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.An act directing the purchase of silver bullion and the issue of Treasury notes thereon, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted . ., That the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby directed to purchase, from time to time, silver bullion to the aggregate amount of four million five hundred thousand ounces, or so much thereof as may be offered in each month, at the market price thereof, not exceeding one dollar for three hundred and seventy-one and twenty-five hundredths grains of pure silver, and to issue in payment for such purchases of silver bullion Treasury notes of the United States to be prepared by the Secretary of the Treasury, in such form and of such denominations, not less than one dollar nor more than one thousand dollars, as he may prescribe.
SEC. 2. That the Treasury notes issued in accordance with the provisions of this act shall be redeemable on demand, in coin, at the Treasury of the United States, or at the office of any assistant treasurer of the United States, and when so redeemed may be reissued; but no greater or less amount of such notes shall be outstanding at any time than the cost of the silver bullion and the standard silver dollars coined therefrom, then held in the Treasury purchased by such notes; and such Treasury notes shall be a legal tender in payment of all debts, public and private, except where otherwise expressly stipulated in the contract, and shall be receivable for customs, taxes, and all public dues, and when so received may be reissued; and such notes, when held by any national banking association, may be counted as a part of its lawful reserve. That upon demand of the holder of any of the Treasury notes herein provided for the Secretary of the Treasury shall, under such regulations as he may prescribe, redeem such notes in gold or silver coin, at his discretion, it being the established policy of the United States to maintain th two metals on a parity with each other upon the present legal ratio, or such ratio as may be provided by law.
SEC. 3. That the Secretary of the Treasury shall each month coin two million ounces of the silver bullion purchased under the provisions of this act into standard silver dollars until . [July I, 189I] . ., and after that time he shall coin of the silver bullion purchased under the provisions of this act as much as may be necessary to provide for the redemption of the Treasury notes herein provided for, and any gain or seigniorage arising from such coinage shall be accounted for and paid into the Treasury.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
SEC. 5. That so much of the act of . [February 28, I878] . ., entitled "An act to authorize the coinage of the standard silver dollar and to restore its legal tender character," as requires the monthly purchase and coinage of the same into silver dollars of not less than two million dollars, nor more than four million dollars' worth of silver bullion, is hereby repealed.
For a country to be considered to be on metallic standard, whether gold, silver, or bimetallic — using both gold and silver — the first principle is that its mint must issue coins. The Authority for Gold and Silver Coinage, 1792 – 1875 table details laws that authorized U.S. coins between 1792 and 1875. Two features are of note. First, the least valuable gold coin was worth one dollar, and the most valuable silver coin also was worth one dollar. As gold was (and still is) much more valuable per ounce than silver, a silver coin worth more than one dollar would have been too large for practical use, and a gold coin worth less than a dollar would have been too small. Second, the Act of 1873 eliminated three existing coins made of silver, of which the silver dollar was the most important, and created a "trade-dollar," a special silver dollar coin to be used in international trade.
|Authority for Gold and Silver Coinage, 1792 – 1875|
|Authorizing Act||Silver Coins||Gold Coins|
|1792, P.L. 2 – 16, 1 Stat. 246||dollar a , half-dollar, quarter dollar, dime, half dime a||eagle b , half-eagle, quarter eagle|
|1849, P.L. 30 – 109, 9 Stat. 397||gold dollar c,d, double-eagle e|
|1851, P.L. 31 – 20, 9 Stat. 587||three cents a|
|1853, P.L. 32 – 79, 10 Stat. 160||three dollars d|
|1873, P.L. 42 – 131, 17 Stat. 424||trade-dollar f|
|1875, P.L. 43 – 143, 18 Stat. 478||twenty cents g|
|a Discontinued by Coinage Act of 1873.|
|b Ten-dollar piece.|
|c Renamed one-dollar piece in Coinage Act of 1873.|
|d Discontinued by Act of 1890 (P.L. 51 – 945, 26 Stat. 485).|
|e Twenty-dollar piece.|
|f Intended for use only in international transactions. Discontinued by Act of 1887 (P.L. 49 – 396, 24 Stat. 634).|
|g Discontinued by Act of 1878 (P.L. 45 – 79, 20 Stat. 47).|
A second important consideration is that the coins issued must be accepted and satisfy the owner's monetary obligations, whatever the amount. The Legal-Tender Power of Gold and Silver Coin, 1792 – 1875 table shows that from 1792 to 1875, gold coins could satisfy unlimited financial obligation (had "unlimited legal-tender power") whereas after 1853, silver coins other than a silver dollar could only satisfy obligations up to five dollars (possessed only "limited legal-tender power"). While The Coinage Act of 1873 essentially did not address this issue, a revised statute the next year also limited the standard silver dollar to a value of five dollars as legal tender.
|Legal-Tender Power of Gold and Silver Coin, 1792 – 1875|
|Silver Coins||Gold Coins|
|Authorizing Act||Coins||Payments a||Coins||Payments a|
|1792, P.L. 2 – 16, 1 Stat. 246||all||unlimited b||all||unlimited b|
|1834, P.L. 23 – 95, 4 Stat. 699||all||unlimited b|
|1837, P.L. 24 – 3, 5 Stat. 136||all||unlimited||all||unlimited|
|1849, P.L. 30 – 109, 9 Stat. 397||double-eagle, gold dollar||unlimited|
|1851, P.L. 31 – 20, 9 Stat. 587||three cents||30 cents|
|1853, P.L. 32 – 79, 10 Stat. 160||half-dollar, quarter dollar, dime, half dime||five dollars||three dollars||unlimited|
|1873, P.L. 42 – 131, 17 Stat. 424||trade-dollar c , half-dollar, quarter-dollar, dime||five dollars||all||unlimited d|
|1874, P.L. 43 – 333, 18 Stat. 113 e||all f||five dollars||all||unlimited d|
|1875, P.L. 43 – 143, 18 Stat. 478||twenty cents||five dollars|
|a Limit, if any.|
|b Coins less that full weight at values proportional to their actual weights.|
|c Legal tender eliminated in 1876 (J.R. 44-17, 19 Stat. 215).|
|d Coins less than standard weight and limit of tolerance at valuation proportional to their actual weights.|
|e Leading to 1874, 43-3586, Rev. Stat. 708.|
|f Including dollar.|
A third element of a coin standard is that there be "free coinage," meaning that any private party may bring gold or silver in large quantities to the mint to be coined, and receive the coin or money equivalent. The Freedom of Coinage, 1792 – 1873 table shows that free coinage for gold was always available from 1792 to 1873 (and in fact until the United States abandoned the gold standard in 1933). However, free coinage for silver coins less than a dollar ended in 1853, and the Act of 1873 ended free coinage of the standard silver dollar. It was never restored.
