Welcome to Steve's blog, sharing stories of his professional coin career, 1963 to date. Enjoy stories of Steve's numismatic journey.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blinding Luster, Big Disappointment

My previous post described the single best 1921 Peace Dollar I have had the opportunity to handle over the past 50 years.  This story concerns uncirculated 1921 Peace Dollars existing elsewhere along the spectrum of possibility.

In 1966 I’m setting up at a coin show in Palo Alto, California, home of Stanford University.   My table is located next to Harry Forman, the venerable dealer from Philadelphia, PA.  Harry is a real mover and shaker in the coin business.

Harry unpacks a roll of Dollars and a velvet pad, gently fanning the coins out onto the pad’s soft surface.  The effect was virtually blinding!

“Look at the frosting on those coins.  They must be 1922s or 1923s.  Those are the only Peace Dollars with luster like that,” I think to myself.

I move closer to discover Harry arranging a roll of 1921 Peace Dollars.  They exhibit frost on top of frost!  I had never seen anything like this, never knew 1921s existed with such substantial luster.  I certainly had customers who would love these coins!

Harry allowed me to take a closer look.   I pick one up to find its obverse well struck, but there is a terribly flat strike on the reverse.  Half of the eagle’s wing was missing; only the top of the wing feathers were struck.  The poorly struck area was blank and actually concave. 

Every coin in the roll was like that – rare superb luster both sides, terrible strike reverse.  How disappointing!  Without a decent strike, even exquisite luster could not make the coins fully desirable. 

So how did this odd combination of characteristics occur?  We can’t know for certain, but we can make a few educated guesses.  These coins were likely some of the first pieces minted, when the mint had not yet calculated the optimum striking pressure for the high relief design.  It was likely a new die or possibly misaligned.

Knowing strike is often an issue with 1921 Peace Dollars, how does today's collector locate a nice example?  I recommend you buy the best strike you can afford.  Commit to wait for the right coin – one with good eye appeal, decent strike and luster, and limited marks.  Specimens do exist, such as the coin pictured below.

This is an exceptional MS-63 1921 Peace Dollar recently in stock.
It presents a good strike, lovely satin lustre and limited marks for the grade.

Coming next:  an exciting Long Beach show (1964)

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