The 1928 Peace Dollar has the lowest mintage in the entire Peace Dollar series by a large margin. The second lowest mintage is the 1927 Peace Dollar, which has more than double the mintage of the 1928 Peace Dollar.
Because of its low mintage, the 1928 Peace Dollar has always been considered a key date. Hence, many examples were saved and well preserved and most surviving examples remain in uncirculated condition.
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).
Lowest mintage: The low mintage of only 360,649 coins is the smallest production figure in the 1921-35 Peace dollar series, except for the 1922 High Relief.
1928 $1 Minted For "Cornerstone Laying": The Numismatist, February 1929, printed this item:
1928 Silver Dollar For Tammany Hall: An incident in connection with the arrangements for laying the cornerstone in the new Tammany Hall Building came to light with the last minute receipt by registered mail from the director of the Mint in Washington, D.C., of a silver dollar dated 1928 to be included with the contents of the cornerstone.
Martin Egan, secretary of Tammany Hall, had asked the Guaranty Trust Company to supply the silver dollar. The Guaranty had none of the 1928 coinage and applied to the Federal Reserve Bank, which was also just out of silver dollars of that date. The Trust Company then wired an application to the secretary of the Treasury in Washington, and the dollar was sent direct from the Mint, accompanied by the information that silver dollars of 1928 coinage are to be used exclusively for cornerstone laying and other dedicatory purposes.
The notion that the 1928 Peace dollar was minted exclusively for special ceremonies found its way into numismatic tradition. Years later, Richard S. Yeoman's Handbook of U.S. Coins (first published in 1941; familiarly called the Blue Book), told readers of various early editions that the 1928 silver dollar was "minted for cornerstone purposes." For a number of years collectors were led to believe that just a few 1928 dollars were released, and that coins of this date were quite rare.
When I was a teenager in 1952 and 1953, I was thrilled to find one of these "cornerstone dollars" at a local bank. My enthusiasm dimmed as I found another, then another. At the time I did not own a set of back issues of The Numismatist, for if I had, I might have noticed the following item:
More on the "cornerstone dollars": The Numismatist, March 1929, told more:
The Silver Dollar of 1928: The news item in our issue last month that some little difficulty was encountered by Tammany Hall in securing a silver dollar of 1928 to place in the cornerstone of its new building in New York City has caused some collectors to wonder why dollars of last year should be scarce or difficult to get, when the report of the Bureau of the Mint shows that nearly two million pieces were coined. The news item referred to stated that the Treasury Department was releasing dollars of 1928 for use only for cornerstone laying or other dedicatory purposes.
In connection with this action of the Treasury Department it might be stated that the coinage of these two million silver dollars [combined total of Philadelphia and San Francisco production] in 1928 completes the necessary coinage under the Pittman Act passed as a wartime measure. In 1918 the melting of many silver dollars stored in the Treasury was authorized by Congress in order that the bullion might be sent to India and the Orient to stabilize conditions. There was a provision in the act that the dollars so melted be replaced. All the dollars coined since that time have been for this purpose. Now that they have been replaced; the coinage of silver dollars is expected to be discontinued.
It appears that silver dollars of 1928 will be scarce in the immediate future for collectors and they probably will command a price considerably above face value, IUs not expected that the price will soar in proportion to their present rarity, because of the fact that nearly two million lie in the vaults of the Treasury and may at some future time be released. in quantities to satisfy the demands of collectors-and then some.
Commentary: The 1928 Peace dollars were apparently distributed in dribs and drabs. In 1928, they were scarce, but by the early 1930s they were seen with regularity in circulation.
I have never seen, nor have a firm record of an original mint-sealed bag being preserved. However, rolls come on the market occasionally. Tradition has it that some bags came out in Ohio and Pennsylvania in the 1950s, and were used to pay millworkers.. Quantity lots must have escaped the active coin dealers at the time. Walter H. Breen told me that Cleveland and Pittsburgh were dispersal points. Mark Borckardt recalled that when he worked with Dave Berg in Pittsburgh in 1980, he received quite a few 1928 dollars over the counter. Most were AU-50 to MS-60 by that time.
In the 1990s, high-grade 1928 peace dollars were common and were found in mixed bags of dollars. Most of these ranged from AU grade to what we might designate as MS-63 today. Dollars. of this date have a distinctive beveled rim, making them easily detectable in a bag, even if the date is hidden under another coin.
Circulated grades: 1928 Peace dollars are somewhat scarce, especially in well-worn grades. Most seen are in higher grades such as EF and AU. In the 1950s, these were so plentiful in mixed bags of dollars in the East that I did not bother to save them. Apparently, the situation changed, as by 1982 Wayne Miller was able to write that this is the rarest Peace dollar in, grades below Mint State.
Mint State grades: Mint State coins are common, but because of the low mintage they are always in demand. In my firm's inventory, 1928 Peace dollars have never accumulated to any appreciable extent. In they come, out they go.