|Freedom of Coinage, 1792 – 1873|
|1792, P.L. 2 – 16, 1 Stat. 246||all||all|
|1837, P.L. 24 – 3, 5 Stat. 136||all||all|
|1853, P.L. 32 – 79, 10 Stat. 160||silver dollar only|
|1873, P.L. 42 – 131, 17 Stat. 424||trade-dollar only||all|
The "fine weight" of a coin is the amount of the pure metal (either gold or silver) that it contains. The "standard fineness" is the percentage of the coin's weight consisting of the pure metal, the remainder being essentially a worthless alloy. The "standard weight" is the total weight of the coin (pure metal plus alloy). The Legal Gold and Silver Value of Dollar, 1792 – 1873 table lists the legislated fine and standard weights of the gold and silver dollar from 1792 to 1873. The table also shows the legal gold/silver price ratio (number of ounces of silver compared to ounces of gold in a coin), the "mint ratio." Not shown is the fineness, which is 1485/1664 and 11/12 for gold and silver coins, respectively (Act of 1792), 116/129 for gold coin (Act of 1834), and 9/10 for gold and silver coins (Acts of 1837 and 1873).
|Legal Gold and Silver Value of Dollar, 1792 – 1873|
|Weight of Dollar (grains a )|
|Authorizing Act||Fine||Standard||Fine||Standard||Gold/Silver Price Ratio b|
|1792, P.L. 2 – 16, 1 Stat. 246||371.25||416||24.75 c||27 c||15.0000|
|1834, P.L. 23 – 95, 4 Stat. 699||23.2 c||25.8 c||16.0022|
|1837, P.L. 24 – 3, 5 Stat. 136||371.25||412.5||23.22 c||25.8 c||15.9884|
|1873, P.L. 42 – 131, 17 Stat. 424||378 d||420 d||23.22||25.8||—|
|a Under the customary "avoirdupois" measurement system (16 ounces = 1 pound), 1 ounce = 437.5 grains.|
|b Ratio of fine-silver to fine-gold content of dollar, when both gold and silver are unlimited legal tender.|
|c Inferred as one-tenth weight of eagle ($10 gold piece).|
|d Trade-dollar, limited legal tender.|
All of the coins worth less than one dollar — called fractional coins — were made of silver. Fractional coins were much more important in the nineteenth century than today, because prices were so much lower. In fact, retail transactions were conducted largely with such coins. The Fine-Silver Content of Fractional Coin, 1792 – 1875 table summarizes the legislated fine-metal content of such coin compared to the standard silver dollar. Until the Act of 1853, the relative value (the fine-weight to total-weight ratio) of fractional silver coins (except for the three-cent coin) was the same as the silver dollar. The Act of 1853 reduced the ratio, thus overvaluing fractional coins relative to the dollar. The Act of 1873 slightly increased this ratio for fractional coins.
|Fine-Silver Content of Fractional Coin, 1792 – 1875|
|Authorizing Act||Coins||Divergence from Silver Dollar|
|1792, P.L. 2 – 16, 1 Stat. 246||all||zero|
|1837, P.L. 24 – 3, 5 Stat. 136||all||zero|
|1851, P.L. 31 – 20, 9 Stat. 587||three cents||– 16.67 percent|
|1853, P.L. 32 – 79, 10 Stat. 160||all except three cents||– 6.91 percent|
|1853, P.L. 32 – 96, 10 Stat. 181||three cents||– 6.91 percent|
|1873, P.L. 42 – 131, 17 Stat. 424||all except twenty cents||– 6.47 percent|
|1875, P.L. 43 – 143, 18 Stat. 478||twenty cents||– 6.47 percent|
Understanding Silver Certificate Dollar Bills
It was for this reason that provisions in the Coinage Act of 1873 went little noticed. The act ended free coinage for silver, effectively ending bimetallism and placing the United States on the gold standard. Though silver coins could still be used as legal tender, few were in circulation.
The U.S. government began issuing certificates in 1878 under the Bland-Allison Act. Under the act, people could deposit silver coins at the U.S. Treasury in exchange for certificates, which were easier to carry. This representative money could also be redeemed for silver equal to the certificate’s face value. In the past, other countries like China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Morocco, Panama, and the Netherlands have issued silver certificates.
Congress adopted a bimetallic standard of money in 1792, making gold and silver the mediums of exchange. Under a free coinage policy, raw gold or silver could be taken to the U.S. mint and converted into coins. However, few silver coins were minted between 1793 and 1873, as the raw silver required to make a coin was worth more than their gold dollar and greenback counterparts.
A year later, Section 3568 of the Revised Statutes further diminished silver's status by prohibiting the use of silver coins as legal tender for amounts exceeding five dollars.
Silver Rights: The Story of the Carter Family’s Brave Decision to Send Their Children to an All-White Schools and Claim Their Civil Rights
Book – Non-fiction. By Constance Curry. Introduction by Marian Wright Edelman. 1996.
The story of the Carter family’s decision to send their children to an all-white school in Drew, Mississippi.
The following description is from a review of Silver Rights by Paul Trachtman in the Smithsonian magazine, June 1997.
Silver Rights [is the] riveting memoir of one African-American family’s fight to send their children to the segregated white schools of Drew, Mississippi.
The author, Constance Curry, was a field representative of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) who tried to help the Carter family live through its ordeal of intimidation, reprisals and insults as seven of its children became the only Black students in Drew’s white elementary and high schools in 1965. (An eighth would join them in 1967.)
The voices in the book are mostly those of the Carters, through Curry’s interviews and the many letters Mae Bertha Carter wrote to the Friends’ headquarters as one crisis followed another. As a result, the book has an immediacy, intimacy and emotional truth that history rarely reveals. It also unfolds with a simplicity of words and facts that make the Carters’ courage, faith and love a reality any reader can share. Even the title of the book is a reflection of that language. Among the rural Black families of the Mississippi Delta, the bureaucratic term “civil rights” was translated as the dream of “silver rights.”
To tell this story, Curry spent the past few years renewing her friendship with the Carters, interviewing the grown children, trying to set the events of the 1960s in perspective. The Carters were a sharecropping family on a cotton plantation outside of Drew when Mississippi, under threat of losing federal funds, came up with a “freedom of choice” plan to circumvent federal law. Families like the Carters could sign papers to send their children to all-white schools, but both Blacks and whites knew what would happen to families who made that choice. “If they don’t get you in the wash, they’ll get you in the rinse,” Mae Bertha Carter told a visiting minister from Ohio who supported the family.
