Now that it is award season, Professional Coin Grading Service is getting into the act by release its first annual listing of the “PCGS Top 100 Modern United States Coins.” PCGS is using the rising popularity of modern coins, those minted since the change to base metals in 1965, to bring this list to the public. PCGS announced the list on January 11, 2013, during a luncheon at the Florida United Numismatics Convention in Orlando, Florida.

PCGS is offering a $10,000 reward to verify a genuine 1964-D Peace dollar, the number one coin on the new PCGS Top 100 Modern U.S. Coins list.  This image is a PCGS artist's conception of a 1964-D Peace dollar.

PCGS is offering a $10,000 reward to verify a genuine 1964-D Peace dollar, the number one coin on the new PCGS Top 100 Modern U.S. Coins list. This image is a PCGS artist’s conception of a 1964-D Peace dollar.

Topping the list is the 1964-D Peace dollar, a coin that was struck but never put into circulation and allegedly destroyed.

“Mint records indicate that 316,076 1964-dated silver Peace dollars were struck at the Denver Mint in May 1965,” said Don Willis , President of PCGS, “but they were all were supposed to be destroyed.”

PCGS believes that not every 1964-D Peace dollar was destroyed and has offered a $10,000 reward “just to view in person and verify a genuine 1964-D Peace dollar.”

In 1964 the price of silver rose to new heights that it made the value of ordinary circulating coins worth more for their metals than their face value. Because of this, silver coins were being hoarded by the public and becoming scarce in circulation. Western states that relied on hard currency including the gaming areas of Nevada needed the U.S. Mint to strike additional coins for circulation.

The striking of a dollar coin had a powerful ally: Senator Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, Democrat from Montana, whose state would be directly affected by the new coins. Although the numismatic press was not in favor of the measure because of its limited ability to solve the coin shortage, Mansfield pushed a bill through congress to authorize the Mint to strike 45 million silver dollars.

After much discussion, the Mint looked for working dies but found that few survived a 1937 destruction order. Those that did survive were in poor condition. Mint Assistant Engraver Frank Gasparro, who would later become the Mint’s 10th Chief Engraver, was authorized to create new dies of the Peace dollar with the “D” mintmark. Since the coins would mostly circulate in the west it was logical to strike them closest to the area of interest.

Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon was opposed to the the coin and wrote a letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson saying that the coins would not be likely to circulate and be hoarded. After Dillon resigned, Mansfield questioned the new Secretary, Henry H. Fowler, who assured Mansfield that the coins would be struck.

Although Mint Director Eva Adams, who was from Nevada, also objected to striking the coin, the Denver Mint began trial strikes of the Peace dollar on May 12, 1965.

When the coins were announced three days later, coin dealers immediately offered $7.50 per coin which would ensure that they would not circulate as intended. Everyone saw this as a poor use of Mint resources during a time of sever coin shortages. Adams announced that the pieces were trial strikes never intended for circulation and were later melted under reportedly heavy security.

To prevent this from happening again, Congress added a provision in the Coinage Act of 1965 (Public Law No. 89-81; 79 Stat. 254) that put a moratorium on striking silver dollars for five years.

There have been reports that some Peace dollars were struck using base metals (copper-nickel clad) as experimental pieces in 1970 in anticipation of the approval of the Eisenhower dollar. The same reports also presume these coins have been destroyed.

“It sometimes takes years for famous coins to surface,” said Hall. “Until 1920, no one knew there actually were 1913 Liberty Head nickels in existence. Until 1962, no one knew the 1804 Draped Bust silver dollar and the other coins in the special presentation set given by the United States to the King of Siam in 1836 were still in existence.”

“When we offered a $10,000 reward in 2003 to be the first to see and authenticate the long-missing Walton specimen 1913 Liberty Head nickel it resulted in the re-discovery of that coin after a 41-year absence from the hobby,” Hall continued. “Perhaps this new reward offer will help solve the mystery of whether any 1964-D Peace dollars survived the melting pots. It’s the number one modern U.S. coin.”

For collectors of silver crown-sized coins and large U.S. dollars, the 1964-D Peace dollar is the ultimate fantasy coin. As someone who collects silver coins including modern bullion issues, it should come as no surprise that I chose the 1964-D Peace dollar for this blog’s logo. My version was made using Photoshop and colored to not look “real” to avoid potential issues from our law enforcement friends at the Department of the Treasury.

It would be difficult to put a price if a version of the coin is found. It would certainly be a unique coin whose auction would start well out of my price range—maybe set a record for being the highest price paid for a single coin, topping the 1933 Farouk-Fenton Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle that sold for $7,590,020 in 2002.

As part of the announcement, PCGS announced the top five in the PCGS Top 100 Modern U.S. Coins as follows:

  1. 1964-D Peace Dollar: The most controversial and one of the most famous of all modern issues.
  2. 1975 proof no “S” mintmark Roosevelt dime: Only two known, and one recently sold at auction for $350,000.
  3. 1974 aluminum Lincoln cent: 1,570,000 were minted but only one is known and is graded PCGS MS62.
  4. 1976 proof no “S” mintmark Bicentennial Type 2 Eisenhower dollar: only one example is known.
  5. 2000-W proof Sacagawea dollar struck in 22 carat gold: 12 are known

1964-D Peace dollar image courtesy of PCGS.

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