What Makes a 1921 Silver Dollar Rare?

Posted - September 1, 2023
what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare

Morgan silver dollars are one of the longest-produced series of American circulation coins. When the U.S. Mint first distributed silver dollars, they garnered immediate attention from collectors all over the country. And even today, investors love the pure silver and American symbolism baked into every one of these storied dollar coins. We don’t have trouble understanding why. After all, the pieces feature some of the most impressive imagery to ever decorate American currency, and the silver dollar is a popular investment choice for collectors who enjoy junk silver. 

But the 1921 silver dollar holds a special place in the heart of global bullion. The 2023 release of bullion Morgan silver dollars from the U.S. Mint revived collector interest in the coins. 1921 was the last year that the coins were released for general circulation. The year also boasted record-breaking mintage numbers and the first set of Morgan dollars distributed by the Denver Mint. What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare? This is the question we’re going to focus on in today’s Bullion Academy article. 

Historical Context of Rare 1921 silver dollars

The historical context behind these storied coins is part of what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare. The 1921 version of the Morgan silver dollar was the last in the series, and these coins wouldn’t be produced again until the U.S. Mint released their highly anticipated bullion Morgan and Peace Silver Dollar Sets in 2023. Even given the current popularity of these coins, it’s highly likely that the 1921 silver dollar will continue to be an in-demand numismatic historical coin. 

Post-World War I Economy

Following World War 1, the United States government passed the Pittman Act, which mandated that the U.S. Mint create silver dollars using the nearly millions of silver that the country had compiled over the past decades. Because British supplies of silver had skyrocketed as a result of the country’s choice to not accept British bank notes in India for silver bullion, the U.S. Pittman Act was a natural way to subsidize the British precious metal supply in our post-WW1 economy. 

1884-CC Morgan Silver Dollar Coin - GSA Obverse
Morgan Silver Dollar Obverse

In fact, the legislation asked the U.S. Mint to strike an unprecedented maximum of 350,000,000 silver dollar coins. We fell just short of this goal, minting only 270,232,722 of the silver dollars. Most of these were sold to the government of the United Kingdom at a hefty discount in order to help the country rebuild their bullion economy. What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare? Its place in post-WW1 history certainly accounts for the coin’s rarity to collectors. 

Introduction of the 1921 Morgan silver dollar

Before the 1921 silver dollar, the Morgan silver dollar was only minted until 1904. The significant break between releases of the popular silver coin is another factor in what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare. Evidence of this aspect of its rarity is even clear today; the explosive popularity of the 2023 Morgan and Peace Silver Dollar Set makes it clear that the coin is still a favorite – even one-hundred years after its initial release. 

Impact of the Pittman Act of 1918

Like we mentioned above, the Pittman Act is an essential part of what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare. The coin is the direct result of legislation from the U.S. government, and this legislation served both to assist our allies in Great Britain and incentivize the mint to produce a new set of popular silver dollars on the homefront. 

Investors love the 1921 silver dollar because of its high silver content, but also because of the important place it occupies in American coinage history. What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare? The coin’s context is an integral contributor to its overall rarity and popularity. 

Factors for Rarity of rare 1921 silver dollars

There are four main factors that determine what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare: limited production numbers, transition from Morgan to Peace design, low survival rates, and varieties and minting errors. 

Limited Production Numbers

If you look through the mintage numbers for the Morgan silver dollar, you’ll notice that the last released edition of the coin was made in much higher quantities than previous editions. So what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare, despite its high mintage numbers? Remember, the 1921 silver dollar was minted in part to help subsidize the supply of silver held by the British government, which helps to explain how they made so many during that year. 

Transition from Morgan to Peace Design

The transition from Morgan to Peace design for the silver dollar is a big reason behind what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare. This coin was the final silver dollar to be minted using the Morgan design on the obverse until the 2023 release of the Morgan and Peace Silver Dollar Set from the U.S. Mint. Additionally, this is the only coin in the series to be minted at the Denver Mint. 

Its place as the final coin in a storied series is what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare. When we combine this factor with the limited number of surviving coins, it’s clear that the 1921 silver dollar is one of the most important coins in the history of the United States Mint. 

Survival Rates Affected by Melting, Circulation, and Hoarding

With any old coin, mintage numbers won’t tell you the whole story. Not all of the hundreds of millions of 1921 silver dollars minted still remain in circulation. A significant number of them were sold to Great Britain. The U.S. government distributed these coins to the British government to help them recoup their stock of silver after a series of decisions led to a depleted silver hoard. 

1884-CC Morgan Silver Dollar Coin - GSA Reverse
Morgan Silver Dollar Reverse

Today, very few 1921 silver dollars remain in decent condition. What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare? The low number of high-grade 1921 silver dollars makes them an uncommon commodity for collectors to enjoy. 

Varieties and Minting Errors

Minting errors on the 1921 silver dollar can also increase the coin’s rarity. What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare, aside from circulation numbers? The presence of rare minting errors can significantly increase the scarcity – and the value – of a 1921 silver dollar. One popular minting error is the “thorn head” minting error. On coins with this rare mistake, the 1921 silver dollar with a mint mark of “S” will contain fewer striking marks than normal coins. These coins often sell for $350 or more on the open market. 

