PEACE UHR and SONS
By Roger W. Burdette
Here is an interesting comment about the “Ray Baker” Peace dollars that will be in the ANA auction next month. The comments are evidently based on the PCGS Press Release and various speculations. While I disagree with some of the statements and exaggerations in the Press Release, the poster’s insinuations ATS about Director Baker and the US Mint are way off-base.
…BUT honestly, why would a 'sandblasted w/antiqued finish' Peace dollar be made? Are we really expected to believe that particular coin was going to be released? … SHOULD the Mint director be able to mint coins to his pleasure, BUY them, and hold onto something like that? That sandblasted/antiqued finish version, is not a trial strike, a pattern, nothing. That coin is, to me, the very epitome of 'midnight minting' of instant uber-rarities, and, IMO, is a case where the Mint director took liberties that should not have been allowed to be taken. For what possible reason would a coin be struck, sandblasted, and antiqued??
I see NO reasonable explanation of a coin like that being made, period. Does anyone believe that COULD have been struck with a circulation intent? I'm no genius, but even I can see abuse of privilege in THAT example. What I see in that coin is an example that he 'wanted' for himself, plain and simple, whether paid for, or not.
Now for a few facts:
1. During the time in question and up to the present, it was entirely normal and routine to verify the production characteristics of new hubs or an entirely new design – as in 1921. These were engineering tests called “trial runs” or “production trials” and were intended to make sure the new design struck properly. They also established the best pressure to use, exact collar dimensions, diameter of planchets, and the upset angle required for best reproduction of the design.
2. Simultaneously, the coiner and engraver would make several fully detailed reference pieces on a medal press. These were used to compare with the trial run pieces so everyone involved in production could judge the effectiveness of changes. Today, these are commonly called “proofs” although they were never intended for coin collectors.
3. Some of the medal press pieces and some of the trial pieces were also sandblasted in the manner of a medal. Sometimes they were “antiqued” more like medals. (Several of these are known - they were not just 'discovered'.) The purpose was to emphasize the design and help the Secretary of the Treasury, Assistant Secretaries and others evaluate production coins.
4. Some of these were sent to Washington for review, others stayed in Philadelphia for further engineering work. The experienced eye of the engraver or coiner could detect differences we, today, struggle to locate. (Example: 1916 and 1917 McKinley $1 are different – can you find the differences?)
5. Once all approvals had been obtained, the engineering and trial pieces were usually melted. Various persons involved might choose to keep a souvenir or two for which they paid the nominal value of the coin. At that time, and for many decades thereafter, none of the pieces were worth anything beyond face value. (James Fraser had a complete set and thought so little of them that he evidently spent them.)
6. None of these coins were made-to-order, or made-on-a-whim, or from midnight-minting.
The poster’s comments indicate an assumption of personal profit, theft, or abuse of privilege that simply did not exist. They also demonstrate the fallacy of building conclusions on ignorance, not reality.
Note: There is (or was) a second group of similar Peace dollars and some commemoratives in the collection of former Philadelphia Mint chief clerk Fred Chaffin.
In both the 1st & 2nd editions of your Peace Dollar Guidebook, you state that there is only 1 example known, found in circulation, listed as Judd-2020. This coin was apparently authenticated by NGC in 2001.
Have 2 more been discovered? Do any high-quality photos exist? I'd love to see what you mean by the die defect above the olive branch. The portrait of the medium-relief coin shown on page 170 of the 2nd edition of your book seems "different", especially around the nose and brow.
As far as the coin on eBay, I think we all can agree that it's probably just a 1922-D with a bit of die rotation in a mislabeled holder.
"Obviously it is an error that it doesn't note the Denver mintmark. Is this coin also mistakenly labeled as a medium relief coin?"
The next edition of the Guide Book for Peace Dollars will update this and several other items regarding the series. I'll post something here later today that might help clarify the early Peace dollar situation.
Here is a diagram I prepared that should help folks understand the relationships of early Peace dollar production and experimental pieces. None of the 1922 high relief trial pieces were put into circulation, but some were purchased for $1 by mint officers and used as samples for Sec of the Treasury and others. Jim Fraser had several of each for approval purposes. Others were purchased by Mint HQ staff as souvenirs.
The diagram is large so readers can see the differences in lettering. Also medal press proofs and production press strike will look a little different even when from the same dies. This is due to incomplete metal flow.
