The Pamela Henard Collection of Peace Dollars: An Appreciation

Posted on 4/2/2020

NGC Chairman and Grading Finalizer Mark Salzberg shares his thoughts on an extraordinary collection of Peace Dollars.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) was honored to exhibit Pamela and Truman Henard’s award-winning NGC Registry set of Peace Dollars at the 2020 FUN Show in Orlando. This furnished me the opportunity to closely examine these extraordinary coins. They left a deep impression on me, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts about the individual pieces and the set as a whole.

The 1922-D, 1924 and 1935-S Peace Dollars from the collection. See all of the coins in the collection below.
Click images to enlarge.

First, a little bit about my own background with this series. As you probably already know, I’ve been fascinated with coins since childhood. I suppose I was about 11 when I began to understand how much more difficult it was to find Gem Peace Dollars as compared to Morgans. With a plainer design and more open space, every little mark is more prominent than on the very busy Morgan Dollar. Also, the San Francisco Mint issues are poorly struck for the most part. Finally, Peace Dollars rarely have the attractive toning of Morgans that can hide any flaws.

These factors can easily discourage a collector, and they also add to the cost of putting together a Gem set. Needless to say, they also make it challenging to arrive at a truly representative grade for many Peace Dollars, especially when an example is beautifully lustrous but weakly struck. Knowing how to do that comes only with experience, and I’ve benefited from seeing a huge number of Peace Dollars in my career.

Early on, however, I lacked this experience, but I learned quickly. Already starting to deal in coins, I was around 16 when I set out to find really nice coins, ones that would be described as a “blazer” or a “moose” (yes, we really used that term in the ‘70s and ‘80s). My first experience going to a coin show by myself was at the Sheraton in Baltimore. I spoke to one of the better-known dealers who specialized in exceptionally nice coins, asking him what was special about the Peace Dollars in his case. He pointed out that the S-Mint dollars from the 1920s are notoriously weak in their centers and vary greatly in luster.

That spurred me to find a true Gem, and I did at that very show, buying a ‘23-S that was nicely toned and absolutely beautiful — about as well struck as they come. It cost $110, a strong premium for that time. I showed it to the dealer who’d mentored me on the subject, and he asked me what I’d take for it. Not really knowing what it was worth, I shot him a price of $265, and he bought it right then and there. Initially pleased with my success, I soon suspected that I’d probably given it away too cheaply, and I had a sick feeling afterward. What I took away from this experience is that you need to understand what you have and its value in the marketplace before making an impulsive decision. Lesson learned, and this memory came back to me as I examined the 1923-S dollar in the Henard Collection.

So tough are the S-Mint Peace Dollars to find nice that I’ve developed a real appreciation of their condition rarity over the past 40 years or so. In that time, I’ve put away two or three amazing 1923-S dollars that just spoke to me.

The full name of this top set in the NGC Registry is The “Pamela Henard Collection” of Circulation Issue Peace Dollars. The owners’ original goal was to complete this 24-coin series with a minimum grade of MS 65 for each piece. As often happens, of course, they got so into the project that the coins have been steadily upgraded until this set is now by far the finest Mint State Peace Dollar registry set. Many of the coins are superior to those in the now-retired registry sets of such famed collectors as Jack Lee and Bob Simpson. Nearly all of the coins are “blast white” or just faintly toned. Because some of the highest-graded Peace Dollars in the marketplace have received a boost in grade for their colorful toning, the Henard’s magnitude of achievement is readily apparent.

All of the Henard Peace Dollars are NGC-certified. There are 16 coins in this set that are “Top Pops,” either tied for finest certified or unique as such. One of these is graded NGC MS 68 — one of just two examples of all years to hold this lofty grade.

It’s incredible that a collection like this could be put together. It takes so much in resources, knowledge and networking with dealers and other collectors. I’ve graded several hundred thousand Peace Dollars, and this is the best collection I’ve ever seen. You might find the occasional individual coin that wows you, and that’s what the coin hobby is all about, but a collection like this is one of a kind.

I’ve been so fortunate to have been involved in the grading of this set. Pam and Truman are true collectors who should really be commended for building such a superb set. Most people don’t understand just how rare Peace Dollars are in the top grades because they are more likely to be drawn to the much more available Morgan Dollars. Each one of the coins in this set could be the singular highlight of any coin collection, and I’d like to share my impressions of them on a coin-by-coin basis.

Click images to enlarge.

1921 NGC MS 67

This is an amazing coin. While the Henard Collection specimen is not quite fully struck, it is still remarkably bold for the date. In addition, the coin is simply beautiful — frosty white luster, clean surfaces and a rounded cheek.

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1922 NGC MS 67

This is a magnificent example of an otherwise very common issue. It’s perfectly clean, not a mark on it. Even Liberty’s cheek is free of bag marks, and the coin is extremely lustrous. What’s really unusual is that it shows none of the acid staining (“milk spots”) that diminishes so many other ‘22-(P) dollars. It’s suspected that the planchets were dipped in a mild acid, and most were not properly rinsed before coining.

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1922-D NGC MS 67+★

The early Denver Mint Peace Dollars typically have die cracks, especially on the obverse. The Henard ‘22-D shows these very fine cracks, but they don’t detract at all from the superb quality. It has phenomenal, booming luster, a bold strike and exceptional eye appeal that earned it an NGC Star — truly everything you’d want in a Peace Dollar.