Rarity, Grading, and Price

Low mintage numbers and errors aren’t the only way to answer the question, “what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare?” Grading also closely impacts the value of any numismatically valuable coin, including silver dollars. Coins in near-perfect grade can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, while lowly graded coins are often extremely cheap. 

Condition’s Impact on Value

The impact of condition on value cannot be overstated. What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare in perfect condition? The grade of a coin from the early 1900s is one of the most important aspects behind what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare. Some investors might not know that 1921 silver dollars in the lowest possible condition, PO1, can also sell for hefty sums. It’s hard to find a coin without damage but in the lowest possible grade, making PO1 certified 1921 silver dollars a rare and valuable commodity. 

Notable Examples and Variants

What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare, and how can you find the best coins from this year? Below, we’ll cover some of the unique characteristics shared by the rarest 1921 silver dollar, as well as the coin’s main mint marks. 

Unique Characteristics of Rare 1921 Silver Dollars

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare, but we haven’t given much attention to the actual designs that made the coin famous in the first place. The 1921 silver dollar required the U.S. Mint to make a new set of molds to create this silver dollar, but the designs remained largely unchanged from previous editions. 

On the obverse, you’ll see Lady Liberty as imagined by George T. Morgan, who designed the original Morgan Silver Dollar. She appears on this coin wearing her traditional bonnet, as well as a hair band inscribed with “Liberty.” This side of the 1921 silver dollar also features thirteen stars, which are meant to represent the country’s original thirteen colonies. On the reverse, an American bald eagle takes flight, holding a bundle of arrows and an olive branch in its talons. 

Mention of 1921-D and 1921-S Varieties

In addition to the no mint mark Philadelphia variety, the 1921 silver dollar was also manufactured at the San Francisco and Denver Mints. The “D” mint mark on this coin is part of what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare. The coin was only ever minted at the Denver Mint one time, and this was in 1921. 

Rarity vs. Condition

What makes a 1921 silver dollar rare and valuable? Rarity and condition are both important factors that contribute to the total value and rarity of a 1921 silver dollar coin. We’ll cover how both factors influence 1921 silver dollar values below. 

Rarity vs. Condition’s Impact on Value

These two elements of a coin’s rarity are always important in determining value, but rarity vs. condition are especially essential when we seek to figure out what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare. Coins in moderate to low condition are relatively common, considering the wealth of circulated coins available from the 1921 silver dollar mintage run. There are very few coins available in near-perfect condition, which is what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare in excellent grade. 

2023 Morgan & Peace Silver Dollar Set NGCX 10 FDOI
NGCX 10 Morgan and Peace Silver Dollar Set

Wear, Toning, and Damage’s Influence

Damaged coins are never extremely valuable. While undamaged 1921 silver dollars in PO1 condition carry substantial numismatic value, these coins sell well because it’s rare to find them in such low condition without actual damage. Wear and toning issues are common on coins that are over one-hundred years old, so don’t despair if your 1921 silver dollar is in less-than-perfect condition. But if your coin is damaged, scratched, or bears signs of destruction, it will be worth very little compared to near-perfect coins. 

Collecting and Investing

Are 1921 silver dollars the right move for your bullion coin collection? After all, buying numismatic and old silver coins can be a good way to add diversity to your collection. Additionally, these coins can be important tools for you to stack silver while cutting down on silver premiums. You’re likely to pay smaller premiums over spot price on a 1921 silver dollar than some other silver coins, and the numismatic value appreciation allows you to sustain profits – even when the value of silver takes a nose-dive. 

Advice for Identifying and Acquiring Rare 1921 Silver Dollars

It can be difficult to identify legitimate 1921 silver dollars. These coins were minted before the U.S. Mint developed the modern anti-counterfeiting technologies that characterize recent coin releases. We recommend working with a coin grading and authentication expert if you plan on buying expensive, extremely rare 1921 silver dollars. Professional coin grading services can help consumers ensure that their coins are genuine and not counterfeit scams. 

If your coins are just junk silver, it’s alright to store them in a simple home safe – or even just in a locked drawer. But collectors who decide to buy numismatic coins worth thousands of dollars, additional insurance and protection protocols might be necessary. 

Final Thoughts: What Makes a 1921 Silver Dollar Rare? 

So what makes a 1921 silver dollar rare? Several factors contribute to the scarcity and numismatic significance of the 1921 silver dollar. In this guide, we’ve discussed the coin’s historical context, design variations, and mintage numbers. We recommend that consumers use 1921 silver dollars to add diversity and numismatic value to their collections. Doing so can be a fantastic way to protect your portfolio from the volatility of silver. 

Are you still wondering how 1921 silver dollars can expand and enrich your growing silver portfolio? Reach out to our dedicated customer service for specialized, personalized advice and information. 

About The Author

Michael Roets is a writer and journalist for Hero Bullion. His work explores precious metals news, guides, and commentary.