1921 Morgan Silver Dollar - 1921 Chapman Morgan Dollar NGC PF64. This scarce near-Gem 1921 Morgan Dollar Chapman Proof comes with the famous Chapmen provenance. The coin is a lustrous piece with light toning on the devices and darker fields creating an almost cameo-look. The obverse devices are essentially “white” while the fields are dark brown and tan. The devices on the reverse are tinged with rose-gold color against a teal and blue-green background. Some light hairlines are noted on the obverse, but they cannot be seen without magnification. Similarly, there are a couple of insignificant contact marks on Liberty’s jaw, mentioned merely for the sake of accuracy.
This 1921 Morgan Dollar Chapman Proof is one of two types of Morgan proof dollars made in 1921, each as a result of independent solicitation by two very influential members of the numismatic community. Henry Chapman was a prominent Philadelphia coin dealer. He purchased ten mirror-surface proofs on June 11, 1921. For a number of years it was thought that this number was all that were made. However, Bowers feels that possibly 15 proofs were struck. He notes that the population is not well documented because of many proof-like coins being offered as proofs.
George T. Morgan designed the Morgan silver dollar, which was issued every year from 1878 to 1904 and then again in 1921. Hundreds of millions of Morgan silver dollars were saved in bags of 1,000 each in bank vaults because the federal government created artificial demand for them to satisfy the Western silver interests. Some were melted in the 1918, but large quantities remained in bank vaults and were later bought by investors and collectors. Because many millions of Morgan silver dollars exist today in the hands of the public, the Morgan silver dollar has become the most widely collected coin of its era.
In the late 1870’s a group of silver mine owners convinced Senator William Allison (Republican from Iowa) and Representative Richard Bland (Democrat from Missouri) to support a proposal for a new silver dollar. After much negotiation and intense lobbying by the silver industry, Bland and Allison introduced a bill to resume silver coinage, which had been stopped earlier. Despite the veto of President Rutherford B. Hayes, the Bland-Allison Act became law in February, 1878. It required that the Treasury buy a minimum of two million dollars a month of domestic silver to be coined into dollars. It also gave the silver dollar legal tender status. These became the dollars designed by George T. Morgan. The act attempted to keep silver at artificially high levels. Large quantities of Morgan Dollars were minted, but they did not circulate well and were kept in Treasury storage vaults, which accounts for their availability today in mint state grades. In 1904 production was halted because the supply of bullion was depleted. In 1918 the Pittman Act provided for the return of the Morgan dollar. It made its final appearance in 1921.
When he applied to the Mint for the position of Assistant Engraver, Morgan wrote explaining his previous experiences: “I am familiar with the engraving of coin dies, having for several years, assisted Messrs. J.S. & A.B. Wyon. I think I may say that I have a good knowledge of Design & Modeling. I served an apprenticeship to the Die Sinking at Birmingham. From Birmingham School of Art I successfully competed for a Scholarship at South Kensington… during my Studentship I obtained Medals & Prizes for Models of Heads from Life, Figures from Life & Antique Heads from Photographs and Flowers from nature. I believe it is not usual for an Engraver to have a practical knowledge of Bronzing. Fortunately I have knowledge of this art and could in a short time so instruct an apt scholar that he would be able to successfully bronze a medal.”
Morgan’s design for the dollar shows a close head of Liberty in profile facing left. She wears a headband inscribed LIBERTY. In her hair are cotton, corn, wheat, and tobacco. She wears a modified Phrygian cap and is surrounded with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, thirteen stars (seven left and six right), and the date. The reverse shows an eagle with wings raised looking left. In its talons are arrows and olive branch, symbols of preparedness and peace. A wreath is below and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST is above. Except for the eagle’s wing tips, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ONE DOLLAR circumscribe the design. The mintmark, if present, is below the wreath and above the denomination.
The only complaint with George T. Morgan’s design for the new dollar was that Liberty was too heavy. For his model, Morgan used Anna Williams, a school teacher from Philadelphia. Charles Barber also submitted a design. His design showed Liberty as also being too heavy, but she was also dumpy looking and had a fat neck. Morgan’s reverse showed an eagle that looked unnatural. Barber’s seemed more real. In any case, it was Morgan’s designs that were selected for the dollar. It is an irony that the first Morgan dollar was presented to Rutherford B. Hayes, the president who had vetoed the authorizing act.
With an approximate mintage of 15, the Chapman 1921 proof dollars are fundamentally rare in all conditions. In its population report, NGC shows 8 PF64 Chapman dollars with 6 better. At PCGS there are 11 with 2 better. These numbers do not account for crossovers and resubmissions.
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