1921 Morgan Silver Dollar: Value & Historical Significance
This is the story of the 1921 Morgan dollar, the last coin of the 19th century. It was an old design nobody expected to see again.
Image: USA CoinBook
What Is a 1921 Morgan Dollar Worth?
What Is a 1921-D Morgan Dollar Worth?
What Is a 1921-S Morgan Dollar Worth?
The information on this page does not constitute an offer to buy or sell the coin(s) referred to. Proof and prooflike examples of this issue may have greater or lesser "finest known" and different record auction prices.
Where Is the Mintmark on a 1921 Silver Dollar?
It's important to know whether or not your coin has a mintmark. On both the Morgan silver dollar and Peace silver dollar, the mintmark is found on the reverse.
For the Morgan dollar, this location is centered at the bottom of the design. It is placed just below the tail feathers of the eagle.
This also raises the question of fakes. The Red Book warns that collectors should be wary of altered mintmarks. How can you tell if a 1921 silver dollar is real?
Our guide to spotting counterfeit coins will give you some useful tips for identifying real silver dollars. For a modest fee, you can always submit your coin to third-party grading services such as NGC and PCGS to have the coin authenticated, as well.
We also have Morgan silver dollars for sale that are already certified by the leading third-party graders:
What Makes The 1921 Morgan Dollar Special?
The 1921 Morgan dollar was the last year for the design. It was also the last U.S. coin design of the 19th century to be struck. 1921 Morgan dollar mintages at all three U.S. Mint locations (Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco) were the highest of the series. Plentiful mintages and a low, flat strike means that the 1921 Morgan dollar is one of the least popular coins in the series.
By contrast, the 1895 issue is the rarest Morgan dollar. Only proofs were minted that year, and just 880 of them were produced.
Why Did We Make Silver Dollars In 1921?
The Morgan dollar was never that popular with the public. It was invented by Congress as a subsidy for the politically powerful silver mining industry in 1878. No one had ever expected to see new Morgan dollars after the last ones were struck in 1904. In fact, the master hubs were destroyed in 1910, when the U.S. Mint cleared out the hubs and dies that were no longer used.
Events in WWI in 1918 led to the resumption of Morgan dollar production in 1921. The British were suffering a silver shortage that jeopardized the entire Allied side in WWI. They had issued more silver certificates in India than they had silver to back them. If India revolted, the British would have to make peace with Germany. The British government appealed to the U.S. to sell them silver.
Even though it risked losing the war, the “silverite” faction in Congress refused to back the melting of silver dollars. This faction had forced the creation of the Morgan dollar in the first place. They demanded that every silver dollar melted was replaced after the war in return for their support. (See “The 1918 Pittman Act: Boondoggle Or Necessary Morgan Dollar Massacre?” for the full story.)
The 1918 Pittman Act forced the U.S. Mint to buy silver at $1 per ounce after the war to replace the 270 million silver dollars that were melted down. As long as silver prices were above a dollar, the silver miners preferred to sell their ore on the open market. Once it dropped below that, they clamored for the government to buy their silver. That moment came in 1920.
The 1921 Morgan Dollar: Falling Flat
The 1918 “deal with the silver devil” had come due. The government was once again buying silver for more than the market price. (Silver prices would hit a low of 53 cents an ounce in March 1921.)
Since the master Morgan dollar coin hubs had been destroyed in 1910, Chief Engraver of the Mint George Morgan made new low relief hubs from scratch. His emphasis was on getting maximum use out of the coin dies, instead of making pretty coins.
This resulted in a coin that looked flat and lifeless, even when fully struck. This would be the last-ever year for the Morgan dollar (for real, this time, as the Peace dollar would replace it in December). The emphasis at the Mint was not to commemorate this, but to shove them out the door as quickly as possible. They would never see the light of day, anyway.
Silver dollars were stored in Treasury Department vaults to back the paper silver certificates that circulated. Theoretically, you could ask to exchange your certificate for actual silver dollars, but this was rarely done. The big silver coins just sat stacked in canvas bags inside locked vaults.
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