The Carters were threatened with eviction, and found credit in local stores cut off and their home shattered by gunshots in the dark, forcing them to sleep on the floor in fear. Spitballs and insults rained on the children as they rode the bus to a school where life was no easier. “I hated history class,” one of the older boys recalled, “when we covered the Civil War and the teacher said ‘nigger’ and allowed the students to say it like I wasn’t even there.”
It was the Carter children who made the choice to go to the white schools. None of them ever went back to the black schools, which had split sessions so that students could work in the cotton fields. “What I hated most was being in the cotton field and seeing the white school buses pass us by while we were picking,” the oldest girl, Ruth, recalled. But Ruth also came to hate her days at the white school.
During that time, it seemed like I was filled up with hate. I hated Mississippi, I hated the white man. I hated my teachers. I hated everything. Then we started having these little sessions at home in the afternoon after school. It was almost like therapy. We would sit down and Mama would say, ‘How did things go today at school?’ We would talk about what happened and a lot of times we would cry together. . . .
As Ruth reconstructed those afternoons, it was her mother’s voice she heard reverberating in her memory. “If Mama heard me say, ‘I hate white people, I just can’t stand them,’ she always answered, ‘Don’t you ever say that. Don’t you ever say that you hate white people or anyone–it’s not right.’ . . . The other thing she wouldn’t let us say was that we wished we had never been born.”
Nevertheless, the pressures on the children were brutal indeed. The youngest, Carl, who entered the first grade in 1967, recalled the weight of isolation. The next year, in the second grade, he simply tried to flee.
Not having any playmates . . . made me feel bad. . . . I just left the schoolyard one day and came home. I was only seven . . . I told Mama that I had walked all the way home and I wasn’t going back. I said I was sick, got in bed.
But the next day he was back, his main refuge being his excellence as a math student.
Mae Bertha and her husband, Matthew, guided their children through the worst days with a courage and faith that was the heart of the civil rights movement, but they could not have done it alone. Through civil rights workers like Constance Curry, word was spread, and people of goodwill in many places became sources of support for the Carters.
Here, for instance, is what happened when the overseer ploughed under the Carters’ cotton crop before they could pick it:
Amzie Moore, Mississippi, 1963. Photo by Harvey Richards.
Even with no money from the cotton crop, the Carters were able to survive November and December. Amzie Moore [a Black veteran who had come home and helped organize a local NAACP branch] brought food, the Boulder Friends [in Colorado] continued to send lunch money, the AFSC sent small grants, the Morningside Gardens Civil Rights Committee in New York City contributed clothing and money, and some canned foods came from a church in New Jersey. And on the day when the overseer did not show up with the family’s customary $15 for their car’s annual license plate fee, Fannie Lou Hamer, by then a leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, brought Mae Bertha the tag money.
Reading this book is a reminder of the deep interconnectedness of our lives, of the power of conscience when people care about and for each other, and are willing to act with love against the force of hatred and violence. Seven of the eight Carter children who desegregated the schools of Drew later graduated from the University of Mississippi, where the first Black student to enroll needed an escort of U.S. marshals. The spirit that sustained them was expressed in a letter from Mae Bertha to Constance Curry in May 1966:
I went to church on Sunday and my preacher preach about love one another—it don’t mean Negro only—it means everybody, white and Black.
[As noted above, this description of the book is by Paul Trachtman.]
ISBN: 9780156004794 | Published by Mariner Books.
The Intolerable Burden: Award-winning 56-minute film documentary about the Carter family’s struggle to desegregate Drew schools. Produced in 2003 by Chea Prince and Constance Curry. Icarus Films. “One of the best video histories of the desegregation era ever produced. An excellent example of how documentaries on the 1960s should be done. Captures on film what it means to be a courageous individual. The magisterial clarity with which this dramatic story… is told keeps the viewer’s attention throughout. Indispensable to students… because the actual participants take center stage – one would be hard pressed to find this caliber of work in any other single story of this era.”—Professor Curtis Austin, University of Southern Mississippi
This School is Not White!: An elementary school picture book, by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Curtis James, about the Carter family’s struggle to desegregate Drew schools. (Jump at the Sun, 32 pages, 2005.)
Panic of 1893
Like most major financial downturns, the depression of the 1890s was preceded by a series of shocks that undermined public confidence and weakened the economy. The Panic of 1893 provided a spectacular financial crisis the contributed to the economic recession. In the last days of the Harrison administration, the Reading Railroad, a major eastern line, went into receivership. That collapse was soon magnified by the failures of hundreds of banks and businesses dependent upon the Reading and other railroads. The stock market reacted with a dramatic plunge. Fearing further collapse, European investors pulled their funds from the United States, but depression soon gripped the other side of the Atlantic as well. An ongoing agricultural depression in the West and South deepened, spreading the misery to those regions. Although thousands of businesses were ruined and more than four million were left unemployed, Cleveland did little. He believed, like most people of both major parties, that the business cycle was a natural occurrence and should not be tampered with by politicians. One economic matter, however, did concern the president deeply. The nation’s gold reserve had been steadily declining during the last years of the Harrison administration. The lavish spending of the “Billion Dollar Congress” and the gold drain caused by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act were the prime factors of the surplus reduction. A few weeks after Cleveland was sworn in, the nation’s reserves dipped below $100 million, a psychological barrier whose breaching further weakened public trust. The president acted to rescue the gold standard, but in the process divided the Democratic Party and alienated the silver forces of the South and West. When Congress adjourned at the end of June 1893, President Cleveland – fearing a possible adverse impact on the markets – secretly dealt with a major health problem. The Panic of 1893 and other factors had a lasting impact. The depression of the 1890s did not fully abate until 1897. One response to the series of failures and bankruptcies was an upsurge in business consolidations. The poorer elements of society believed they had been ignored during the hard times and then were left at the mercy of the trusts. The reform efforts of the last quarter of the 19th century had not been sufficient new leadership was needed for the next century.
The 19th Century
Dollars were minted in the tradition of the Spanish 8 reales. English speakers referred to the Spanish 8 reales as the Spanish milled dollar. The word "milled" referred to the fact that coin blanks called planchets were "milled" on a milling machine to stay consistent with weights and sizes and prevent counterfeiting. The advanced milling process allowed these Spanish coins to be used in many countries worldwide.
The Coinage Act of 1834
The official U.S. government price of gold remained consistent at $19.75 per troy ounce from 1792 until it was raised to $20.67 in 1834. In 1934, the price was raised to $35. In 1972, the price was increased to $38 and in 1973 it went up to $42.22.
