The 1924-S Peace Dollar is a low mintage date, but one which can be found easily in circulated grades and most of the lower Mint State grades. However, in Gem condition, the 1924-S is one of the great condition-rarities in the Peace Dollar series (the 1927-S is slightly tougher and the 1928-S is much rarer). The difficulty in finding a Gem 1924-S lies in the general poor quality with which these coins were made. Most examples are lackluster, with heavily abraded surfaces, and a poor strike. The few exceptions are few and far between; certainly not enough to satisfy the demand from collectors of this popular series. Only a handful have earned the MS-66 grade and none have been graded finer by PCGS (as of 8/21/2015).
According to a notice in the June 1934 issue of The Numismatist (p. 416), collectors could still purchase Uncirculated 1924-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).
Low mintage: By 1924, Peace dollars were redundant, and no specimens were struck at Denver. At the San Francisco Mint the production was 1,728,000, which was a tiny fraction of the quantity of 1922-S and 1923-S dollars made earlier at the same facility.
Commentary: Unlike 1922-S, 1923-S, and 1926-S, of which many bags came on the market from the San Francisco Mint in the 1940s and 1950s, quantities of 1924-S seem to have been paid out only occasionally. A few 1,000-coin bags were released in the late 1950s and were quickly absorbed at prices of about double face value, a high premium at the time. The Redfield estate is said to have had a few hundred Uncirculated coins; no bags.
The low mintage and the relative unavailability of mint-sealed bags combine to make this one of the scarcest issues of the early part of the Peace dollar series, and the rarest S-Mint coin up to this point in time.
Circulated grades: Circulated 1924-S dollars can be found but are relatively scarce. Most are in higher grades such as EF and AU, perhaps indicating that quantities slipped into circulation as late as the 1940s and 1950s, under the noses of numismatists. Most experts agree that the 1924-S in worn grades is among the top eight scarcest of the 24 Peace dollar varieties.
Mint State grades: Mint State 1924-S dollars are scarce, especially in higher grades. The issue is near the top of the rarity list in grades such as MS-63, MS-64, and MS-65.
Most specimens are lightly struck, especially on the reverse, but there are numerous exceptions. Well-struck coins are apt to be expensive, and deservedly so. Lustre is usually average to frosty. Some pieces have a matte-like surface, possibly due to acidetching the surface of the dies to remove polish marks. Bagmarks can be a problem, and some coins have many.
High prices posted in catalogues and auction listings are mostly for better strikes with good lustre. Just as there is not a "standard" Mint State quality for the 1924-S, there is not a standard price.
1. Breen-5721. Hub combination II-B2. VAM-1.
Micro S mintmark. One standard variety. Positional mintmark varieties are not collected.
Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown.
Circulation strike mintage: 1,728,000
Estimated quantity melted: Unknown.
Characteristics of striking: The average specimen is poorly struck on the reverse.
Known hoards of Mint State coins: Many bags were released in the 1940s and 1950s, but few of these survive today.
Mint State pieces are usually seen bagmarked.