What are Trade Dollars


Trade Dollars


John Jay Knox is known as the father of the trade dollar and the Comptroller of the Currency. He also did much of the work that it took to pass the Coinage act of 1873. Knox had an idea for a trade dollar while in San Francisco visiting another influence Louis A. Garnett. At the port we relied on the Mexican dollar to make merchants pay a premium worth more then silver's value making demand high and supply short. He proposed they could start making silver seated liberty's to use for export. Around 20,000 1859-s were made and sent to Eastern Asia and where successful, the problem was California was far away from Washington D.C. and not that big of a problem for politicians. Also even though we had sent a large amount of seated liberty's in 1842 the Chinese merchants still choose the Mexican dollar and other Spanish American 8 Reales because of them being slightly heavier in content. Bankers and businessmen did take the silver from the U.S. but only at a discount to the Mexican coins. Having no success congress was given a nudge by silver mining interests in the west and so the Trade dollar was born it was made to weigh as much as much as the Mexican dollar and would be able to compete with it.

Trade Dollars Authorized

The February 12 1873 coin act was created by John Jay Knox, Treasury Department, and by a good amount of discussion in congress. What this did was basically revamp the coin laws and modernize them as well as add some things such as the Trade dollar. People could bring in their silver to the mint and have it be coined into Trade dollars for them; mostly Trade dollars were made in 1873. Trade dollars were legal currency in the US in 1873 this was against Knox's judgement to have them be separate from our currency.

An Early Report

This is what the mint reported on the trade dollar

Trade dollar that was put in place by the coinage ACT was made for export and has no fixed value in comparison with gold. With no standard units they also have a different use then standard US circulated coins. This of course brought up issues and was not Commenced until almost a month after the close of the fiscal year.

Trade Dollars in Later Years

Something that was not anticipated by Congress was that after 1873 silver bullion prices would go into a long decline. This was because Europe had issued a lot of silver coins with full weight and value changed so that they had less silver in them See this large quantities of silver pushing to the market dropping the price. Another thing was that large quantities of silver were found in Utah and many other mines Which put more silver into the market than was needed for the coins to be made. So on July 22 1876 the Legal tender provisions were revoked and the trade dollar was no longer legal tender but many people didn't listen to this and would put them into pay envelopes marking them as a full dollar. 

Twilight of the Trade Dollar

In China the trade dollar was becoming more and more popular and the San Francisco mint was making $687,000 in coins per month to supply the demand. It was hard to counterfeit, it was finer in looks and weight gave it an advantage over its competitors. The Japanese had also come out with their own trade dollar and closely resembled the U.S. version but was lower in weight. The Bland Allison act This was introduced on February 28th 1878 this would eliminate the trade dollar and reinstate standard silver. During the time of the reinstatement a dollar's weight came out to be  412.5 grains and came out to be $0.89 worth of silver. They were making a profit on every coin. Around 700,000 750,000  worth of trade dollars had been absorbed by China for every single month. The Trade dollars export was stopped even though that a logical stance should have had it continued because they were still in strong demand and an entirely separate Market. Proofs for collectors were secretly made and sold and in 1883 the director of the mint said that coinage of the trade dollars should no longer be permitted and that old trade dollars can be redeemed for face value. 

The Design of the Trade Dollar

The design of the trade dollar was created by Chief engraver William Barber the motifs used were taken from early circulated coins. Early patterns were made beginning in 1871 and at the time were called commercial dollars; it wasn't until 1873 that the finalized motif was used. The obverse showed a female figure of Liberty, in her hand a ribbon with the word LIBERTY engraved on it, She is seated on a bale of cotton tied with rope. The words IN GOD WE TRUST are placed on another ribbon below the bale she was depicted facing towards the Pacific Ocean this was so that she is facing towards China. The remnants of a beaded coronet sit on her head. In her right hand she holds a laurel Branch which is placed there to symbolize peace. Wheat is placed behind her Also is 13 stars. The date is placed below, it has been referred to as a Liberty seated denomination even though it was not created by Christion Gobrecht.

On the reverse there's a depiction of an eagle perched and in his right talons it holds three arrows and in his left he holds a Laurel Branch. Around the Border here's the words  UNITED STATES OF AMERICA at the bottom of the border are the words TRADE DOLLAR and in the field over the eagle on a ribbon is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. The weight is placed under the arrows at the bottom 420 GRAINS, 900 FINE. The edge of the coin has reeds and the diameter is 38.1 mm.