Congress reconciled the new value of gold with the passage of the Coinage Act of 1834 under the presidency of Andrew Jackson. A new regulation of weight and value of gold was adopted to bring the value of gold in sync with the marketplace and its relative value to silver. The act revised the ratio of gold to the dollar to the equivalent of $20.67 per ounce of gold, increasing the value of gold and increasing the ratio of silver-to-gold to about 16:1.
The Coinage Act of 1873
The Coinage Act of 1873 was also called the "Crime of 1873" by western silver miners. The act demonetized silver, effectively ending a silver boom that had enriched western states' economies. Silver was dropped for the gold standard that would later be adopted by governments around the world.
A powerful force called the Free Silver Movement was established that would be instrumental in the passage of the 1878 Bland Allison Act. This act allowed the Treasury Department to purchase $2 to $4 million a month of domestic silver to be coined into silver dollars for circulation. This act passed Congress after overriding the veto of President Rutherford B. Hayes.
The Sherman Silver Purchase Act passed in 1890 replaced the previous law and saw an increased purchase of 4.5 million ounces of silver bullion a month. President Cleveland later repealed this act in 1893 because the U.S. Treasury's gold reserves were being depleted by investors selling silver in exchange for gold.
Southern ministers encouraged Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase in 1861 to inscribe "In God We Trust" on coins. Congress approved and first used the phrase on the two-cent coin in 1864. The inscription was expanded to gold and silver coins with the passage of the 1865 Act. By 1873, all coins were approved with "In God We Trust" without further congressional approval.
1921-35 PEACE DOLLAR
The “war to end all wars” fell far short of that noble aspiration. What history now refers to as World War I, which ravaged Europe from 1914 to 1918, did stir worldwide yearning, however, for peace. One direct result of that fervent hope was the League of Nations. A second, less ambitious but equally sincere, was the Peace dollar. America shunned the League, but warmly embraced the coin.
Following the war, there was widespread sentiment for issuance of a coin that would celebrate and commemorate the restoration of peace. The American Numismatic Association played a key role in fostering this proposal. At the same time, the U. S. Mint found itself facing the need to start producing millions of silver dollars. That need grew out of the Pittman Act, a law enacted in 1918 at the urging of and clearly benefiting silver-mining interests. Under this measure, the government was empowered to melt as many as 350 million silver dollars, convert the silver into bullion and then either sell the metal or use it to produce subsidiary silver coinage. It also was required to strike replacement dollars for any and all that were melted.
Aside from helping silver producers, the law also aided Great Britain, a wartime ally at the time. During fiscal years 1918 and 1919, the U. S. government melted a total of more than 270 million silver dollars, and the great majority of these 259,121,554 ended up being sold in bullion form to the British, who needed the silver to deal with a monetary crisis in India. During that same period, the United States melted 11,111,168 silver dollars to obtain new raw material for subsidiary coins of its own.
The coins that were melted under the terms of the Pittman Act represented nearly half the entire production of standard silver dollars (as distinguished from Trade dollars) made by the U. S. Mint up to that date. Even so, the loss was no particular blow to the nation’s commerce. Silver dollars were seeing only limited use, and remaining inventories were more than sufficient to serve commercial needs. Demand for the coins was so minimal, in fact, that none had been produced for more than a dozen years since 1904.
Against this backdrop, the Mint had no reason to strike new silver dollars as replacements for the ones that had been melted but the Pittman Act required it to do so. Accordingly, in 1921, after the price of silver had fallen from postwar highs, it started cranking out the long-suspended Morgan silver dollars once again. It did so, in fact, in record numbers: During that single year, the various mints produced a total of more than 86 million examples easily the highest one-year figure in the series.
By interesting coincidence, Morgan dollar production resumed on the very same day May 9, 1921 that legislation was introduced in Congress calling for the issuance of a new silver dollar marking the postwar peace. As described by its sponsors in a joint resolution, the new coin would bear “an appropriate design commemorative of the termination of the war between the Imperial German Government and the Government of the people of the United States.”
Congress adjourned without taking action on the measure. It turned out, however, that congressional authorization wasn’t really needed, since the Morgan dollar having been produced for more than the legal minimum of 25 years was subject to replacement without specific legislative approval.
To obtain designs for the coin, the federal Commission of Fine Arts arranged a competition involving a small group of the nation’s finest medalists. The nine invitees included such famous artists as Victor D. Brenner, Adolph A. Weinman and Hermon A. MacNeil, all of whom had designed previous U. S. coins. But the winner turned out to be a young Italian immigrant named Anthony de Francisci, whose finely chiseled portrait of Liberty was modeled after his young wife Teresa. The reverse of the coin shows an eagle in repose atop a crag, peering toward the sun through a series of rays, with the word PEACE superimposed on the rock. No other U. S. coin produced for circulation has ever borne that motto.
Production of 1921 Peace dollars didn’t get under way until the final week of December, and just over a million examples were produced. It soon became apparent that the coin’s relief was too high, making it hard to strike and causing excessive die breakage. The Mint corrected the problem in 1922 by reducing the relief but in the process, it somewhat lowered the coin’s aesthetic appeal, as well.
By 1928, the Mint had produced enough Peace dollars to satisfy the Pittman Act’s requirements. It thereupon halted production. The lid on silver dollars was clamped down even tighter with the onset of the Depression the following year. The design returned for a two-year curtain call in 1934, largely because more cartwheels were needed as backing for silver certificates. The 1934-S proved to be one of the key coins in the series, along with the 1921 and the 1928. The mintmark is below the word ONE on the reverse. A handful of matte proofs exist, but only for 1921 and 1922.
Silver dollars of both designs were largely ignored by collectors until the early 1960s, when silver certificate redemptions and the publicity surrounding the Treasury’s sales of $1,000 bags of dollars to all comers created new interest in the large silver coins. Ironically, Peace dollars had been readily available at banks for decades, and following Treasury Department policy, were paid out before Morgan dollars were disbursed. But few collectors were interested in completing sets of these relatively expensive coins, finding it more practical to assemble collections of the smaller denominations: A silver dollar represented a considerable sum in the 1930s and `40s enough to buy five dozen eggs or ten boxes of Wheaties. It wasn’t until the very early 1960s, when the Treasury had almost emptied its vaults of Peace dollars, that the more sought after Morgans started to pour forth, fueling collector enthusiasm for both series in the process.
