1873 Proof Trade Dollar

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The 1873 Proof from the Legend Collection of Proof Trade Dollars.   Graded PCGS PF66, population of only two with none finer.  This coin was the first 1873 Proof Trade Dollar to ever achieve the PF66 grade at PCGS.

 

Mintage

600 (865?) Proofs

 

Numismatic Information

 

Proof mintage records ambiguous: Proofs were struck for collectors beginning in July 1873, at which time 200 were produced. More followed each month through December, except for November. The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1887, which gave monthly production figures for all trade dollars—Proofs and business strikes—from 1873 through 1883, stated that 600 were produced as follows: July: 200; August: 100; September: 100; October: 100; November: none; December: 100. I believe this to be the correct figure, based upon the number of surviving specimens today.

However, numismatic researcher Harry X Boosel located internal Mint records which were not specific by months but which indicated that Proofs were made as follows: Struck from July 1 to September 30: 600; struck from October 1 to December 31st: 265; total 865. According to the same account, 25 unsold 1873-dated Proof trade dollars were on hand January 1, 1874. The disposition of these is unknown. I believe that there is an inaccuracy in this account, but offer no explanation, except perhaps to suggest that some of the coins were Proof patterns.

Another possibility (less likely) is that just 500 Proofs were struck. This figure would result in an even number of 397,000 business strikes plus 500 Proofs for the year, for a total production (per Mint records) of 397,500. The correct answer to the Proof mintage of 1873 may never be known.

Walter H. Breen suggests that about 200 Proofs of this date were sold to souvenir hunters (rather than numismatists); perhaps most of these were later spent. This would account for the existence today of low-grade Proofs. Among Proofs seen in numismatic circles, many have been cleaned and/or are lightly struck in areas.

 

Proofs not popular in 1873: Numismatic tradition holds that Proof trade dollars at the time of their initial issue were unpopular with numismatists. Proofs were sold as part of silver sets, and separately at $1.75 each in paper money or exchange draft; $1.50 in silver coins. It is my opinion that most Proof 1873 trade dollars—probably more than half of them—were spent. The same comment applies more or less to all other Proof trade dollars through and including the year 1877, with the earlier dates being the rarer ones. At some times during the late nineteenth century when the government would not redeem them at par, Proof trade dollars were held in such low esteem that coin dealers were willing to sell them for less than face value.

Proofs rare today; an explanation: Today, this situation affects the numismatist who owns one in that Proofs of the 1873-1877 years, once unwanted, are very difficult to locate in any state of preservation, and are especially so in Proof-64 or Proof-65. However, market values have not reflected this rarity, for the later-date Proof trade dollars, 1878-1883, are rarer as dates, because no related business strike mintages were produced. Thus, in the early 1990s the typical coin buyer entering the market would find a "rare" Proof 1880 trade dollar, of which 1,987 were struck, to be ostensibly more attractive to buy than a hard to find Proof 1873, with a Proof mintage of 600 (or 865?) coins, for 1873 trade dollars also exist in large numbers in business strike form.

Today, the 1873 is the rarest Proof date of the regular 1873-1883 issues.

 

Open 3 note: All 1873 trade dollars from all three mints have Open 3 in the date.

 

 

Varieties:

OBVERSE TYPE I: RIBBON ENDS POINT LEFT, 1873-1876

REVERSE TYPE I: BERRY BELOW CLAW, 1873-1876

 

Proofs:

1. Normal reverse: Breen-5778. Normal reverse (in contrast to No. 2). One in the Katen Sale of June 1993, Lot 91, had flatness on the eagle’s sinister claws; areas of unfinished surface at the junctions of the olive leaves, and between the olive leaves and the eagle’s tail, also between the branch and the eagle’s sinister leg; a whisper of a hairline crack extends from the right curve of R in TRADE horizontally to the adjacent A.

