The 20th century has given rise to a number of numismatic rarities which were struck in relatively large numbers, but for varying reasons the majority were destroyed and the existence and potential ownership of any survivors remains controversial. The most well known of these are the 1933 Double Eagle, 1974 Aluminum Cent, and the 1964 Peace Dollar. The latter is the focus of this site and the only one completely unconfirmed to exist in private hands, which would make the discovery of any genuine example a numismatic sensation.
The 1933 Double Eagle was struck at the Philadelphia Mint with an original mintage of 455,5000 pieces. Following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential order of March 6, 1933 to recall federal gold, the entire mintage was supposed to be melted. The government insisted that all were melted and that none were officially released; yet, an export document was issued for one, and the coin ended up in the holdings of an Egyptian King (King Farouk). The coin became a subject of a decade long legal battle until it was ruled to be legal to own because of the export document. So only one is legal to one, yet, over a dozen examples are known to exist elsewhere, including a certain group which is still the subject of an ongoing battle.
The 1974 Aluminum Cent was struck as a test project to come up with a cheaper alloy for our lowest denominated coin. More than 1.5 million pieces were struck in 1973 for testing purposes. A number of the coins were distributed to Congressmen for demonstration purposes and the coins were ordered to be returned at a later date. It is known that about a dozen where not returned, most likely because of unclear record keeping by the Mint, as to who received what. One of these examples turned up in 2011 in private hands and was certified by ICG and later PCGS before once again disappearing from the public spotlight.
The 1964 Peace Dollar is different from the previous two examples by the fact that no examples are known to exist. Even the Smithsonian Institution, who has both 1933 Double Eagles and a 1974 Aluminum Cent in its holdings, does not have a 1964 Peace Dollar. We know that the coins were minted thanks to government records and testimonials from former Mint employees. Yet, the government claims that all were melted, and that none ever got out of the Denver Mint. Nonetheless rumors have persisted that some pieces did manage to escape and details of the melting lend support to the possibility.
Whether or not any examples of the 1964 Peace Dollar actually exist, they may never be publicly revealed due to the legal status of the pieces. The government has maintained that any examples of the issue which managed to survive would be considered government property and subject to immediate seizure.