Most 1921 Peace dollars have relief more like the 1922 HR/rev '21 - struck on production presses at reduced pressure.
Here's a poor quality image of the field of a 1921 Peace dollar from a fresh pair of dies. Notice the smooth metallic "satin" surface and absence of luster from flow lines caused by use. This coin came from an old album and had likely been there since it was collected in New York in early January 1921.
PS: This is also the surface on a satin proof coin. The medal press proof will be better struck and have sharper detail than a production coin.
Lettering on the 1922 HR obv and 1922 HR rev is slightly thinner and more rounded than in 1921. The 1922 MR was rejected by Fraser specifically because of the detail in the hair....he wanted more "massing" as deFrancisci had done.
Just an opinion, but the 1922 HR reverse and Morgan's 1922 HR obverse are the best version of the design. Had Morgan reduced the obverse relief to that of the MR example, the coin would have some out OK (not great) under normal production conditions. The 1922 MR piece that is the last one off the trial run, is nicely detailed in lettering and central hair.
DeFracisci's low relief 1922 version goes too far, especially in flattening the reverse lettering.
"Lettering on the 1922 HR obv and 1922 HR rev is slightly thinner and more rounded than in 1921. The 1922 MR was rejected by Fraser specifically because of the detail in the hair....he wanted more "massing" as deFrancisci had done."
Yes, I see the difference in the 1921 from the 1922s. I was looking for a difference between the three 1922 examples. My misunderstanding.
The two in the center are from the same hub. on the left is an obverse from a production press test and on the right is a medal press proof. Both working dies had the same detail.
FYI, just because a 1921 Peace dollar is sandblasted, it does not mean it is a proof. Some production trials were sandblasted before they were shown to officials; others were sandblasted by individuals wanting to cash in on "proof coin" prices in the 60s and 70s. ANA Authentication and later independent authentication has obviated most - not all - of this trickery.
The Commission of Fine Arts knew what it was doing and the sculptors were selected for quality and ability to work quickly. After deFrancisci's design was selected, Jim Fraser was assigned for the CFA to critique the younger sculptor's work and make sure it was true to the Saint-Gaudens "Nike Erini"prototype. When deFrancisci took the models to Washington for final approval, Fraser was in New York with copies of the models. After approval deFrancisci telephone Fraser, and Fraser then had iron casts made in NYC and delivered to the Philadelphia Mint. This saved time.
George Morgan had to remove the sword from the steel hub of the original reverse. (Converted it into parts of the olive branch.) He and deFrancisci worked all day on it to finish and then have a master dies and working hub made so that working dies could be produced.
The satin proof of the Medium Relief 1922 Peace dollar will be in the Stacks-Bowers auction in August. However, it has been incorrectly attributed by PCGS as a "modified" design when it is actually completely new and different. They also do not understand that it is a medal press proof not a toggle press production trial.
These are spectacular coins and I encourage anyone interested in Peace dollars to examine them in Chicago.
I want to go back to one of the coins Goldbergs sold last month, the ["PF64"] one. Am I right in thinking it's a 1922 high relief, reverse of 1921. But rather than proof, it's a business strike, but with post-striking "antiquing" processing? Which of course brings up what its designation should be. Again, I don't think it should be called a proof, but calling it just a vanilla business strike would not give the coin justice either. I also rather despise the term "specimen" for describing any US coin which is not a proof but also something different than a business strike, so I'd rather not call it that.
Also, for those who saw the coin in person, do you think it got sandblasted or not? The online photos have be uncertain either way, but I know from medals of that era that the sandblasted surfaces often had rather fine facets. (Plus, the "64" coin doesn't look like the "67" coin in the same sale, which was obviously a sandblast proof.)
I want to go back to one of the coins Goldbergs sold last month, the "PF64" one. Am I right in thinking it's a 1922 high relief, reverse of 1921. But rather than proof, it's a business strike, but with post-striking "antiquing" processing?
You are correct. But no change was made. After all, why should "they" bother to ask anyone who did almost all of the original research, analysis, work and publication on this? Must have been fun to be a befuddled bidder in that auction.
(PS: Many posters on PCGS and NGC boards quickly noticed that the coin's reverse was a 1921 from the photos released to the public. But maybe that didn't matter....?)