"1917" Peace Silver Dollar "Broken Sword" over-strike, High Relief, WW1 100th Anniversary
Item Number: mm_0100_1917_A
“1964-D” & "1965-D" Over-Struck Peace Silver Dollars –
2017 is the 100th anniversary of the United
States entering World War 1. The Peace Dollar was first minted in 1921 to
commemorate the “peace” following the end of WW1. But WW1 was an epic failure
on the part of world leaders for letting it happen in the first place, and for
mismanaging the aftermath which lead to WW2 and other problems which continue
to this day. In prophetic fashion, the intended final design for the reverse of
the 1921 Peace Dollar included the Eagle clutching a broken sword. At the time,
most people felt that the broken sword symbolized defeat, not peace or victory.
So the sword was removed from the master hub before the working dies or coins were
Chronology of events regarding the
"Broken Sword" Peace Dollar design:
A.) A design competition was
conducted for the new "Peace" Dollar by the US Mint, with James Earle
Fraser managing it. This was late in 1921 and time was already extremely short,
given that the Treasury desired to issue the new coin before the end of the
B.) One of the invited
artists/sculptors was Anthony De Francisci. His initial submission consisted of
one obverse design and two reverse designs. All three were submitted as plaster
models, along with photographs of each. The obverse was similar to the final
coin, except for having a Roman numeral date and slightly different facial
profile. One reverse was similar to the final coin, but with a slightly shorter
and narrower Eagle. The other reverse was significantly different and it showed
an Eagle breaking a sword in its beak.
C.) After reviewing the models
submitted, the De Francisci design was chosen, with certain revisions desired.
With Fraser's assistance, De Francisci prepared a new model for the obverse
with a normal "1921" date (with dots on either side) and a modified
facial profile. The reverse Eagle was made slightly wider and taller, the word
"PEACE" was added to the crag below the Eagle, and a broken sword was
added, laying horizontally and clutched by the Eagle. De Francisci's other
(rejected) reverse design had a broken sword. It is not entirely clear what
prompted De Francisci to add these two new elements to the reverse. The
Commission in charge of choosing the design may have thought that the broken
sword, in conjunction with "PEACE", adequately conveyed the message
that the coin was supposed to present.
D.) In New York, Fraser kept
plaster models of the final obverse and reverse designs while De Francisci
travelled to Washington DC on 19 December with identical plasters. These were
shown to US Mint and Treasury officials, as well as President Harding. The
designs were accepted by all. De Francisci telephoned the good news to Fraser.
Fraser suggested that bronze casts be made from the fragile plasters he had in
New York. One of each was made at a cost of $15 per. Presumably, the dots on
either side of the date were removed from the obverse plaster before the bronze
casting was made. A later (26 December) letter from Fraser to Mint Director
Baker mentions "... an added expense of $30 for two bronze casts of the
models of the Peace Dollar".
E.) On 21 December the
plaster models and bronze cast arrived at the Philadelphia Mint. This is stated
in a letter written to US Mint Director Baker from Philadelphia Mint
Superintendent Styer :
I beg to advise you that we received at 2:30 P.M. today the plaster casts of
both sides, and bronze castings of the obverse side of the models for the
"Peace Dollar". The messenger who delivered these models stated to
Mr. Morgan that Mr. Fraser said that the casting was poor, and suggested that
we get an electrotype from obverse as well as the reverse side and if better
than the one made in New York, to use it. Mr. Morgan is of the opinion that Mr.
Fraser meant the casting was a little rough but he thinks it is not so much so
as to give us trouble in reduction. The bronze casting of the reverse
was a failure and we must now get our electrotype from the reverse plaster cast
here. It would be impossible to get electrotypes of both sides and make our
reductions in time to produce coins this year. Mr. Morgan is quite satisfied
that he will be able to get a satisfactory reduction from the casting made in
New York. Unless something unforeseen happens, and by using the New York
casting, we ought to have dies for coinage by December 29th.
Respectfully, Freas Styer, Superintendent
That letter explains a lot. The New York bronze cast of the obverse was
used in reduction to make the obverse master hub. An electrotype
"galvano" was made at the Philadelphia Mint from the reverse side
plaster. This galvano was used in reduction to make the reverse master hub
(which included the broken sword).
