Monday, June 28, 2010

Coin Monday: 1922 -- Into the Downtime

June 28, 2010
Written by John Dale

Downtime is just a dream for me right now; the cataloging staff spent the weekend working on the upcoming Boston ANA Auction, and it looks like two more working weekends are on the way. As appealing as the thought of downtime might be, though, there’s always the potential for too much of a good thing. In 1922, the U.S. Mint saw plenty of downtime, and as a result, only a few types of coins were struck that year.

In the wake of World War I, the United States went through a recession that lasted about half a year. The start of 1920 saw another economic downturn that lasted for 18months. During the downturn, the Mint struck a variety of denominations, but with less commerce came less demand for the instruments of commerce, coins among them.

Only one denomination was struck at all three of the active mints: the silver dollar. The 1922 silver dollars bore the then-novel Peace design; though first struck in 1921, the Peace dollars were not released for distribution until 1922. The Boston auction will have examples from Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco.

While double eagles effectively did not circulate in the U.S. by 1922, there was still demand for them in international trade, demand that was increasing as Europe recovered. The gold coins were struck on the two coasts: Philadelphia (represented in the upcoming July Summer FUN Auction) and San Francisco (in Boston). Most of today’s survivors were shipped overseas and spent upwards of 50 years in Europe; they were later repatriated in the 1970s and beyond, after restrictions on American citizens’ private ownership of gold were relaxed.

Across most of the U.S. there was little demand for small change, so no nickels, dimes, quarters, or halves were made. There was unexpected demand for one-cent coins, though, and the Denver Mint pushed through a batch of slightly more than 7 million pieces. While it was Denver alone that struck cents in 1922, certain pieces show no mintmark due to production errors, and these have become more famous than their regular 1922-D counterparts.

Beyond the regular U.S. coinage, the Philadelphia Mint also worked on a handful of other small-scale projects. For the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ulysses S. Grant, the famous Civil War general and later president, the Mint made commemorative coins in two denominations, a half dollar and a gold dollar. Philadelphia also kept up its trade in making coins for foreign countries. In 1922, it struck pieces for circulation in Colombia; Costa Rica; French Indochina (which covered modern-day Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and a small part of China); Nicaragua; and Venezuela.

It would be nice to contemplate downtime some more, but the Boston catalog calls. Back to it!

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