US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Dec. 21, 2020: Finally, some good news

Congress has approved legislation authorizing 2021 silver coins celebrating the centennial of the transition of the Morgan dollar to the Peace dollar.

Original images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Finally, we get some good news in 2020: Congress passed legislation authorizing the United States Mint to strike numismatic coins in 2021 celebrating the centennial of the transition from the Morgan dollar to the Peace dollar.

This legislation, H.R. 6192, is the bill collectors, dealers and grading services have been waiting for ever since it was introduced in the House of Representatives on March 11, 2020. It was a replacement for earlier legislation seeking 2021 commemorative coins honoring the centennial; the new bill became necessary after Congress approved two commemorative coin bills for the year, the maximum allowed under current rules.

The just-approved measure, as Paul Gilkes reports, authorizes the Mint to strike the 2021 Morgan and Peace dollars as silver numismatic coins in the 90% percent silver and 10% copper composition of the regular 1921 silver dollars if it chooses. All current silver coinage is now .999 fine.

With the legislation a mere presidential signature away from approval (it can also become law without the president’s approval), everyone is now asking: How will the Mint market the coins?

Since these are numismatic coins, they can be sold directly to collectors and dealers, and not just to the Mint’s authorized purchasers — market makers in bullion coins — who buy bullion coins in bulk and can then sell to other dealers and collectors.

As this legislation was being considered, collectors worried that the Mint will not get this program “right”; after all, the Mint made several huge blunders in 2020 in its marketing of several highly anticipated coin programs.

The United States Mint can take a huge step in restoring collector confidence by ensuring that this program is done properly. That means that mintages need to accurately reflect anticipated market demand, that the coins must be fairly distributed to ensure that dealers do not get the vast majority or entirety of the various issues to then sell to collectors at prices well above issue price, and that the Mint must not go too crazy in offering variant finishes, Mint marks, and privy marks.

A good basic set of 2021 Morgan dollars struck at the facilities that struck the coins a century ago would be good. It is probably too much to hope for that the Carson City Mint, now a state museum in Nevada with an old Mint press, could strike some, though it was long closed in 1921 anyway.

The 2021 Peace dollar should be struck in the same high relief as the 1921 version was struck. With a century of improvements in technology, the Mint should be able to ensure that the 2021 strikes look even better than the originals, which tended to be softly struck due to the extreme relief and the limitations of early 20th century presses.

Proof versions of both coins would be appropriate, as long as the U.S. Mint shows restraint in issuing coins in alternative finishes. The Philadelphia Mint did not strike Proof versions of either design for general collector sale in 1921, though several controversial special strikes are known for the 1921 Morgan dollars — the so-called Zerbe Proofs and Chapman Proofs, supposedly specially struck for two of the most prominent of numismatists of the era.

The 2021 Morgan and Peace silver dollars have great potential as collectibles. Their release in 2021 should be the most exciting collector news of the year.
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