F.) News reports of the
broken sword design resulted in a public reaction against it. The general
sentiment being that it symbolized defeat, not Peace or Victory. Available time
was insufficient to make a new plaster, casting, galvano or master hub without
the sword. So De Francisci was asked by Fraser to travel to the Philadelphia
Mint on 23 December and oversee Morgan's work on the master hub. Morgan
carefully removed the sword from the one and only reverse master hub. A master
die was then made from that hub and Morgan engraved some new details on that
master die to fill in the area where the sword was removed. Working hubs,
working dies, and finished coins were then made from there. Due to the
additional transfers required to do this, it is possible that some detail was
lost resulting in a generally soft appearance of the reverse on the struck
G.) Some time after the first
coins were struck De Francisci made an additional plaster model of each side,
possibly for sentimental and/or promotional purposes. These have slightly
revised details (different than the actual coins) and they lack the broken
It is probable that the “failed" broken sword casting that Styer mentioned
was not sent to the Philadelphia Mint and it likely remained in private hands.
In late 2016 this casting, apparently, was discovered by Daniel Carr. It was
being offered for sale on the internet by a “picker” who presumably picked it
up at a garage sale or flea market. Shortly thereafter, it was acquired by
Daniel Carr and Moonlight Mint. The full significance of the item was not
initially appreciated by the parties involved. The casting exhibits detail and
relief that is superior to any struck coins issued by the US Mint, including
the 1921 “high-relief” proof issue.
An image of the casting is shown above. The
hole that was drilled in it may have been a way to mark it as rejected, as well
as a hanging point for display by the owner. The reason that the casting was
deemed a failure is unknown. But many things can go wrong. A casting can come
out warped (coins made from it wouldn't stack very well). Or a casting could
have localized imperfections such as galling, especially on steeper relief
slopes. Although not severe, the broken sword bronze casting exhibits both of
Bill Fivaz photographed the original obverse bronze cast on a visit to
the Philadelphia Mint archives some years ago. Fivaz noted a somewhat rough
texture on the obverse cast, which matches the texture of the reverse cast. It
is interesting to note that he did not encounter any bronze casting of the
reverse in the Philadelphia Mint archives. That fits with the Steyer letter,
that the reverse bronze casting was not sent to the Philadelphia Mint and that
is why it turned up in private hands later on.
This “broken sword” casting was scanned in 3D at high resolution and used in a
digital reduction process to produce the die which was used for the reverse of
the “1917” fantasy-date over-strikes. Once scanned, the slight warping was
corrected by straightening the scan. The original casting has a diameter of 7.5
inches. After an exact 1:5 reduction, the diameter of the die engraving is the
appropriate 1.5 inches. With an identical 1:5 reduction of the relief height,
the depth of the engraving is 0.030 inches, which is TWICE that of the actual
1921 “high relief” Peace Dollars produced by the US Mint.
Peace Dollar Depth of Relief
“Broken Sword” casting (after 1:5
1921 “High Relief”
1922-1935 low relief
Morgan Dollar Depth of Relief
So it is apparent that even on the 1921 high-relief issue, the US Mint had
already reduced the reverse side relief height by HALF of what was originally
intended by De Francisci. The later low-relief Peace Dollars had significantly
lower relief on the obverse, but only slightly lower relief on the reverse
compared to the 1921 high-relief issue.
The “1917” fantasy-date over-strike obverse was modeled after the 1921
high-relief issue and has the same obverse relief height. The reverse exhibits
the FULL intended detail and relief (0.030”), as well as the broken sword. No
other Peace Dollar comes close, and that is readily apparent when viewing one
of these over-strikes in hand.
3/5/2017 11:24 AM
Amazing that Dan and the Moonlight Mint acquired De Francisci's original and long lost bronze reverse casting of the initially intended "broken sword" design of the Peace Dollar. What he has done with this is simply stunning. A true high relief the way the Peace Dollar was meant to be. The eagle literally pops off of the fields with every feather and small detail clearly defined. Bravo Dan! These will go down in Moonlight Mint history and rival the 1964-D Peace Dollars you released in 2010.
Love the PEACE
3/1/2017 9:23 AM
Dan is the MAN, Love these peace dollars. AAAAAA+++++++++
Love the PEACE
3/1/2017 9:23 AM
Dan is the MAN, Love these peace dollars. AAAAAA+++++++++
Turning history into reality!!!!
2/27/2017 6:40 PM
The "broken sword" bronze cast should go down as one of the most important finds in recent time. Pleased that Dan is the owner, and purveyor of this design for collectors to enjoy!!!
Thanks Dan, your work rocks!
Peace Dollars Never Looked This Good !
2/24/2017 6:35 PM
Simply a stunning creation, perhaps the best yet !