Most specimens are somewhat satiny in appearance, often with cloudy or milky white surfaces or with yellow staining, the latter often removable by dipping. Striking varies, but the center of the reverse is sometimes weak. The average coin is quite presentable.
The typical Mint State coin is in the MS-60 to 63 range. MS-64 coins are seen with frequency, but aesthetically pleasing MS-65s are rare. Probably, about 300 to 600 MS-65 coins survive.
Caveat emptor: This issue is sometimes faked by removing the mintmark from a 1928-S dollar or by altering the 3 to an 8 in the date of a 1923-S dollar. Cast counterfeits with knife rims were sold at Seville (Spain) flea markets in 1972; these have a raised line through lower shaft of I across rays toward B, weak centers, and irregular letters.
1. Breen-5730. Hub combination II-B2. VAM-I.
Just the one variety.
Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown.
Business strike mintage: 360,649 (lowest mintage in the 1921-1935 series, except for the 1922 High Relief)
Estimated quantity melted: Unknown.
Characteristics of striking: Average strikes; usually very lustrous.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: No bags are known to exist. Rolls come on the market occasionally.
The Treasury Department released only a few in the year of coinage, 1928, saying that such were available for cornerstone-laying or other ceremonial purposes; later, large quantities were released.
Pittman Act Summary (1928)
The following summary is from The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1928, and summarizes the transactions under the Pittman Act:
"During the fiscal year 1928 recoinage of the silver dollars, melted under the terms of the Pittman Act, was completed. A resume of the Treasury's silver operations under this act follows.
"The Pittman Act. The act of April 23, 1918, was entitled An act to conserve the gold supply of the United States; to permit the settlement in silver of trade balances adverse to the United States; to provide silver for subsidiary coinage and for commercial use; to assist foreign governments at war with the enemies of the United States;' and for the above purposes to stabilize the price and encourage the production of silver.'
"At the time of the passage of the act, Great Britain was in urgent need of the precious metals for use in India. The only possible source of sufficient silver to meet the war emergency was the United States Treasury stock of silver dollars. Congress therefore passed the act of April 23, 1918, which authorized the melting or breaking up and sale as bullion of not to exceed 350 million silver dollars from the large stock of silver dollars in the United States Treasury.
"The act also authorized the use of silver dollars and of silver purchased under the act for the manufacture of domestic subsidiary silver coins (halves, quarters, and dimes); the sale of silver bullion for commercial use and for conserving the gold supply of the United States and permitting the settlement in silver of trade balances adverse to the United States.
"Provisions also were made in the act for the retirement of a corresponding amount of silver certificates outstanding against the silver dollars melted; for the issuance of Federal Reserve bank notes. to prevent contraction of the currency on account of the retirement of silver certificates for the purchase of domestically produced silver at the fixed price of $1 per ounce; for the recoinage of the dollars melted; and, upon recoinage, for the retirement of the. Federal Reserve bank notes.
"Silver dollars melted. Melting of silver dollars was commenced immediately after the act was passed, and was vigorously prosecuted at the Philadelphia and San Francisco mints and at the New York Assay Office, until in May 1919, 259,121,554 silver dollars had been melted and the 200,032,325.64 fine ounces of bullion resulting there from had been sold to Great Britain. The bullion was sold to Great Britain at $1 per fine ounce, plus a charge estimated to cover the cost of melting, recoining, and other incidentals, with the intent that the United States government should neither gain nor lose by the transaction. In addition to the 259,121,554 silver dollars so melted and sold to Great Britain, 11, 111,168 silver dollars were melted and assigned for subsidiary silver coinage. However, this transaction was subsequently canceled, and the silver dollars so melted were replaced with silver dollars coined from silver in kind. There follows a statement showing in detail the number of dollars melted:
"Amounts and sources of dollars converted into bullion for sale to Great Britain:
"Sources of coin converted to bullion:
"Mint stock from the Philadelphia Mint: $58,534,554.
"Mint stock from the San Francisco Mint: $39,001,000.
"Transferred from the Treasury at Washington to the Philadelphia Mint: $87,686,000.
"Transferred from the Treasury at Washington to the San Francisco Mint: $25,000,000.
"Transferred from Subtreasury at New York to the New York Assay Office: $26,500,000.
"Transferred from the New Orleans Mint to the Philadelphia Mint: $12,400,000.
"Transferred from the New Orleans Mint to the San Fran-cisco Mint: $10,000,000.
"Face value of dollars converted for sale from the Philadelphia Mint: $158,620,554.
"Face value of dollars converted for sale from the SanFrancisco Mint: $74,001,000:
"Face value of dollars converted for sale from the New York Assay Office: $26,500,000.
