Production and distribution: From December 26 through the 31, 1921, the entire production of 1921 Peace dollars, 1,006,473 examples, was effected. The coins were released into circulation on January 3, 1922. Peace dollars were struck only at the Philadelphia Mint in 1921.
Most were distributed: It is probably the case that nearly all of the 1921 Peace dollars were distributed within a few years of the time of striking, due to the novelty of the design. I have never heard of even one original mint bag of 1,000 1921 Peace dollars coming on the market, and during extensive research I never came across a quantity offering of any kind. This makes the 1921 Peace dollar unique in this regard, for all other Peace dollar varieties 1921-1935 were available at one time or another in multiple-roll and bag quantities several years or more after they were minted.
When I asked Philadelphia dealer Harry J. Forman (who has handled as many dollar bags during his numismatic career as anyone), he knew of no original bags either. Indeed, I have never even seen an original Uncirculated roll of 20 coins! On the other hand, dealer Maurice Rosen reported that around 1979-1980 he bought a roll of Uncirculated pieces from Don Apte, and that: "if my recollection is accurate, they would make today's MS-64 and 65 grades. All were frosty white with above average surface characteristics for the issue."(Letter to the author, September 8, 1992.) However, a roll of 20 pieces is hardly a large quantity.
Curiously, although the 1921 Peace dollar has edged upward inprice over the years, it has not been the subject of "pushing" by investment newsletters or advisors. Perhaps this is because few people had a vested interest to do so.
The 1921 Peace dollars, with their high relief design, actually represent a different and distinctive type, but popular holders for type sets have not reflected this, and all Peace dollars are included under one general design heading.
David Hall, founder of the Professional Coin Grading Service, commented as follows:(David Hall's Inside View, No. 125, 1991, p. 2.)
The 1921 High Relief Peace dollar is one of America's all-time classic coin issues. It's the first Peace dollar, it's a one year-only type coin, and it's a gorgeous coin. In MS-64 the 1921 High Relief is scarce. In MS-65 it is rare.
Striking: High Relief 1921 Peace dollars were difficult to strike properly with one blow of the coining press. Nearly all known specimens are lightly struck on the hair at the center of the obverse and often at the center of the reverse as well. In fact, fewer than 10 1921 Peace dollars out of 1,000 are very sharply struck. As the PCGS, NGC, ANACS, etc., certification services do not insist upon sharp strike as a pre-requisite to high grade, chances are excellent that a certified MS-63, 64, or 65 coin may be weakly struck, at least on the obverse. Often, a high-grade 1921 Peace dollar will show a subdued white frost in the areas oflight striking on the obverse; this represents the surface of the original planchet.
Circulated grades: A number of authorities have considered the 1921 in worn grades to be among the top three or four rarest coins in the Peace series. For example, Anthony Swiatek, writing in the Highfill Encyclopedia, considered it in circulated condition to be the fourth rarest coin of the design. The Guide Book lists the issue in worn grades among the highest valuations in the Peace series, perhaps giving reinforcement to the standard rarity concept.
However, I feel that the 1921, while elusive, might be more plentiful in VF-20 to AU-58 grades than indicated in the preceding 'paragraph. The reason for this is that many were saved as novelties by the general public. Among groups of miscellaneous coins saved indrawers, attics, etc., and brought to coin dealers for sale, it is not unusual to find one or several 1921 Peace dollars, often very toned, that Were set aside years earlier. In this vein, Thomas K. DeLorey reported in 1992 that at the Illinois dealership of Harlan Berk, Inc., "we buy two or three a week over the counter."(Undated note to the author, received October 5, 1992.)
When found in the hands of ordinary (i.e., not numismatic) public, 1921 Peace dollars are usually singles or in twos or threes. I do not recall ever seeing a significant hoard of them. In the 1950s, coins of 'this date were common in bags of mixed dollars and, more than any other Peace issue, were usually darkly toned. Perhaps the high relief of the design prevented the fields from becoming as rubbed as on later issues, thus allowing more toning to form. As my estimate of the availability of the 1921 Peace dollar in worn grades is based upon a recollection more than 35 years old, I will defer to the Swiatek and Guide Book indications. Hence, my estimate of 50,000 to 90,000 surviving pieces places the 1921 among the scarcest issues in the series.
Mint State grades: Many thousands of Mint State 1921 Peace dollars exist, most of which are weakly struck, as noted. The typical coin has nice lustre and is very pleasing in appearance. Many coins stored in bank bags with other coins show yellow, yellow-gray, or even black toning. Perhaps more than any other single variety in the Peace dollar series, the 1921 will require a great' deal of searching to find a sharp coin. It is probably practical to settle for an average strike-sa coin that is somewhere between a typical weak strike and a hard-to-find sharp strike.