Director Recommends End of Coinage

In the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint, 1883, Horatio Burchard recommended that the coinage of trade dollars no longer be permitted:

"Although its coinage is now discretionary with the secretary of the Treasury and has been suspended by him, the issue of this coin in any contingency should no longer be authorized or permitted at any of the United States Mints. Originally made in the coinage Act of 1873 a legal tender, to the same extent as the other designated silver coins, a considerable number had probably, before its demonetization in 1876, gone into circulation in this country. The statistics of coinage and exports show that at the latter date the number of pieces coined exceeded the exportations by over two million dollars. Probably from five to seven millions of these coins are now held in the country, mostly in the mining and manufacturing regions of Pennsylvania and contiguous States, and in the vicinity of New York, where they have been paid to workmen and laborers, and by them paid to and received from tradesmen in those localities.

"While the United States has incurred no legal liability, yet by the Act of the government the coins were at first put into circulation and given compulsory currency, and have fallen into the hands of those who can ill afford to suffer from the depreciation, and it would seem but an Act of justice that the United States should permit these coins to be sent to the mints and exchanged for other silver coins, into which they could be profitably recoined.

"I doubt not that action of this kind would have long since been taken, but for the apprehension that a large number of exported trade dollars would be returned to this country. My own investigations and inquiries have satisfied me that the trade dollars sent to China have gone to the melting pots and become sycee silver or disappeared in the interior of that country; for, although their value as silver bullion would be only about eighty-seven cents, yet their commercial market value in New York City has, prior to the late movement to depress their price, fallen below ninety-eight cents but once, and that for a short period, and has usually ranged for several years above ninety-nine cents, and had it been possible to secure trade dollars for import from China to this country, the profits on the operation would have brought them here long since."

Whether or not the secretary of the Treasury forbade any further mintage of Proof trade dollars, the coins of 1884 and 1885 were clandestine issues, the 1884, from allegedly unused dies (per Mint records), the 1885 without any record of dies made or destroyed. No Mint record mentions bullion sources, planchets, striking, or distribution of trade dollars of either date. For further details see below.