1922 was the first year in which Peace Dollars were produced at the San Francisco mint. The mintage for this year was the second largest of all the Peace Dollars, following closely behind the 1923-S. Compared to Peace Dollars made a the Philadelphia and Denver mints in 1922, the S-Mint suffers from a lower level of quality, particularly in the area of strike. Many 1922-S Peace Dollars show weakness in the centers on both sides, translating into weak hair details over Liberty's ear and poorly defined feathers on the highest points of the eagle. Many 1922-S Peace Dollar suffer from bagmarks and surface abrasions received as the coins were transported in bags from the San Francisco Mint. As a result, the grade encountered most frequently on a 1922-S Peace Dollar is MS-63. Unlike the 1922-P and 1922-D, where the populations in MS-63 and MS-64 are nearly equal, the population of the MS-64 1922-S is over 20% less than in MS-63. In MS-65, the population drops off significantly, leaving barely enough coins to satisfy collector demand. In MS-66, the 1922-S Peace Dollar is a true condition-rarity and only a few coins have earned this grade. As of this writing (8/21/2015), no MS-67 or better 1922-S Peace Dollars have been certified by PCGS. Luster ranges from flat and dullish to frosty white. Coins with hard, chrome-like surfaces are rare. Finding a 1922-S Peace Dollar that combines problem-free surfaces, a full strike, and bold luster is a real challenge.
According to a notice in the June 1934 issue of The Numismatist (p. 416), collectors could still purchase Uncirculated 1922-S Peace Dollars for "the face value of the coins and an amount sufficient to cover the mail charrges by first-class mail."
Q. David Bowers:
The following narrative, with minor editing, is from my "Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia" (Wolfeboro, NH: Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1993).
The 1922-S registered the second highest (1923-S is highest) mintage of any San Francisco Mint coin of the Peace dollar type. After they were struck, there was little commercial demand for them, so millions were stored for years in vaults of the San Francisco Mint.
Commentary: The 1922-S Peace dollar is very common if all grades are considered as a class, but closer study reveals that in high Mint. State levels, and sharply struck (an important caveat here), the 1922-S is a major rarity.
Hoards: In 1941, 1922-S and 1926-S dollars were released in quantity through the San Francisco Mint, where they had been stored for many years. Several bags or more came on the market, but the demand for Peace dollars was not very great. Although more could have been obtained from the Mint had dealers desired them, probably no more than 2,000 or 3,000 went into numismatic channels at the time. Quite a few went to Reno, which had an active casino industry (the growth of Las Vegas was yet to come).
In the spring and summer of 1942, many bags ($1,000 face value) of 1922-S, 1923-S, 1925-S, 1926-S, and 1927-S dollars were paid out by the San Francisco Mint. The prices of the 1922-S, 1923-S, and 1926-S dropped to the point at which George B. Rogers, in The Numismatist, September 1942, was offering Uncirculated coins for $1.25 each. Even at this low price, collector demand was not great. As a result, many of the bags went to banks and into general circulation in some areas of the West, where they became worn. Had the release occurred a quarter century later, all of these S-Mint Peace dollars would be exceedingly common today.
More bags of 1922-S came on the market in 1949 and 1950, and while some dealers such as W.E. Johnson of Santa Barbara, California, offered roll (20 coins per roll) quantities for sale, by and large there was no market interest. The coin market was in a slump, and Peace dollars were not a particularly popular series in any event. Bags were still readily available in 1953 and 1954, and wholesaled for about $75 to $125 above face value when buyers could be found, which wasn't often. In 1955 and 1956, the San Francisco Mint paid out many more bags of 1922-S, 1923-S, and 1926-S dollars. However, the end was getting near, and soon the Mint would be out of them.
Bags of 1922-S dollars were in the Redfield Hoard (sold in 1976), and, according to John Highfill, represented the largest single holding of Peace dollars in this famous group. A number of Redfield bags, mostly containing weakly-struck MS-60 to MS-63 coins, were marketed through Paramount International Coin Corporation.
Circulated grades: 1922-S dollars are very common in VF-20 to AU-58 grades. The 1922-S seems to be tied with the 1923-S in terms of the availability of worn coins.
Mint State grades: Mint State coins are very common, but most are in MS-60 through 62 grades. MS-63 pieces are somewhat scarce, but are still among the easiest San Francisco Mint Peace dollars to obtain. MS-64 specimens appear with regularity, but are not in the common category. After this point, the rarity increases geometrically, and MS-65 pieces are at least several times rarer than MS-64s. John Highfill has written that they are 25 times more elusive, and he may be in a better position than I am to know.
The typical piece is rather shabby in appearance, with incomplete lustre and/or raised lines in the field from abrasions acquired by the die during the surfacing process. In the left obverse field IN GOD WE is often weakly struck. The center of the reverse is usually poorly struck and is often dull on the higher points of the eagle, where marks acquired by the original planchet can often be seen. As if this were not enough, the rims are often indistinct in areas; what Wayne Miller and John Highfill call "fade-away rims."
Bagmarks are a problem with 1922-S dollars, and the usually-seen coin is well endowed with them.
Is there anything good to be said about the 1922-S Peace dollar? Yes. It is this: All of the problems that beset the usual coin can be turned into an advantage for the careful buyer who may have to look through many dozens of pieces, but a very few sharply struck coins do exist, and can be bought at prices little if any higher than regular (i.e., aesthetically a disaster) pieces.
1. Breen-5715. Hub combinations II-B1 and II-B2. Micro S mintmark. Rims often weak on this and later S mint dollars. VAM-1 (hub II-B1); VAM-2 (hub II-B2).
Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown.
Circulation strike mintage: 17,475,000
Estimated quantity melted: Unknown.
Characteristics of striking: Usually poorly struck; an aesthetic disaster.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Many bags have come on the market over the years. More 1922-8 dollars were in the Redfield Hoard than any other Peace dollar issue.
Common in all grades, but quite difficult to find well struck and in high grades.