 

2. Patched letters reverse: Reverse from a die created from a damaged hub (also see Business Strike No. 2 above) with the following characteristics: (A) Early state. Small raised fragment inside D of UNITED, attached to the right interior side just above the halfway point; tops of E in STATES and F in OF patched (visible only under high magnification, but very distinctive; the E’s in UNITED and AMERICA are from different punches). Many raised die preparation lines in field, particularly at the bottom of the eagle and below it. Narrow area between eagle’s tail and eagle’s dexter leg not polished (compare this to 1875 Proof Reverse No. 2, which has this polished). Most known 1873 Proofs are from this early state and are more deeply mirrored than Proofs from the later state. (B) Later state with die surfaces repolished. Letter characteristics as preceding, but die preparation lines polished off the die. New die lines, probably caused by the slip of an engraving tool, consist of two minute, closely parallel die scratches from the branch stem, through lowest arrow butt, through 00 (of 900), changing to just one scratch from that point to the rim between A and R of DOLLAR, and with shorter die scratches on the raised rim above ED (of UNITED) and the space to the right. This later state of the reverse was polished again (thus slightly diminishing the depth of the die scratches) and was also used to coin Type I reverse trade dollar Proofs dated 1874 and 1875. Discovered by Jesse Patrick (see expanded commentary under Additional Information below). All impressions from this die show seen by the author show weak striking on the eagle’s sinister leg and claws. 1873 obverse shows slight "chip" out of the outside of the left upper curve of 8 in 1878.

Note: So far as is known, Proofs of the varieties described above under nos. 1 and 2 are all from a common obverse die. There is a fairly deep die scratch extending straight from the bottom left segment of the bale, at an angle slightly upward through the folds of Miss Liberty’s gown, terminating in the waves of the sea. Although this prominent feature has been ignored for many years, it was mentioned by Lyman H. Low in the description of an 1873 Proof trade dollar in the R.T. Rose Collection Sale, September 9-10, 1909: "A distinguishing feature of this specimen is a well defined line (in the die) through the outer skirt of Liberty, extending from the cotton bale to water."

 

 

1873 PROOF TRADE DOLLAR: MARKET VALUES

Click Here for Current Values

 

Year

       

Proof

1873

       

$1.75

1875

       

1.75

1880

       

1.50

1885

       

1.50

1890

       

1.25

1895

       

1.25

1900

       

1.25

1905

       

1.25

1910

       

1.50

1915

       

1.50

1920

       

1.75

1925

       

2.00

1930

       

2.50

1935

       

3.00

1940

       

6.00

1945

       

15.00

1950

       

18.00

1955

       

40.00

1960

       

100.00

1965

       

250.00

1970

       

450.00

1975

       

1250.00

1980

       

2500.00

1985

       

3200.00

 

 

Year

Imp. P.

P-60

P-63

P-64

P-65

1986

$500

$950

$2250

$5000

$8900

1987

450

800

2400

3600

9250

1988

450

800

2900

5250

10000

1989

525

1100

2650

6250

14000

1990

500

950

2000

5250

9000

1991

550

1050

1600

3150

7500

1992

575

1100

2000

3600

7250

1993

         

1994

         

1995

         

 

 

SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS

1873

 

Enabling legislation: Act of February 12, 1873

 

Designer: William Barber

 

Weight: 420 grains

 

Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper

 

Melt-down (silver value) in year minted: $1.0221

 

Dies prepared: Obverse: At least 1; Reverse: At least 2

 

Proof mintage from Mint Report records: 600 (or 865 or 500, see earlier text); Monthly mintage figures, believed to be incorrect, per the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint: January-June: none; July: 200; August: 100; September: 100; October: 100; November: none; December: 100; The following figures are from Mint records now in the National Archives, the same source used by the Mint director in compiling the Annual Report: Proof delivery figures by day: July 21: 100; July 31: 100; August 11: 100; September 19: 100; October 23: 100; December 12: 50; December 24: 50.

 

Proof mintage from other Mint records: Figures, believed to be correct, from other Mint records: struck from July 1 to September 30: 600; struck from October 1 to December 31st: 265; total 865; unsold 1873 Proofs on hand January 1, 1874: 25, the disposition of which is unknown.

 

Approximate population Proof-65 or better: 18+/- (URS-6)

 

Approximate population Proof-64: 38+/- (URS-7)

 

Approximate population Proof-63: 77+/- (URS-8)

 

Approximate population Proof-60 to 62: 215+/- (URS-9)