It's 1921. The Great War is over and the American economy is booming. The U.S. Mint strikes its last Morgan Silver Dollar and prepares to release a brand new coin to celebrate a world finally at peace. It would be known as America's Peace Dollar, the last circulating 90% Silver Dollar ever issued in the U.S.
The U.S. Mint commissioned Italian-born American coin designer and sculptor Anthony de Francisci to create the new coin's design, ultimately fashioning an obverse depicting a younger, prettier and more modern Lady Liberty – complete with her famous namesake statue's crown of rays. On the reverse, an sunlit eagle with tucked wings perches on a rock engraved with the word "Peace," underscoring the serenity and calm of the new post-war world.
But why the need for a new Silver Dollar at all? Rewind to the Pittman Act of 1918, which authorized the melting of some 270 million Morgan Silver Dollars for the war effort – with the stipulation that following the war's end, all those melted Silver Dollars would have to be replaced. Production of the newly-designed Silver Peace Dollar began in December of 1921, when, for a few short weeks, the mint attempted a high-relief design like the Saint-Gaudens gold piece. But the coins were just too difficult to strike. Since the mint needed to replace a considerable number of melted Morgans, it made a smart and timely decision: opting to strike a low-relief version for 1922's first full year of Peace Dollar production. Every Peace Dollar afterwards would follow suit.
Three times fewer Peace Dollars were struck for circulation than their older silver sibling, the Morgan. But just ten years after the first of these coins rolled off the presses, the U.S. was in the depths of the Great Depression. Production of Peace Dollars would cease forever soon afterward.
If you were lucky enough to still have a Peace Dollar after the stock market crashed in 1929, it's likely you would have spent it on bread, milk or gas. They bought a lot. And they were used over and over again until they wore out. Which is why these decades-old silver dollars can be so hard to find today.