There, Tucker said, they were able to examine a “treasure” trove of materials dating from the U.S. Mint’s 1963 and 1964 experiments in reviving the silver dollar, including hubs and master dies for not only the 1964 Morgan dollar, but also the 1964-D Peace dollar.

The tooling for the 1964 Peace dollar appears without the D Mint mark of the Denver Mint, Bowers said. The D Mint mark would have been individually punched into working dies before production.

Bowers said the 2015 visit also yielded a view of items associated with commemorative coins that were never issued, as well as for coinage intended for possible circulation, like a 2½-cent coin. Bowers said he also handled the original master dies for the round and octagonal 1915-S Panama-Pacific International Exposition gold $50 coins.

Resuming silver $1 output

In 1963, the U.S. Mint stockpile of silver dollars was quickly being depleted and the Mint was gearing up to resume production of the .900 fine silver dollar denomination.

U.S. Mint Director Eva Adams informed congressional leaders that between Jan. 1, 1963, and Aug. 1, 1963, the bureau’s inventory of silver dollars dipped to 54,781,872 pieces, from 93,898,733, according to Burdette.

Of that total, 40 million silver dollars were reserved by the treasurer to be used for redemption of silver certificates at the Treasury Department’s Cash Room.

Adams had also expressed her concerns in a Feb. 21, 1963, letter to Assistant Treasury Secretary Robert A. Wallace that the budget request for Fiscal Year 1965 did not include funding for silver dollar production.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, D-Mont., led the charge to have more silver dollars produced to bolster the supply held in Treasury vaults and made available for traditional use in Western states.

Mansfield supported acquiring the silver from domestic producers.

So that it could procure silver to produce the coins, the Treasury Department wanted Congress to repeal the 1934 Silver Purchase Act, which prevented Treasury from buying silver at its 1963 price level.

Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon testified in 1963 before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee that if and when more silver dollars were needed, the U.S. Mint would produce them.

The June 3, 1963, passage of H.R. 5389 — a “Bill to Repeal Certain Legislation Relating to the Purchase of Silver and for other Purposes” — triggered the gradual removal of silver to back U.S. paper currency.

Adams, according to Burdette, issued a memorandum July 31, 1963, concerning approaches to consider for executing the design for a new silver dollar. Treasury and Mint officials discussed several approaches: resurrecting either the Morgan dollar designs or the Peace dollar designs, or creating all new designs (the latter approach would take more time and be more costly than reusing prior designs).

For a time, the Morgan dollar designs were preferred, so on Sept. 24, 1963, the Treasury secretary approved that approach. However, all of this discussion was occurring during a period in which a worldwide shortage of silver was ongoing, in addition to a serious coinage shortage in the United States. Furthermore, legislation sitting in Congress to reduce the percentage of silver in U.S. silver coins was opposed by Treasury officials, who believed debasing the silver content would increase the growing coin shortage by encouraging people to hoard the coins with higher precious metal content.

In the meantime, on Nov. 21, 1963, the day before his assassination, President Kennedy requested a $675,000 Treasury appropriation to support production and distribution of 50 million silver dollars. This request would augment a $1.25 million outlay added to the Fiscal Year 1965 budget to produce 100 million silver dollars.

Plans for resuming silver dollar production were put on hold with the president’s death, as the Mint’s attention turned to designing and striking the Kennedy half dollar in tribute to the slain chief executive.

Mansfield and his fellow Democrat and Montana colleague in the Senate, Lee Metcalf, agreed to support the Treasury Department’s plans for resuming silver dollar production while withdrawing support for bills debasing silver coinage.

In April 1964, Mint Director Adams informed Wallace of plans to proceed with Morgan dollar production at the Denver Mint. The tooling discovered at the Philadelphia Mint in 2015 would seem to suggest that some progress was made in that direction. However, for reasons that remain unclear today, the Morgan dollar production was abandoned, and instead, Peace dollar designs were used at the Denver Mint in 1965 for the trial strikes.

After Mansfield’s and Lee’s April 1, 1964, meeting with Treasury officials, Adams notified Wallace that plans were moving ahead to produce a circulation-quality Morgan dollar solely at the Denver Mint for circulation distribution and not for redemption of silver certificates. Nonetheless, concern remained that any new dollars struck for distribution in the Western states would be hoarded at a time when subsidiary coinage was in demand.

The Treasury was reported to have run out of its available inventory of silver dollars on March 25, 1964, except for 2.8 million coins with high numismatic value (mostly representing the Carson City Mint dollars that would later be sold at premiums by the government).

Dillon’s successor as Treasury secretary, Henry “Joe” Fowler, gave his approval in May 1965 to strike new silver dollars despite personally recommending against it. President Johnson announced renewed production of silver dollars on May 15, 1965.

At the same time, Public Law 88-580 ordered the retention of the 1964 date on all coins, with the use of .900 fine silver planchet composition to end in June 1965, in steps taken to combat the twin problems of a silver shortage (and rising prices) and the overall coin shortage. 

The 1964-D Peace dollars were struck beginning in May 1965 on converted Bliss ammunition presses. Almost immediately, production of the silver dollars raised the ire of many members of Congress.

Testifying May 24, 1965, during a hastily called congressional hearing, Adams said approval had been given for striking trial pieces, but not for general circulation output.

A total of 277,065.3 ounces of planchets were struck into the 322,394 1964-D Peace dollar purported trial pieces.

The May 24 hearings, however, were the death knell for the new silver dollars. On May 25, Treasury officials announced a decision against striking silver dollars for general circulation.

The following day, the Denver Mint received orders to begin melting all of the 1964-D Peace dollar trial strikes. All of the associated working dies were mutilated at the Denver Mint on May 28, 1965.

On Aug. 3, 1965, Gasparro received orders to destroy 40 pairs of partially fabricated Peace dollar dies. Additionally, according to Burdette, 28 test pieces struck at the Philadelphia Mint were put through rollers and then melted.

Two examples that had been sent to Mint headquarters in Washington remained until 1970, when they, too, were destroyed, according to Burdette. 

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