Pattern Coins

1871 Commercial dollar (Judd-1154 to 1157)

1871 Commercial dollar (J-1158 and 1159)

1871 Commercial Dollar (J-1160)

1872 Commercial Dollar (J-1212 to 1213a)

1872 Commercial dollar (J-1214 to 1218)

1872 Commercial dollar (J-1219 and 1219a)

1872 Trade dollar (J-1220 to 1222)

1872 Trade dollar (j-1223)

Pattern Trade Dollars of 1873-1876

1873 Trade dollar (J-1276 to 1280)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1281 to 1284)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1285 and 1286)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1287)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1288)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1289)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1290 to 1292)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1293 to1298)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1299)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1300 to 1303)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1304)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1304a to 1306)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1307)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1308 and 1309)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1310 and 1314)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1315 to 1319)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1322 to 1326)

1873 Trade dollar (J-1327 to 1330)

1874 Trade dollar (J-1363 and 1364)

1875 Commercial dollar (J-1423 to 1425)

1875 Trade dollar (J-1426 to 1429)

1875 Trade dollar (J-1430 and 1431)

1876 Commercial dollar (J-1472 and 1473)

1876 Trade dollar (J-1474 and 1475)

[Attributed to 1876] Undated trade dollar (J-1475a and 1475b)

1876 Trade dollar (J-1476 and 1477)

1884 Trade dollar (J-1732)

Release and Distribution

In July 22 1873 Carson Daily Appeal wrote an article about the coin saying that it was more than beautiful it was more of a Beautiful medal then a coin. San Francisco also wrote about the coin mainly talking about the hope that the coin can live up to its use and be successful. The San Francisco Chronicle talked about the coin when the price of silver dropped saying how this coin has been treated as a treasure and is like a drug in the market.

Aspects of Striking Anxious 

Many of the strikes show weekend on the outbursts mainly on the head of the Liberty and sometimes on some of the Stars on the reverse; you can often see weakness in the Eagles legs and  talons. sharply  struck coins will not often cost any more than the casually struck. 

Proof Trade Dollars

From 1878 to 1883 the mint issue price for proof trade dollars came in at around a dollar 25 If you were to buy a proof and paper money you would pay a dollar 75 in silver a dollar fifty. Surprisingly trade dollars were not the favorite of numismatics because many of them considered them to be outside of regular currency. Most of 1873 and 1874 were spent  surviving coins of that time, usually in low grade. 1884 and 1885 proofs we're actually struck in secret and are very rare.

Grading Trade Dollars 

1875-S Graded MS-61: You'll find some abrasion in contact marks MS-60,  some notable places for wear are on the left breast, the left knee and the left arm. luster will be present but will  most likely be dull or lifeless. A lot of the coins will be bright or have light color this is because they've been cleaned after being sent back from China. At MS-63  There Will Be Few contact marks, very little abrasion. MS-65 Will have no abrasion and contact marks are almost trivial With the luster being full and Rich. On the reverse the same comment as above will apply the grade will of course be lower on the reverse some notable places for wear are the Eagles head, the claws and the top of the Wings. MS-56  and higher will have no marks visible and show no  abrasions.

1876. Graded AU-53: There will be light wear  on the head bosom and knees the Lesser will be extensive but not complete and going down and gray the last row will slowly fade. On the reverse there will be a Wear especially on the Eagles head claws and also on the top of the Wings. AU-58 the coin will have almost full luster. 

1876-CC. Graded EF-40: There will be further where and all areas especially on the head left arm left leg left breast and on the bale of which she sits on and there will be little to no luster. On the reverse there will also be further wear most notably on the Eagles head, wings, and claws if the coin was well struck nearly all of the feathers will still be there.

1877-S. Graded VF-30: Will be further wear  on Miss Liberty, most of half of the details on the dress will be visible. details on the wheat will also be intact. The words IN GOD WE TRUST and LIBERTY  will also be intact and clear. On the reverse there will also be more wear; some of the  feathers will have Blended together with about two-thirds visible.

1873-CC. Graded F-12: miss liberty will be showing further wear. There will be less detail on the dress, the wheat will mostly be clear. The mottos might be weakened but should be fully readable. On the reverse there will be extensive wear close to half of the fathers will be blended. The eagle's left leg will most likely be flat. One or two letters will be missing from E PLURIBUS UNUM.

1882. Graded PF-62: They will have been cleaned and will have lots of hairlines. Dull and grainy coins will be low grades; they are not widely sought after coins. One with medium hairlines and a nice Reflectivity and be seen as a PF-64. With less being a PF-65. If PF-66 the hairlines will be so delicate magnification will have to be used to see them and if they are above PF-66 they will have no hairlines at all.

Collecting Trade Dollars

Out of all the circulated strikes there is one Trade dollar with a high rarity the 1878-CC it might not be that expensive but still rare. Other things you can look for are rare mint marks sizes and placements. Another thing to look for is chop marks which were given to the coin in China which was a stamp of approval from the banks and are collectible in their own right. Another group of trade dollars to collect are once with one side taken out and replaced with a photograph instead. Today trade dollars are very popular and many are hard to find in high grade which in turn makes them fun to collect.

When Buying

If it is a circulation strike it will have weak arias most of the time. The eye appeal for these coins can vary keeping that in mind. When making a collection take it slow and go for nice looking coins it might take some time but find the coin right for you. Keep in mind the grade but don't rely on it, use it as a benchmark and go from there choose the coin with better eye appeal not the coin with the better grade. 

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