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).
Source of silver: The Act of May 12, 1933 authorized the government to accept silver bullion at the value of 50 cents per ounce in payment of war debts and to convert this bullion into silver dollars and subsidiary coins. This was followed by President Roosevelt's edict of December 21, 1933, which man-dated that the mints buy silver to coin into dollars.
Then came the Silver Purchase Act of June 18, 1934, which required that the Department of the Treasury acquire silver from all sources presenting same until the market price of silver was raised to $1.2929 (a figure which was considered to be the standard value of silver for many years), or until the Treasury holdings of silver equaled one third of the value of the Treasury holdings of gold. The silver thus acquired was used to coin Peace silver dollars in 1934 and 1935.
Commentary: Bags of 1934 dollars were paid out through Eastern banks from the 1930s onward. Little documentation of 1,000-coin bags exists, and I do not know if any original mint-sealed bags survive today.
Circulated grades: Circulated coins in VF-20 to AU-58 grades are somewhat scarce, possibly the second scarcest (after the 1928) in the series, and are mostly in higher grades.
Mint State grades: Uncirculated coins are plentiful in numismatic channels. You will have no trouble finding a 1934 to suit your requirements, whether it be MS-60 or MS-65, although the latter can be pricey. Even so, the 1934 seems to be somewhat unappreciated on the market.
Most are well struck and have nice lustre, although Wayne Miller filed this dissenting opinion in his 1982 book: "Like most other Philadelphia Mint Peace dollars from 1926 to 1935 the strike is often weak. In addition many pieces lack mint lustre."
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish a high-grade AU from a low-grade Mint State coin. The best place to look is on Miss Liberty's cheek, rotating the coin under a pinpoint light source to detect friction.
Some pieces, if not dipped, have a brownish or yellowish cast to the surface, perhaps from sulfur in the cloth bags in which these were once stored.
1. Breen-5733. Hub combination III-B2. VAM-1.
Just the one issue. All 1934-5 dollars from all three mints are from new master dies and hubs (III-B2): motto letters thinner, straight tail to R in TRVST.
Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown.
Circulation strike mintage: 954,057
Estimated quantity melted: Unknown.
Characteristics' of striking: Usually well struck and with lustrous, satiny surfaces.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: No bags are known to have survived to the present to me.
The 1934 is readily available in Mint State but is somewhat unappreciated on the market.
More Silver for Dollars
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1934, told of new rules involving silver:
"Silver Acquired under Presidential Orders "Under the Executive Proclamation of December 21, 1933, citing the silver resolution adopted by the World Economic and Monetary Conference in London on July 20,1933, the United States mints and assay offices were authorized to receive, during the four subsequent years, silver produced after that date from domestic mines, at a price equivalent to one-half the monetary value thereof (one ounce of silver will make $1.29+ of standard silver dollar coins). This was equivalent to 64.6+ cents per ounce, which compares with the open market price at that time of about 43 cents. Such silver received to June 30, 1934, totaled 8,558,160.96 fine ounces.
"Receipts of silver acquired as payments on war debts, under the act of May 12, 1933, were completed early in the fiscal year under review, with a total of 22,734,824 ounces so received, at 50 cents per fine ounce.
"A Silver Purchase act was approved June 19, 1934, under which the silver monetary stock was directed to be increased, and so maintained that its monetary value would be equal to one-third the monetary value of the gold monetary stock, giving the proportions three-fourths gold and one-fourth silver, on a monetary value basis. This act also directed issue of silver certificates against silver bullion, authorized the coinage of standard silver dollars, and authorized the nationalization of silver, which was proclaimed by the president August 9, 1934.
"A silver unit has been established in the Mint Bureau for examining periodic reports of silver producers and affidavits evidencing eligibility of silver to be accorded the benefits prescribed by Executive orders."