1877 Proof Trade Dollar

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The 1877 proof trade dollar from the Legend Collection of Proof Trade Dollars.  This coin is graded PCGS PF66 and has a population of four with only one finer.

 

Mintage

710 Proofs

 

Coinage Context

Status of the trade dollar: By 1877 the Act of July 22, 1876 demonetizing the trade dollar was old business, trade dollars circulated within the United States only at a discount from face value, and coinage was intended solely for export to the Orient. However, generous numbers found their way into domestic commerce.

In June 1877, Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman stated that there was no further export demand for the trade dollar, an opinion that was at sharp odds with that of Mint Director Dr. Henry Linderman (see testimony reprinted under Additional Information below).

In October 1877 Sherman directed that silver deposited for coinage into trade dollars would no longer be paid in trade dollars at the coinage mints or the assay office. The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint for 1878 said that when this order reached the Philadelphia Mint and New York assay office in October 1877 "there was due depositors for bullion previously deposited at these institutions 590,795 trade dollars." The Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint was directed to pay for these in bars, or in trade dollars, only "upon satisfactory evidence being given that the same would be exported." Apparently, many depositors provided such evidence, as the report continues: "The bullion was accordingly coined, the settlement made with the depositors; the last coinage for this purpose [13,000 pieces] being executed at Philadelphia in the beginning of December 1877."

It later developed that this "satisfactory evidence" was in some instances fabricated, and that the recipients sold many coins at premiums above bullion value, but below face value, to domestic factory owners, mine owners, et al., who exploited their employees by paying the coins out in wages at $1 each (see details under Additional Information, 1876 above).

In the meantime, demand for trade dollars for export continued (see testimony reprinted below), and the years 1877 and 1878 were to see the largest production figures of the denomination, the majority from San Francisco.

 

Numismatic Information

Proof figures not certain: While monthly reports of Mint production figures (see below) for Proofs suggest a total mintage of 510, some (including Walter H. Breen and me) have questioned this figure. Based upon the number of known specimens, and the 200 made in February (before any major deliveries of business strikes), a figure of 710 seems more likely. This seems to fit in well with the analysis of the availability of Proofs discussed in the introduction to the trade dollar section. Of this number, 125 were distributed at face value, probably to coin dealers, on January 11, 1878.

However, this is conjecture. Then, the question arises as to why 710 Proofs would have been struck of the trade dollar when only 510 Proofs were reportedly struck of the dime, quarter, and half dollar. This may never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

 

Availability of Proofs: Proofs, though rare in the overall context of numismatics, are not among the rarities of the 1873-1883 Proof series. The specialist will be able to acquire a piece without difficulty. The widely published (and, as noted, probably erroneous) mintage figure of 510 pieces has caused these coins to sell for an undeserved premium upon occasion. On the other hand, Walter H. Breen, writing years ago in 1977, thought the 1877 Proof was rarer than even the 510 mintage indicated. For some reason, many 1877 Proofs are brilliant (and also especially deeply mirrorlike), rather than lightly toned; this is much more observable with 1877 than, for example, with 1876.

 

 

Varieties:

OBVERSE TYPE II, RIBBON ENDS POINT DOWN, 1876-1885

REVERSE TYPE II: NO BERRY BELOW CLAW, 1875-1885

 

Proofs:

1. Heavy date, double punched: Breen-5808. Minute traces of double punching, particularly the 1 and 8. Only a small number of Proofs are of this variety.

 

2. Normal date: The variety usually seen. No Proof surface between eagle’s claw and branch. (Do any have broken letters?)

 

 

1877 TRADE DOLLAR: MARKET VALUES

 

Click Here for Current Values

 

Year

       

Proof

1877

       

$1.25

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

       

2.35

1935

       

3.00

1940

       

5.50

1945

       

12.50

1950

       

20.00

1955

       

42.50

1960

       

110.00

1965

       

250.00

1970

       

500.00

1975

       

1400.00

1980

       

2800.00

1985

       

3400.00

 

 

 

Year

Imp. P.

P-60

P-63

P-64

P-65

1986

$500

$965

$2200

$5000

$9000

1987

450

810

2400

3600

9250

1988

460

850

2900

5400

10200

1989

525

1100

2825

6250

14000

1990

500

875

2300

5250

9500

1991

550

1000

1750

2900

7500

1992

575

1050

1950

3100

6250

1993

         

1994

         

1995

         

 

 

 

SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS

1877

 

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: $0.9457

 

PROOFS:

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

 

Proof mintage: 710 (or 510, according to Mint figures); Delivery figures by month: January: none; February: 400 (probably actually 600; the 200 business strikes listed in the Mint report figures quoted above were probably Proofs); March-September: none; October: 50; November: none; December: 60; 125 unsold Proofs were distributed for face value on January 11, 1878.

 

Approximate population Proof-65 or better: 44+/- (URS-7)

 

Approximate population Proof-64: 124+/- (URS-8)

 

Approximate population Proof-63: 120+/- (URS-8)

 

Approximate population Proof-60 to 62: 190+/- (URS-9)