Posted by on February 10, 2012

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Trade (1873-1885) 27.22 90% silver, 10% copper
SC 1873tradedollar 300x149 TRADE DOLLARS

1873 Trade Dollar

The Trade Dollars was designed by William Barber and struck from 1873 to 1885.  This  silver coin was struck for the purpose of commerce in East Asia and needed to compete against the Spanish silver dollar and Mexican silver peso which were heavier than the United States former silver Seated Dollar.  These weigh 27.22 grams, 90% silver, 10% cooper, 38.1mm in diameter and reeded.

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ebay silver logo TRADE DOLLARSCoins Close to Melt Values

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The obverse depicts Liberty facing left indicating Asia, seated on tied bundles with the Motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the lowest, and behind her rests a bundle of wheat.  In her left hand at her side she holds a ribbon with “LIBERTY” on it, and her right hand extends an olive branch.  The date is directly under her and the bundles and thirteen stars encircle the rest of the coin.

The reverse has the bald eagle with spread wings, three arrows in its left talon and an olive branch in its right.  Directly underneath “420 GRAINS 900 FINE.” arches slightly and under this, encircling the base is “TRADE DOLLAR.”  The mint marks “S” for San Francisco or “CC” for Carson City, and none for Philadelphia are above the “D” in “DOLLAR”.  Directly above the eagle is a ribbon with “E PLURIBUS UNUM” and above that encircling the silver coin is “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

The Trade dollars were struck at the Mint Philadelphia through 1877 and continued through 1878 at the San Francisco and Carson City Mints. The Philadelphia mint did produce Proof strikes for collectors from 1873 until 1883.  Although apparently there were secrete Proof strikes: 10 for 1884 and 5 for 1885 which didn’t surface until 1908.

These “fantasy” pieces came to public knowledge when William Idler’s estate was being liquidated and coin deal John Haseltine bought six of them.  Regardless of their origin they are considered exceptional numismatic coins.

The Trade Dollars were the United States first venture into producing bullion.  A lot can be written about it, and has.  The Civil War had been won and General Grant became President Grant and as far as the Mint was concerned he felt it was important to exchange the paper denominations used during the Civil War to maintain Silver in the war chest for hard silver currency.

In the late 1860’s a large accounting mistake at the San Francisco Mint was noticed.  The San Francisco Mint had been having small book keeping errors, but this was too large to be over looked and the Treasury Secretary, George Boutwell, assigned Deputy Comptroller of the Currency, John Jay Knox, as a special investigator to check it out.  Boutwell also asked Knox not to limit himself to the San Francisco Mint, but to write a report on the state of the US Mint in its entirety.

Knox returned to Washington DC in early 1870 to write his report and also drafted a bill for the US Mint’s future. In April of 1870 Knox submitted his report and draft legislation.  In the draft was a proviso for “Standard” silver dollar of 384 grains which would have conformity with the other silver coins changing its status established in 1953 and official adopting the gold standard.

Boutwell approved of both the report and bill draft but suggested the draft for the bill be sent out to past and present Mint officials and other informed interested parties.  The “Standard” silver dollar met strong disagreement with the selected readers.  They suggested dropping the silver dollar entirely.

Knox’s revised the bill which sat in a House of Representatives’ committee until February 1872 when it was amended to provide for a commercial silver dollar of 420 grains.  Three months later when it was too voted on the commercial dollar was removed for a standard silver dollar of 284 grains.  Then on December 16, 1872, a Senate committee amended the House version to the House’s original trade (commercial) silver dollar of 420 grains.  Eventually the House and Senate agreed on the Trade dollars being 420 grains 90% silver and 10% copper and President Grant signed Knox’s bill into law on February 12, 1873.

Since the bullion dealers kept putting trade dollars into domestic circulation, disregarding any and all legislation, the Trade dollars were discontinued on February 22, 1878.

When buying these coins you want to take extra care in your selection.  There are many counterfeits out there!  And some of them can even fool experienced graders.  You might consider only looking at slabbed pieces that have already been authenticated.  Also, since these coins were intended for use in foreign markets very few of the business strikes can be considered to be in Gem state.  They also tend to have more bag marks than most. Also since they were cared and stored in bags in port towns many have been improperly washed which may knock them down a grade or more.  Liberty's ear is the first part that will show ware, then her legs.  These strikes were not very strong, Liberty's face and robe may lack detail even in high grade coins.

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