Unlike Morgan dollars, which tone in a fantastic array of colors, toned Peace dollars are rare because of the metallic qualities of the silver planchets upon which they were minted. The impurities in the Morgan planchets trigger rainbow hues, as in this example from my collection:
Rainbow hues, lovely as they seem, are chemical reactions. Most occur because of long-term exposure to the air, although coins in paper flips or holders also may interact with the silver.
Another word for toned is “patina,” and you can find that on silverware and other metallic alloy products.
I have searched online auctions for decades and only have three holdered examples by PCGS.
I won this raw coin a decade ago with a modest $160 bid in a Proxibid auction. Here’s how it was displayed by Capital Coin Auction:
It graded MS-65 by PCGS (cert: 32555936).
I won these two this year.
The 1926-S graded AU-55, which I considered too low; so I cracked out the coin and resent it to PCGS. Got the same grade. But it’s lovely nonetheless:
I won this 1922 in a HiBid.com auction with a bid of $210. I sent it to PCGS, and it came back questionable color:
No way. I tried NGC, and I got “artificial toning.” No way.
I resent it to PCGS with a note to eyeball the 1922 coin rather than look at others that graded with similar tones. Bingo. MS-62.
It takes a practiced eye to discern genuine toning in any coin, especially Peace dollars. Almost every other offering on eBay is artificial. Coins with blue or purple toning sometimes laced with orange almost always are artificial, as in these examples:
Be wary about wild colors that streak like paint. Check to see if the seller also has an inventory of similarly toned coins. They tone this way due to heating the silver with or in various items (I won’t disclose the methods):
In this case, the seller identified the artificial toning, stating: “COIN WAS ARTISTICALLY TONED (AT) BY ADDING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CHEMICAL MIXTURE. THIS ONLY TAKES A FEW DAYS AND NOT YEARS. PROBABLY WOULDN’T FOOL AN EXPERT BUT THE RESULTS ARE VERY STUNNING.”
I give sellers like this a lot of credit for being honest numismatically.
Cleaned coins also can retone, but the colors are washed out, as in this example:
The best way to identify toned Peace dollars is to view them in Heritage, Great Collections, Legend Rare Coins, and other top-notch auctions. Become familiar with the patterns and colors.
Here’s a magnificent one — 1923-D MS-66 PCGS — offered by Legend with bids anticipated to exceed $10,000.
If you are certain a raw coin has genuine patina, bid high. The best bet, though, is to buy holdered ones by PCGS, NGC, ANACS, and ICG.