The entire run of Peace dollars consists of just 24 coins, none of them great rarities. Thus, many collectors strive for complete date-and-mint sets. Pristine, high-grade pieces are elusive, however weak strikes were common, and the broad, open design made the coins vulnerable to wear and damage. Points to check for wear are Liberty’s face, neck and the hair over her ear and above her forehead. On the reverse, wear will first show on the eagle’s wing, leg and head.
The Peace dollar’s early demise was ominously symbolic. Four years later, in 1939, World War II erupted in Europe. The design came very close to reappearing once more in 1964, when Congress authorized production of 45 million new silver dollars, apparently in an effort to serve the needs of Nevada gambling casinos. With the smaller silver coins rapidly disappearing from circulation, this was viewed as a gift to special interests. After the Denver Mint produced 316,076 Peace dollars (dated 1964) in May of 1965, the authorization was rescinded by order of President Johnson. Although all pieces were to be recalled and melted, rumors persist of several coins surviving.
PHOTO PROOF – Copyright © 1994-2014 Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. All rights reserved.
1878-1921 SILVER MORGAN DOLLAR
Political pressure, not public demand, brought the Morgan dollar into being. There was no real need for a new silver dollar in the late 1870s the last previous “cartwheel,” the Liberty Seated dollar, had been legislated out of existence in 1873, and hardly anyone missed it.
Silver-mining interests did miss the dollar, though, and lobbied Congress forcefully for its return. The Comstock Lode in Nevada was yielding huge quantities of silver, with ore worth $36 million being extracted annually. After several futile attempts, the silver forces in Congress led by Representative Richard (“Silver Dick”) Bland of Missouri finally succeeded in winning authorization for a new silver dollar when Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act on February 28, 1878. This Act required the Treasury to purchase at market levels between two million and four million troy ounces of silver bullion every month to be coined into dollars. This amounted to a massive subsidy, coming at a time when the dollar’s face value exceeded its intrinsic worth by nearly 10%.
In November 1877, nearly four months before passage of the Bland-Allison Act, the Treasury saw the handwriting on the wall and began making preparations for a new dollar coin. Mint Director Henry P. Linderman ordered Chief Engraver William Barber and one of his assistants, George T. Morgan, to prepare pattern dollars, with the best design to be used on the new coin. Actually, Linderman fixed this “contest” in Morgan’s favor he had been dissatisfied with the work of the two Barbers William and his son, Charles, and in 1876 had hired Morgan, a talented British engraver, with plans to entrust him with new coin designs. At that time, resumption of silver dollar coinage was not yet planned, and Morgan began work on designs intended for the half dollar. Following Linderman’s orders that a head of Liberty should replace the full-figure depiction then in use, Morgan recruited Philadelphia school teacher Anna Willess Williams to pose for the new design.
Morgan’s obverse features a left-facing portrait of Miss Liberty. The reverse depicts a somewhat scrawny eagle which led some to vilify the coin as a “buzzard dollar.” The designer’s initial M appears on both sides a first. It’s on the truncation of Liberty’s neck and on the ribbon’s left loop on the reverse. Mintmarks (O, S, D, and CC) are found below the wreath on the reverse. Points to check for wear on Morgans are the hair above Liberty’s eye and ear, the high upper fold of her cap and the crest of the eagle’s breast.
Soon after production began, someone advised the Mint that the eagle should have seven tail feathers, instead of the eight being shown, and Linderman ordered this change. As a result, some 1878 Morgan dollars have eight feathers, some seven and some show seven over eight. The seven-over-eight variety is the scarcest, though all are fairly common.
More than half a billion Morgan dollars were struck from 1878 through 1904, with production taking place at the main mint in Philadelphia and the branches in New Orleans, San Francisco and Carson City. Carson City production was generally much lower and ended altogether after that branch was closed in 1893. The coin came back for one final curtain call in 1921, when more than 86 million examples were produced under the terms of the Pittman Act at Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver but that was a double-edged sword: Under the 1918 legislation, more than 270 million older silver dollars, almost all Morgans, had been melted. The law required replacements for these, but most were of the Peace design, which replaced the Morgan version at the end of 1921.
In all, some 657 million Morgan dollars were produced in 96 different date-and-mint combinations. Hundreds of millions were melted over the years by the government under the Pittman Act and the Silver Act of 1942, and by private refiners since the late 1960s, when rising silver prices made this profitable. Despite all the melting, Americans had more than enough Morgans to fill their daily needs, since the dollars circulated regularly only in the West. As a result, huge stockpiles remained in the Treasury’s vaults, as well as bank vaults nationwide. This explains why so many Morgan dollars are so well preserved today despite their age few saw actual use.
Even as the numismatic hobby underwent rapid growth beginning in the 1930s, interest in other collecting areas far outpaced the attention paid to the large Morgan cartwheels. Most collectors preferred the lower face-value coins (with their lower cost) that were readily available in circulation. Although it was possible to order silver dollars through banks or directly from the Treasury, few noticed or cared. In the late 1930s, however, several Washington dealers learned that the Treasury Department’s Cash Room near the White House was paying out uncirculated Carson City dollars coins having a market value of $5 or more at the time! More than a few dealers quietly exploited this discovery throughout the 1940s and `50s.
In the early 1960s, with silver rising in price, opportunists recognized the chance to turn fast profits by redeeming silver certificates for dollar coins mostly Morgans at the Treasury. By the time the government closed this lucrative window in 1964, only 2.9 million cartwheels were left in its vaults, almost all of them scarce Carson City Morgans. These were dispersed by the General Services Administration in a series of mail-bid sales from 1972 through 1980, earning big profits for the government and triggering great new interest in silver dollars.
Interest in Morgans was further heightened by the publicity surrounding the 400,000+ dollars found in the basement of Nevada eccentric LaVere Redfield’s home. After word leaked out of the amazing cache, several dealers got into the act, each jockeying for position in a scramble that ultimately ended with a Probate Court auction held in January of 1976. At that sale, A-Mark Coins of Los Angeles captured the hoard with a winning bid of $7.3 million. The coins were cooperatively marketed by a number of dealers over a period of several years. Rather than depressing prices, the orderly dispersal of these coins only served to bring more collectors into the Morgan dollar fold. Similarly, the early 1980s witnessed the equally successful distribution of the 1.5 million silver dollars in the Continental Bank hoard.
The Morgan dollar’s story is a Cinderella tale: Until the 1960s, it was largely ignored by the public. Since then, it has gradually become among the most widely pursued and desired of all U. S. coins. Although many collectors find the challenge of assembling a complete date and mintmark set in Mint State compelling, others satisfy themselves with collecting just one coin per year. Exceptional specimens are also sought after by type collectors.