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1922-S NGC MS 66★

The 1922-S Peace Dollar is a coin that varies widely in quality. The nicest ones have satiny luster, and this is seen on the Henard coin, which was clearly made from fresh dies. It’s very well struck for the date/mint, but not quite fully struck, and that’s why we stopped short of calling it a 67. Wonderfully lustrous and just lightly toned a subtle golden color, this is a very pretty coin.

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1923 NGC MS 67+

No stains, perfectly struck, just an incredible coin. I don’t know what more to say, as the grade pretty much says it all.

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1923-D NGC MS 66

Again, we’re talking about the best of the best. It has beautiful luster and is perfectly white. It pretty much typifies the whole collection.

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1923-S NGC MS 66

Wow, here we go… It can sound repetitive, but you never see this kind of coin. It’s fully struck — you just never see a strike this strong on a ‘23-S, and the luster is amazing. It has a perfectly rounded face. You can’t ask for a better example. The coin I bought at 16 had this same luster, but it also had toning.

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1924 NGC MS 68

This date can come incredible, and here’s just such a coin. It has fantastic, booming luster — maybe the best luster in the Peace series. This specimen is the finest certified and almost certainly the finest known. I like the granular luster typical of this date. It has rolling luster and is perfectly white; there’s none of the acid staining seen on so many P-Mint dollars.

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1924-S NGC MS 65+

This date is incredibly rare and very tough in high grades. It also comes weakly struck, but this one is very sharp for the date. It’s fully white with no stains — a beautiful example.

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1925 NGC MS 67+

This date is similar to 1924 in that you can find them with great luster. This coin has wonderful, satiny luster. It’s fully struck, of course — a great, great, great coin.

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1925-S NGC MS 65

Super, super rare — a very difficult coin to find in high grades. This one has a light gold color on the reverse, and there’s just a bit of weakness in the feathers. That’s the only thing on this coin that could be improved, and it’s the reason it’s not a 66 or 67.

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1926 NGC MS 67+

This date is not difficult to find in the 63, 64 range, but when you get up to 65 and 66 it becomes very difficult. At 67+, this coin is the finest known example from either grading service. The surfaces are virtually flawless with shimmering, frosty luster.

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1926-D NGC MS 67+

Like a lot of D-Mint Peace Dollars, this one has a die crack. It runs from the W in WE up through the first T in TRUST. There’s another crack on the reverse. It’s an incredible coin — perfectly struck, perfect surfaces, fantastic luster. It has to be one of the finest known, if not the finest.

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1926-S NGC MS 66★

Why is it a Star? The die polishing on this coin gives it reflective fields that are almost Prooflike. The strike is exceptional; the surfaces are exceptional. On coins having reflective fields, marks stand out more than usual. This one does have a couple of tiny marks, and that’s why it got a Star instead of a higher grade.

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1927 NGC MS 65+

This is a tough coin. It has a great strike and a bit of light toning. On this date anything above 65 is really tough, and 65+ is about as nice as you’re going to find. This Gem is very rare and a great example.

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1927-D NGC MS 65+

This date is rarer than the ‘26-D — much rarer. These coins typically come marked up and with a weaker strike. This one has a beautiful strike, great luster and is a wonderful example for the collection.

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1927-S NGC MS 65

It’s incredibly tough to find one fully struck. This one has to be 95% fully struck, which is as good as you’re going to get. It’s very clean — great luster. It’s a fantastic example of a 65.

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1928 NGC MS 66

This is one of the keys to the series. 1928-(P) is valuable in circulated condition, let alone MS 66. This example is toned, and I’d say it’s as good as you’re going to find. It has a great strike and is completely original — a very tough coin so nice.

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1928-S NGC MS 65

This date is notoriously weak. The Henard coin has great luster and no staining. There’s just a tiny bit of weakness. Otherwise, it’s a super Gem and a very, very nice example.

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1934 NGC MS 67

Here we go with a fantastic, toned example. It’s interesting in a collection where the majority of the coins are white to have this amazingly toned dollar. It looks like a type coin to me. There are myriad, beautiful colors, and the originality is exceptional. It’s fully struck, and when you look at this coin you go “Wow!”

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1934-D NGC MS 66

I love the skin on this coin; its originality is amazing. It’s perfectly struck and very desirable — just one tiny mark away from being a 67.

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1934-S NGC MS 66

This key to the series is incredibly well struck. What an example — perfect and white. The strike is great, and this coin is as good as it gets — a tremendous example for the set.

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1935 NGC MS 67+

This is a date that tends to be fairly common in nice condition, say MS 65, but it would take you a decade or longer to find one in this high a grade. It’s incredibly struck, has great luster and is near perfection.

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1935-S NGC MS 67

Again, this is a date that’s notoriously weak. It’s not nearly as rare as the ‘34-S, but this specimen is an outlier — a freak. I love this coin for its strike, its originality and just for its great eye appeal. It’s so clean; I love it.

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1921 Broadstruck NGC MS 62 Mint Error

This is an amazing coin that was struck outside of the collar, yet is almost perfectly centered. It has broad rims and no reeding, since that comes from a collar. What’s most interesting about this kind of error is that the coin’s centers are fully struck. You can see the execution of the artist’s complete design. The centennial of the Peace Dollar is coming up, and we’re really hoping that the Mint consults with numismatists to make a 2021 Peace Dollar that is really worthy of what the 1921 dollar should have been. It would be great to have the kind of strike seen on this mint error coin.

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