100 Years of Silver Dollar Coinage, 1878-1978 | U.S. Mint

by jill westeyn Apr 15, 2021

Morgan, Peace, and Eisenhower dollar coin obversesThis year marks the 100th anniversary of completion of coinage of the Morgan Dollar and the 100th anniversary of commencement of coinage of the Peace Dollar. Essentially, it’s the centennial of the transition between minting two of the most famous coins issued by the United States Mint. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the silver coin that would follow: the Eisenhower Dollar. These three coins, spanning 100 years—from the first Morgan Dollar in 1878 to the final Eisenhower Dollar in 1978—share a connection through history and legacy.

Reading: Who is on the silver dollar coin

silver and morgan dollar offer

Silver mining in the United States, principally the Comstock Lode (1859), is the catalyst that gave silver dollar minting its heyday. Before the nation could truly benefit from this discovery, previous legislation demonetizing silver had to be overcome first. The Bland-Allison Act reauthorized the standard silver dollar at the weight and fineness established in the law of January 18, 1837 (26.73 grams; 0.900 silver, 0.100 copper).

This new currency would commonly be called the Morgan dollar, as it was designed by George T. Morgan (who, from 1917 to 1925, would serve as chief engraver). Following the requirements written in the act of minting of April 2, 1792 (1 stat. 246, 248), the obverse presents the profile of the Lady of Liberty and the reverse presents a heraldic eagle.

The first Morgan dollar coins were minted in 1878 at the Philadelphia Mint. After some design revisions, they were also hit in San Francisco and Carson City later that year, due to the facility’s proximity to silver mines in the western United States. the following year new orleans joined and, like san francisco and philadelphia, would manufacture morgan dollars until 1904.

silver dollar production stopped

Once again, legislation played a role in the silver supply chain due to the passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. When the demand and supply of silver bullion fell as a result of this legislation , production of the morgan dollar was discontinued in 1904 throughout the us. mint installations.

no silver dollar coins were minted in the usa. uu. 1905 to 1920. Since the New Orleans Mint relied on silver coin production for its business, this eventually led to its closure as a mint facility.

After World War I, the Pittman Act of 1918 authorized the melting down of millions of previously minted silver dollars (primarily Morgan dollars). however, the law also required that silver be purchased to make new silver coins to replace the melted down ones.

To satisfy the Pittman Act, production of the Morgan dollar resumed in 1921 in Philadelphia, San Francisco and, for the first time, in Denver. Later that year, the Philadelphia Mint switched production to the Peace dollar. no special congressional authorization was required for the design modification, as the law allows changing the design of any u.s. coins after 25 years.

peace dollar

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in december 1921, treasury secretary andrew mellon approved the peace dollar to replace the morgan dollar. The peace dollar commemorated the declaration of peace between the United States and Germany. the mint made over a million peace dollars in less than a month. six months later almost 25 million peace dollars had been minted.

The Peace Dollar design was selected by the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) from models submitted by several noted sculptors. the cfa chose the work of noted italian-american artist anthony de francisci. the obverse design depicts a female head emblematic of liberty, wearing a light-rayed tiara. the reverse design shows an eagle perched on top of a mountain, holding an olive branch in its talons, witnessing the dawn of a new day.

The peace dollar was minted between 1921 and 1928, at which time the demand for the dollar was low and the supply of silver resulting from the pittman law dried up. It was last minted before World War II, with the passage of what is known as the Silver Purchase Act of 1934. The mintage was short-lived, lasting only until 1935. These last peace dollars were minted in Philadelphia , denver and san francisco mints.

Dollar Coin Production, 1878-1978: Carson City Mint made Morgan Dollars; Denver Mint made Morgan, Peace, Eisenhower Dollars; New Orleans Mint made Morgan Dollars; Philadelphia Mint made Morgan, Peace, Eisenhower Dollars; San Francisco Mint made Morgan, Peace, Eisenhower Dollars.

This graphic shows the years each Mint facility produced dollar coins in the period from 1878 to 1978. (Click to expand.)

The Eisenhower Dollar

Silver dollar coins were not minted by the mint or put into circulation after 1935. The silver dollar drought nearly ended in 1964, when new legislation allowed the denver mint to mint dollars peace. however, none were made public.

At the same time, legislation was also being worked on to remove silver from coins due to continued scarcity. On July 23, 1965, President Johnson signed the Coinage Act of 1965, which removed silver from circulating coins and authorized clad coins to be used for the half, quarter, and dime. .

On December 31, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed into law the Bank Holding Company Amendments Act of 1970. Title Two of this act and its various amendments authorized the currency of the Eisenhower dollar.

ironically, the same act that gave rise to the nation’s newest dollar coin also authorized the sale of one of its predecessors: 2.8 million morgan dollars (minted at the carson city mint) stored in ee uu. vaults of the treasury department.

In 1971, the mint produced copper- and silver-clad Eisenhower dollars. this coin marked the first time a portrait of an American. the president was authorized to appear on a dollar coin in circulation. it was also the first circulating silver dollar coin minted since 1935.

the coin was designed by u.s. mint chief engraver frank gasparro. The obverse design shows the image of President Dwight Eisenhower. According to an amendment to the legislation, the reverse design would be a symbol of the Apollo 11 flight in honor of the exploits of our country’s astronauts and the first landing on the moon. Gasparro’s interpretation of the Apollo 11 insignia, which appears on the reverse of the coin, depicts the bald eagle landing on the crater-pocked surface of the moon, clutching an olive branch in both talons.

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Between 1971 and 1974, the New Dollar was struck in two different compositions: one for collectors, “as an alloy of 800 parts silver and 200 parts copper,” at the San Francisco Mint; the other for circulation (75% copper and 25% nickel), at the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints.

bicentennial mintage and later

In the mid-1970s, quarter, half, and dollar coins underwent a design transformation for the nation’s upcoming bicentennial celebration. This marked the first time in our nation’s history that designs on circulating coins would honor an anniversary of America’s independence.

Minted in 1975 and 1976, the obverse of the Bicentennial dollar was similar to the Eisenhower dollar, with the exception of the addition of two dates from 1776-1976. however, the reverse of the coin underwent a more extensive change. It was designed by Dennis R. williams (a student at columbus college of art and design) and featured a combination of the liberty bell and the moon. Like its predecessor, the bicentennial dollar was minted in two different compositions and minted at mints in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco.

After the celebration, the original Eisenhower dollar design (unique date and eagle reverse design) was returned to circulation. it was struck again in 1977 and 1978, but this time only with the copper-nickel plated version.

Subsequent dollar coin designs continued in circulation between 1979 and 2011. Since 2012, dollar coins have only been minted and issued as numismatic items. none have been as popular as the iconic morgan or peace dollars.

2021 Centennial Coins

This year, the mint is bringing those two famous designs back to collectors as a result of the Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act of 1921 (Public Law 116-286). Requires the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue $1 silver coins in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the end of minting the Morgan dollar and the 100th anniversary of the beginning of minting the Peace dollar. more information about these products will be available in the coming weeks on our website and social media channels.


a special thanks to the us. mint and us historians office peppermint healer for helping with this article.

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