Coins Certified as of 2/7
Chapter 17: Peace Dollars, Chronology of Their Origin Table of Contents


Chronology of Their Origin


compiled by Q. David Bowers


The proposals and legislation leading up to the production of the Peace dollar furnish an interesting background to the series. The items quoted below, reprinted in order as they appeared in print, tell the story.

Duffield Proposes Peace Coin (November 1918)
The November 1918 issue of The Numismatist printed a paper by editor Frank Duffield, intended to be presented at the ANA Convention in Philadelphia in October. However, the get together was postponed because of the nationwide influenza epidemic.

The article was titled "Souvenir and Commemorative Coins." Duffield suggested that "the government well might consider the coinage occasionally of pieces for general circulation commemorating events in American history."

He went on to say that when the: Twentieth-century vandals of Europe have been beaten to their knees and have been compelled to accept the peace terms of the Allies-that occasion would be a most fitting one for an issue of a commemorative coin. It should be issued in such quantities it will never become rare, and it should circulate at face value. The coinage of the usual type might well be suspended for a year to permit of such a quantity being issued. Let such a Victory coin be issued.

Let the obverse be symbolic of the purpose for which the United States entered the war, and let the reverse be emblematic of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the enemy. Then for years to come as the coins shall pass from hand to hand in the channels of trade, we shall have a daily and constant reminder of what Belgium and France and Serbia have suffered, and the price in human blood and treasure the Allies had been compelled to pay to bring an end to the wild orgy of greed-crazed and inhuman Germany; and as we handle such a coin in our daily life it would also stimulate us in a resolve to socially and commercially ostracize a nation that by its acts has forfeited all rights for years to come to expect to participate with civilized nations in the markets of the world.

Thus was laid the foundation for the 1921 Peace silver dollar.

Sorensen Proposes Victory Dollar (May 1919)

The Numismatist, May 1919, printed this commentary by M. Sorensen:

A VICTORY DOLLAR? We have had our Victory postage stamp, a rather tame affair, which had nothing to say about Victory .... Why don't [sic] our government issue a Victory dollar-a silver dollar commemorating the downfall of the biggest arch-criminal the world has ever seen? For obverse I would suggest Liberty, Victory or Justice-either one of the three-with her heel crushing the head of a poisonous viper. I realize that it is easy to make suggestions, well knowing that the powers that be will take no notice of them.

Lest anyone feel that credit for the idea of the 1921 Peace dollar should not go to Duffield, then, surely, Sorensen is a candidate for the honor.

Zerbe Proposes Peace Coin (August 1920)

The Numismatist, October 1920, printed the text of a paper read by Farran Zerbe to those attending the business session of the ANA Convention on August 25, 1920, in Chicago. By this time, the idea of a peace coin had already been proposed by Duffield and Sorensen, to mention two others, Zerbe's text follows, after which are reprinted remarks from various ANA members attending the session:

Commemorate Peace With a Coin for Circulation: A commemorative coin for general circulation would be a novelty.

We have never had one.(Although not originally intended as such, over a million 1893 Columbian half dollars were circulating commemoratives, as unsold pieces were placed into circulation in quantity by the Treasury Department. Apparently, most 1848 CAL. commemorative quarter eagles also circulated.)Our special coins have all been stimulating for numismatics, even though all have been sold at a premium and withheld from circulation. A special coin for all the people at its face value would be a boon for our subject, and particularly so if it commemorated a great event and was a pleasing medallic art product.

The cause for commemoration must be of great national interest to have and to hold serious consideration for the distinction of a special coin memorial. Some day! Some day, perhaps, our government will formally acknowledge we are at peace with all against which we battled in the great war. Our part in the great conflict led to victory, but our part in the victory was not all, great as it was, in the forces we so promptly and effectively placed in the strife.

Our example as a democracy, which though severely tried at many times, had proven by more than a century's test that liberty and rule by will of the majority gave equal opportunity to energy and thrift, time and talent, bringing contentment, prosperity and honor as merited, was a mighty moral force that won battles without number in the hearts and in the minds of those who ultimately proved they had the power to topple thrones, and in the doing quickened the end-an example that held out the promise of some victory even in defeat. And, most of all, those that battled against the moral force of this saw in America an unselfish people whose banner and traditions promised help; a nation they could trust without fear as to her part in the outcome.

For our special coin we have our part in victory-the great event-to be commemorated; our influence for peace to be depicted.

If we are to have such a coin, someone must lead the way. Public agitation and government attention are essential. It is unnecessary for me to emphasize qualifications or to particularize in any of the many good reasons why the American Numismatic Association should lead the way. And the time and the place is right now in this Convention.

A declaration of peace does not seem to be a hope during the present national administration [that of Woodrow Wilson]. I cannot refrain from being politically partisan and prophetic to the extent of stating that the next administration will be headed by a distinguished citizen from Ohio [Warren Harding is intended]. Numismatists with an Ohio leader are no strangers with requests at Washington, and they have succeeded in obtaining about all they asked for. It should be the easier for a favorable hearing when they can talk to "home folks."

Chapter 17: Peace Dollars, Chronology of Their Origin Table of Contents