Major keys include 1895, 1893-S, 1895-O, 1892-S, 1889-CC, 1884-S and 1879-CC. Mint records show that 12,000 business-strike dollars were made in Philadelphia in 1895, but only proofs are known the mintage of these is 880. Proofs were made for every year in the series, but only a few brilliant proofs variously reported at 15 to 24 are known for 1921. Prooflike Morgans also are highly prized and are collected in both Prooflike (PL) and Deep-Mirror Prooflike (DPL or DMPL).
Few coins in U.S. history have been greeted with more indifference at the time of their release than this silver dollar. And few, if any, have then gone on to stimulate such passionate excitement among collectors.
PHOTO PROOF – Copyright © 1994-2014 Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. All rights reserved.
The federal government began issuing its own currencies during the Civil War as it tried to meet funding and money circulation emergencies. In 1861, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase directed the Treasury to issue Demand Notes to pay expenses. As the first national currency, Demand Notes earned their name from the fact that they were redeemable on demand for gold coin at the Treasury.
The government also created the United States Note, another currency designed as a temporary financing measure, with the passage of the Legal Tender Act of February 25, 1862. Almost bankrupt, the United States needed money to pay suppliers and troops during the Civil War. The plan was to print a limited supply of U.S. Notes to meet the crisis. However, U.S. Notes became popular and were issued for decades, coming to be known as Greenbacks.
The Civil War also brought about a shortage of coins. In response to this problem, Treasury issued currency notes in denominations of less than one dollar, ranging from three cents to fifty cents, in 1863. These small value notes are known as fractional currency. They were the first notes printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and were issued until 1876.
In an effort to get control over the chaos of the monetary system, Secretary Chase advocated the creation of a system of National Banks in 1863 that would issue a uniform, national currency. The National Bank Act of June 3, 1864, created National Bank Notes that were redeemable at any National Bank of the Treasury. The notes proved a success, and were issued well into the 20th century.
In the same year it authorized National Bank Notes, Congress also created another new form of currency, Gold Certificates. One could deposit gold at the Treasury and receive Gold Certificates in exchange. The first Gold Certificates were issued in November 1865, with a maximum denomination of $10,000.
By 1878, U.S. Notes, National Bank Notes, and Gold Certificates co-circulated. That same year, Congress introduced the Silver Certificate. The act authorizing these notes allowed people to deposit silver coins in the Treasury in exchange for certificates, giving people an alternative to carrying numerous silver dollars. Silver Certificates became very popular and were a major form of currency for many years.
Twelve years later, the growth of silver mining in the United States led to another form of currency known as Treasury Coin Notes, which the Treasury Note Act of 1890 authorized. Until 1893, the law required the Treasury to purchase silver bullion and to pay for it with the new notes.
The close of the 19th century saw various forms of currency co-circulating in the nation’s economy, but money-related economic and banking crises continued. A central problem revolved around the inability of the supply of these currencies to expand or contract to meet economic conditions. Part two of this series, to be posted later this week, will explore the solution to this problem.
Silver as Money: A History of US Silver Coins
The history of silver as money goes back many thousands and thousands of years. Silver coinage first appeared around 600 BC in current day Turkey, and from there it has been used in every major empire, from the Greeks & Romans to the Spanish and current day United States.
I’d like to take a look at the history of US silver coins that have been used as money since our nation begun. It’s amazing how few people even realize that for the first
175 years of the US, silver was used in everyday coins and circulated throughout the economy as common money up until the year 1964, when they stopped making silver coins.
Even though many coins overlap in dates, I organized the events in a timeline to view it in chronological order. I also included the dates of the various Coinage Acts and how they affected silver coinage. Take some time to look at the coins’ designs and appreciate the artwork.
It begins. The Constitution goes into effect after the 1st Congress convened on March 4, 1789, replacing the Articles of Confederation. The power to coin money was given to Congress, and no state shall . make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts. Article I Section 10.
The Coinage Act of 1792 establishes the First Mint in Philadelphia, PA and that the silver dollar would be the unit of Money in the US. From this Act would eventually come the following silver coins, the Silver Dollar, half dollar, quarter dollar, dime, and half dime.
Also, the ratio of 1 gold unit would equal 15 silver units of given proportion. Oh, and for anyone caught debasing (replacing the silver with other metals) or making fake silver coins, the death penalty! How times have changed.
Considered to be the first coin ever minted, the Flowing Hair Half Dime was struck for just 2 years from 1794-1795. Coin was designed by Robert Scot and contains approximately 89.2% silver and 10.8% copper weighing only about 1.35 grams and containing roughly 0.0434 ounces of silver. There is an estimated 86,425 coins in circulation, so these coins will sell for a good 5 figures in the right condition.
Continuing in the Flowing Hair series is the Flowing Hair Half Dollar, or the standard fifty-cent piece. Although the dollar was the standard, the half dollar quickly became more common in everyday transactions due to its mass circulation and lighter weight. Plus, with .434 troy ounces of silver at 89.2% with the remaining balance in copper, a single half dollar was sometimes more than a day's wages in 1795. A total of 323,144 flowing hair half dollars were minted.
The Flowing Hair Dollar is one of the most unique and prized silver dollar coin in the US mintage history. Interestingly is that this coin was based on the weight and size of the Spanish Dollar, which was very prevalent at the time. A recent 1794 Flowing Hair Dollar sold for over $10 million dollars! A total of 162,053 coins were struck, about half that of the Half Dollar.
Quickly ending the Flowing Hair design, the Draped Bust Dollar began circulating in 1795 up until 1804. It was rumored that the new mint director, Henry William de Saussure appointed in 1795, was responsible for the abrupt change in design. The 1804 Draped Bust Dollar is notorious for its rarity & prestige. It was requested by President Andrew Jackson to be back-minted for trade missions and is often titled the "King of Coins".
The draped bust half dime began circulation in 1795 only to end 2 years later in 1797. The series continued in 1800 - 1805. There were 2 obverse designs, the small eagle and a large heraldic eagle with outstretched wings (shown). All the coins were minted in Philadelphia with no mintmark and a total of 179,027 half dimes were struck, with only 3,060 coins in the year 1802.
The Draped Bust Dime was the first dime to appear in the US. With no indication of its denomination, the coin's obverse featured 15 stars to represent each of the states in the Union. When Tennessee entered in 1797, 16 stars were included, but was changed back to the original 13 by Elias Boudinot to prevent clutter with new states being added. Over 469,406 Draped Bust dimes were struck and included 31 different varieties of dimes.