"Fine ounces sold to the British government at $1 per ounce from the Philadelphia Mint: $122,527,558.54
"Fine ounces sold to the British government at $1 per ounce from the San Francisco Mint: $57,176,287.40
"Fine ounces sold to the British government at $1 per ounce from the New York Assay Office: $20,328,479.70
"Loss by conversion and sale (all mints): $59,089,228.36 "Weight and value of ll,111,168 silver dollars assigned for subsidiary coinage, and the mints to which they were assigned:
"September 1918, San Francisco Mint (Uncirculated coin at $1 per ounce) Fine ounces: 772,997.89; Face value: $1,000,000.
"November 1919, Philadelphia Mint (Uncirculated coin at face value, $l.29+ per fine ounce): Fine ounces: 7,734,375.00; Face value: $10,000,000.
"November 1920, Denver Mint (circulated coin at $1.29+ per fine ounce): Fine ounces: 82,357.24; Face value: $111,168.
"Total: Fine ounces: 8,589,730.13; Face value: $11,111,168.
"The total number of silver dollars melted, including the 11,111,168 assigned for subsidiary coinage, was 270,232,722. Many of the dollars melted had been in circulation and had become reduced below legal weight by abrasion! and an appropriation to cover this loss was made in the act of April 23, 1918.
"Purchase of silver bullion.- The purchase of domestically produced silver bullion for replacing the silver dollars converted to bullion and sold to Great Britain was commenced in May 1920, and all purchases of silver required to replace the silver dollars so sold were completed in June 1923, with the exception of about 190,000 ounces representing incomplete deliveries of amounts accepted up to June 1923. Deliveries on account of 190,000 ounces were completed in July 1927.
"The quantity of silver required for recoining 259,121,554 silver dollars of exact legal silver content, disregarding the question of operative losses, was 200,414,327.07 fine ounces. Monthly receipts of purchased silver by the mint service institutions during the three-year period from May 1920 to June 1923, averaged approximately five million ounces, the purchases absorbing practically the entire silver production of the United States for this period. These purchases were made at the fixed price of $1 per fine ounce, while the market rate during this time was usually below 70 cents.
"In October and December, 1920, a total of six million fine ounces of silver bullion purchased under section 2 of the act of April 23, 1918, were assigned to the subsidiary coinage. However, 4,341,753.61 ounces of this silver were not used for that purpose, and the orders assigning that amount for subsidiary coinage were revoked in February 1922, and the silver bullion was restored to the Pittman silver account. The order covering the balance of the six million ounces of bullion, that is 1,658,246.39 ounces, and also the order assigning 11,111,168 silver dollars to the director of the Mint for conversion into subsidiary silver coins were revoked in December 1922, on the authority of a decision of the Comptroller General of the United States, dated November 29, 1922, which was subsequently affirmed by him in his ruling of September 4,1923, addressed to Hon. Key Pittman, vice chairman of the Senate Committee of Gold and Silver Inquiry.
"When the 11,111,168 silver dollars and the six million ounces of silver bullion referred to, were assigned to the subsidiary coinage accounts, and at all times during the period that this silver was so assigned, there was on hand in the mint service institutions, in the subsidiary silver accounts of the Mint service, a sufficient quantity of silver bullion procured for subsidiary coin manufacture to take care of the subsidiary coinage requirements of the government. At the time of such assignments, the bullion was either not located in the institutions where required for use or it was in an unrefined state, although, as stated, there was a sufficient quantity on hand in the subsidiary coinage accounts. By canceling the orders as-signing the 11,111,168 silver dollars and the 1,658,246.39 ounces of bullion for subsidiary coinage, the government avoided purchasing more silver than was actually needed for subsidiary coinage and for carrying out the provisions of the Pittman Act.
"Recoinage of the 270,232,722 silver dollars melted, which amount includes the 11,111,168 silver dollars assigned for subsidiary coinage, was completed in April 1928. Such recoinage was begun in February 1921, which was as soon as postwar demands for other coins that were in active circulation permitted, and continued whenever the mint facilities were available for the purpose, until April 1928, when, as stated, all of the silver dollars melted had been recoined. The currency situation is now the same as before the passage of the act of April 23, 1918, so far as operations under that act are concerned, and the monetary stock of United States silver dollars was neither decreased nor increased by that act.
"The cost of coining (recoining) silver dollars is approximately $10 per thousand. A table showing the recoinage by fiscal years [July 1 to June 30] of silver dollars under the act of April 23, 1918, follows:
"$19,043,000 recoined in fiscal year 1921.
"$92,388,473 recoined during fiscal year 1922.
"$110,715,000 recoined during fiscal year 1923
"$11,870,000 recoined during fiscal year 1924.
"$18,308,000 recoined during fiscal year 1925.
"$11,432,700 recoined during fiscal year 1926.
"$4,456,900 recoined during fiscal year 1927.
"$2,018,649 recoined during fiscal year 1928.
"Total recoined: $270,232,722
"(Fiscal year ending June 30)"
According to a notice in the June 1934 issue of The Numismatist (p. 416), collectors could still purchase Uncirculated 1928 Peace Dollars directly from the U.S. Treasury for "the face value of the coins and an amount sufficient to cover the mail charrges by first-class mail."