The Draped Bust Quarter was the first quarter to appear in the US. Interesting to note, how common the quarter is today, yet the half-dime, half-dollar, and silver dollar were all minted earlier. After just 1 year of minting, the Draped Bust quarter was halted and only resumed in 1804 again with the heraldic eagle on the obverse. A total of 561,045 coins were minted, with the 1796 Draped Bust Quarter being the rarest.
The end of the Draped Bust series, the Draped Bust Half Dollar again features lady Liberty with flowing hair tied in a ribbon that extends into the draped bust. Rumor has it that Ann Willing Bingham was the lady featured on the Draped Bust series, drawn by artist Gilbert Stuart. Over 1,604,705 coins were struck with only 3,918 coins for the years 1796-1797.
Moving on from the Draped Bust, the next design in American silver coinage was the Capped Bust. For the Capped Bust Half Dollar it was struck from 1807 - 1839. This design shows Liberty wearing a cloth cap on her head instead of the flowing free hair in previous designs. The denomination is noted with a 50 Cents or Half Dol. With this series, a significant ramp up in production of coins appears, with around 91,088,096 Capped Bust Half Dollars struck.
Capped Bust Dime featuring Lady Liberty wearing a Phrygian or Freedom Cap, this was often used as a symbol of the American Revolutionary War. This design was by German born, John Reich who replaced Robert Scot's earlier designs. Denomination is noted by 10 C. for 10 cents. Total coins minted are 71,690,392 Capped Bust Dimes with 123 known varieties.
Capped Bust Quarters enter the scene in the year 1815 til 1838 with a pause from 1828 - 1831. With new machinery and equipment the US Mint would continue production. Denomination of this coin is marked by a 25 C. Proofs also exist with this coin, but are extremely rare with immense value. Total circulation strikes of this coin are 5,328,984 Capped Bust Quarters.
Concluding the Capped Bust series is the Capped Bust Half Dime which began circulation in 1829 after a 24 year hiatus. The same date that coincided with the inauguration of the second Philadelphia Mint which would eventually open in 1833. The total number of Capped bust Half Dimes struck were 13,058,700, with just under 10-20 proofs per year.
The Coinage Act of 1834 was responsible for raising the silver-to-gold ratio from 15:1 since 1792 to 16:1. This put a 1 ounce gold coin at $20.67. The history behind its passage lies with President Andrew Jackson and his fight against a Central Bank. President Jackson feared a Central Bank would use its power to exploit the country (How right he was!).
The Gobrecht Dollar was the first silver dollar produced since the halt of minting silver dollars in 1805. Designed by Christian Gobrecht, his name is prominently displayed on the coin just above the year. This design would ultimately make way for the next major series in American Coinage, the Seated Liberty. A restrike of the coin in 1837 led to the standard 90% silver 10% copper composition instead of the 89.2% and 10.8% of previous years. An estimated 1900 were produced making them very rare and valuable. It was also the
The Seated Liberty Half Dime was the last half dime ever minted. In this design, taking from Gobrecht, we have Lady Liberty seated holding a shield looking over her shoulder. The reverse features the inscription United States of America with the denomination "Half Dime". A total of 84,828,478 coins were struck at the New Orleans, San Francisco, and Philadelphia Mints.
The Seated Liberty Dime not much different than the half dime, features Liberty sitting on a rock holding a staff. She also dons a Liberty cap with the Liberty shield in her right hand. There are many varieties of this series large vs. small date, partial drapery vs. no drapery, closed bud vs. open bud, and short flag vs. long flag to name a few. Total circulation strikes are 247,477,444.
The Seated Liberty Quarter was debuted in 1838 and continued production until 1891. Several years feature the Carson City Mint Mark or CC from 1870 - 1878. These are a very sought after coin as they are very rare fetching extremely high prices. The total coins struck were 155,910,955.
The Seated Liberty Half Dollar continues the series with Lady Liberty on the obverse and the heraldic eagle on the reverse, which was taken from earlier designs by John Reich. This coin was struck at 4 different mints: New Orleans, San Francisco, Carson City, and Philadelphia which minted a majority of the coins. In total over 155,215,816 half dollars were struck in circulation.
The Seated Liberty Silver Dollar started up production in 1840 after demand again began requesting the silver dollar again for circulation. However, soon after the California Gold Rush began which pushed the price of silver up relative to gold. This urged people to keep the coins as bullion or export them overseas to foreign investors. The Civil War from 1861 - 1865, also limited coins being struck as well as entering circulation due to the presence of inflationary greenbacks. The Coinage Act of 1873 finally ended minting of the silver dollar.
The 3 cent silver piece was a one of a kind coin, that was minted from 1851 – 1873. This denomination was requested because at the time the postage stamps were 3 cents. 1851 – 1853, the coin was 75% silver and 25% copper, until in 1854 the coin changed to 90% silver and 10% copper to promote use. These coins were called 'fishscales' because of their small size and ease of discolor. One of main reasons for removal was the confusion with the silver dime which was similar in diameter. Over 42,718,300 3 cent silver pieces were minted for circulation.
The Coinage Act of 1864 authorized Congress and the US Mint to place the phrase "In God We Trust" on all silver coins. The phrase would later replace E Plubris Unum as the national Motto. For a more in depth look, read a History of 'In God We Trust', on the Treasury.gov website. This Act also authorized the minting of the 2 cent copper piece.
The Coinage Act of 1873, also known as the Crime of 1873, was the Act that put the US on the Gold Standard, thus demonetizing silver. As a result of this Act, it stopped the production of the silver dollar (Seated Liberty) but allowed the minting of a Trade Dollar for foreign commerce. It also stopped production of the 3 cent piece and the half dime. The Free Silver Movement would spring forth as miners and other silver proponents fought to bring silver back.
The short-lived US Trade Dollar has a unique history. It was specifically made for foreign use and international trade. With the Coinage Act of 1873 that demonetized silver, the Trade Dollar was a way to continue using silver dollars. The designer of this coin was William Barber who was the fifth Chief Engraver at the US Mint. A majority of the coins were sent to the Far East, specifically China and Hong Kong for commerce to compete with the Spanish Silver Dollar. Business strikes were minted up until 1878, with proof strikes lasting until 1885 when the coin ceased being struck. A total of 35,965,939 coins were struck.
The US Twenty Cent Piece had a short life of only 3 years. The failure of this coin to take off was it resembled too much in similarity and size to the quarter, so people often confused the two. Banks were reluctant to be buying silver twenty cent pieces so demand was also absent. The design is very similar to the Seated Liberty series on the obverse and contains the full denomination "Twenty Cents" on the reverse. 1,349,930 coins were minted for circulation.
Resuming production of the silver dollar since the Coinage Act of 1873 is the Morgan Dollar. This coin features Lady Liberty's side profile on the obverse with a heraldic eagle and outstretched wings on the reverse. The Act that jump started production again was the Bland-Allison Act which stated the Mint would purchase said amount of silver per month and strike them into coins. Production continued until 1904 when it stopped and resumed again only for 1 year in 1921, when the Peace Dollar took over. 656,930,590 total coins were minted.
The Barber dime is the next in American coinage series featured on the dime, quarter, and half dollar. Designed by Chief Engraver, Charles Barber, the dime features Liberty on the obverse wearing a wreath and headband with the words Liberty. The highlight in this series is the 1894-S Barber dime, which is a highly coveted coin in the numismatic world comparable to the 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar. One recently sold for over $2 million dollars! Total coins in circulation is 504,515,051.
Barber Quarters came into circulation in 1892. The head of Liberty is a purely classical rendition of a Roman style portrait and is also referenced to the French 'Ceres' coinage in the late 19th century. The reverse differs from the Barber dime by featuring a heraldic eagle representing the Great Seal of the US. 2 key dates with low minting making the coin value rare and high are 1901-S and the 1913-S strikes. A total of 264,670,792 coins were struck.
1892 was a busy year, the first basketball game was played in Massachusetts, General Electric is formed, University of Chicago opens, and the 1892 Barber Half Dollar is struck! This coin was struck at all 4 mints Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans, and the San Francisco Mint. The 1892-O and the 1914 Half Dollars can fetch high prices due to their rarity. A total of 135,898,329 coins were minted.
The Winged Liberty Head or "Mercury" Dime, is sometimes said to be the most beautiful coin ever minted! Breaking away from Barber's design, the obverse figure is Goddess Liberty, not the Greek mythological one, wearing a Phrygian cap with wings to the side of its head symbolizing freedom of thought. On the reverse is a fasces or bundle of rods with a blade to the left side. Mintages of this coin soared with a total of 2,676,523,880 coins.
Following the Barber Quarter is the Standing Liberty Quarter. This new design by Hermon MacNeil, depicts Liberty standing facing to the viewer's right with shield in her left and an olive branch in her right hand as she walks through a gate with the inscription "In God We Trust". Doris Doscher, a silent movie actor, posed as Lady Liberty for MacNeil. A flying eagle is on the reverse. A total of 226,770,400 quarters were minted.
The Walking Liberty Half Dollar design was a result of a Fine Arts competition that the Mint Director Robert Woolley held. The obverse features Lady Liberty walking towards a dawning sun holding branches with the US flag over her shoulder. The reverse depicts an eagle perched on a branch in a heraldic pose. The Walking Liberty design would later be borrowed to mint the ever popular American Silver Eagle. 485,320,340 half dollars were produced.
The Peace Dollar is the last silver dollar to be struck for circulation. The design was to represent "Peace" memorializing the end and peace after World War I. The initial design was that of a broken sword, but was immediately rejected as it conjured up thoughts of defeat. The obverse features Liberty's side portrait with the reverse an eagle at rest with an olive branch in its grip. Production ceased in 1935. In 1964, trial production of the Peace Dollar began again, only to be stopped as political pressure was applied about the hoarding of coins. This would eventually lead to the Coinage Act of 1965. In total, 190,577,270 coins were minted.
The Washington Quarter was struck to honor and celebrate the bicentennial birth of the first president George Washington. There was actual intention of a Washington Half Dollar but later was changed to the quarter, due to waning demand from the Depression. The obverse of the coin depicts Washington's head facing left, the reverse features a bald eagle outstretched on a bundle of arrows and two olive branches below. 90% silver quarters would cease in 1965 with the Coinage Act, but the Washington quarter would continue being struck until 1998 in 75% copper and 25% nickel. A total of 3,776,126,601 silver quarters were struck.
The Jefferson 'Wartime' Nickel was initially minted beginning in 1938, but for a brief period from 1942-1945 it was struck in 35% silver and 56% copper with the remains in manganese. The reason for the change was because during World War II, nickel was in high demand and a critical metal, so the Mint adjusted the composition. Wartime nickels had their Mintmarks above the Monticello on the reverse, while all other nickels had theirs positioned to the right. A total of 869,896,100 nickels were struck during this period.
Following Franklin D. Roosevelt's death in 1945, Congress soon pushed for replacing the Mercury dime with Roosevelt's image. This was also to honor his work with the March of Dimes, which raised donations to fight polio and infantile paralysis. John R. Sinnock was the chief engraver at the time and responsible for the current design. Silver content was removed in 1965, however, this coin and its design continues to this day. A total of 6,595,617,673 silver dimes were put in circulation.
The Franklin Half Dollar features Benjamin Franklin on the obverse and a cracked Liberty bell on the reverse. Many critics complained the crack featured on the bell would be ridiculed, but the Mint continued anyway. It also features a small eagle next to the bell, to satisfy the legal requirement that all Half Dollars must depict an eagle. The Mint Director at the time, Nellie Tayloe Ross, wanted to honor Franklin and his famous quote of "A penny saved is a penny earned". A total of 465,814,455 Franklin half dollars were minted.
With the death of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, there was immediate discussion to put Kennedy on a coin as a memorial. Jacqueline Kennedy preferred the half dollar as she did not want to replace Washington on the quarter. In March 1964 the Kennedy Half Dollar began production. The majority of these coins were never circulated due to collectors. Starting in 1965, the silver content was reduced from 90% down to 40% to encourage circulation but the coin was still kept in individual's hands. In 1971, silver was completely eliminated from the coin, yet the half dollar had been so long out of circulation banks & the population expressed little interest in using it. A total of 848,895,006 Kennedy Half dollars with silver were struck.
This act completely eliminated silver from dimes and quarters, and reduced the silver content from 90% to 40% in the Kennedy Half Dollars. This act was brought about because of coin shortages from people hoarding silver as the price rose relative to the USD. Prseident LBJ who signed the act into Law commented,
"When I have signed this bill before me, we will have made the first fundamental change in our coinage in 173 years. The Coinage Act of 1965 supersedes the act of 1792. And that act had the title: An Act Establishing a Mint and Regulating the Coinage of the United States. "
In an ironic sense, he goes on to state,
"If anybody has any idea of hoarding our silver coins, let me say this. Treasury has a lot of silver on hand, and it can be, and it will be used to keep the price of silver in line with its value in our present silver coin. There will be no profit in holding them out of circulation for the value of their silver content. "
You can read President Lyndon B. Johnson's full remarks on signing the act.
The one question that remains is:
When will the Coinage Act that reintroduces silver into our Monetary system be signed into effect?