1873 Trade Dollar

The 1873 mint state trade dollar from the Legend Collection of Mint State Trade Dollars.  It is graded PCGS MS67 and has a population of one with none finer.  This coin was previously in the Jimmy Hayes Collection of First Year Type.

 

Mintage

396,900 (396,635?) Business strikes

 

Coinage Context

Authorization of trade dollars: The Coinage Act of February 12, 1873, framed by the Treasury Department and refined by much discussion in Congress, generally revised the coinage laws. Among many other provisions, the act created the trade dollar. One of the most relevant sections of the act is the following:

 

Section 21: That any owner of silver bullion may deposit the same at any mint, to be formed into bars, or into dollars of the weight of 420 grains, troy, designated in this act as trade dollars, and no deposit of silver for other coinage shall be received; but silver bullion contained in gold deposits, and separated therefrom, may be paid for in silver coin, at such valuation as may be, from time to time, established by the director of the Mint.

In essence, the foregoing stated that owners of silver bullion could deposit the same at any mint and receive trade dollars in payment, but could not receive dimes, quarters, or half dollars. If such silver had been obtained as a by-product of gold refining, then subsidiary coins could be paid out in exchange, at the discretion of the Mint director. Other provisions, including Section 28, discussed subsidiary coins, but in practice few silver coins other than trade dollars were paid out in 1873.

The charge for converting silver bullion to trade dollars was to be set by the director of the Mint, with the concurrence of the secretary of the Treasury, so as to equal, but not to exceed, in their judgment, the actual average cost to each mint of labor, wastage, machinery, and other expenses.

In his memoirs, Sen. John Sherman observed this concerning the Coinage Act of 1873: "There was never a bill proposed in the Congress of the United States which was so publicly and openly presented and agitated. I know of no bill in my experience which was printed, as this was, 13 times, in order to invite attention to it. I know no bill which was freer from any immoral or wrong influence than this Act of 1873."

 

Competition with Mexico: The reign of Emperor Maximilian in Mexico 1866-7 saw the production of silver pesos with his portrait. Such coins, differing as they did from the traditional Mexican cap-and-rays design in use for years, were rejected by Chinese merchants, thus affording an opportunity for American Liberty Seated dollars (see Coinage Context under the 1867 Liberty Seated dollar listing) and, later, trade dollars.

A telegram from Henry R. Linderman, director of the Mint, to James Pollock, superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, June 25, 1873, stated the following:

 

When will you commence coinage of the Trade Dollar. Mexican congress has restored the dollar [design] prior to eighteen sixty seven (1867). Not a moment to be lost in the issue of our dollar.

Pollock replied by letter on July 11, 1873:

 

I send you specimen of trade dollar in tin. Struck today. We will commence the regular coinage of the trade $ in a few hours. The enclosed will give you a tolerably correct idea of the silver dollar.

Trade dollars legal tender at the outset: Trade dollars were legal tender up to the amount of $5 worth in any transaction. At the time this was fine and dandy, for a trade dollar contained about $1.02 worth of silver. However, in 1874 the value declined to about $1, and in 1875, it dropped further to about 98. After this time, actually in 1876, the trade dollar’s legal tender status was voided.

 

Production of business strikes: Production began on July 11, 1873 at the Philadelphia Mint. As the San Francisco Mint was the least distant from China, from the outset the Treasury established a policy of sending the largest number of dies to San Francisco, where it expected that the majority of silver deposits would be made, intended for coinage into trade dollars.

 

Contemporary commentary: The first business strike trade dollars were made at the Philadelphia Mint on July 11, 1873. The Philadelphia Evening Telegram of that date noted in part:

 

Foreigners and other who are not familiar with our money have experienced considerable difficulty in handling our coin in exchange, because its comparative value and fineness were unknown to them. As our silver dollar was believed to be as nearly a true standard of value as was convenient, it was generally taken as the basis of commercial calculations where no special agreement concerning the money to be used in settlement was agreed upon. To cast aside all doubt, however, and to render our dollar piece perfectly intelligible to the people of all countries, as well as to conform to the new price of silver (formerly $1.225 per standard oz., but now $1.20), the "Trade Dollar" was especially designed. It has its positive degree of fineness, or quality, expressed on its face, as well as its weight; hence the holder of any given quantity is enabled to at once tell the exact value of the money he may have on hand. To our people this would be a matter of but little importance because we know exactly what our coins are worth; but with the foreigner the case is vastly different. The simplifying of the coin makes the people of all countries familiar with its value, and at once strips the piece of all the mystery with which the bankers, exchange brokers, and others are wont to surround it, thus placing it upon the market of every country and appropriately naming it the "Trade Dollar."

At the outset the desire was to ornament the coin with a device which should at once typify the country to which it belonged, as well as the uses to which it was to be put; hence, there has been placed on the obverse a female figure seated on bales of merchandise, holding in her left hand a scroll bearing the word LIBERTY. At her back is a wheat sheaf to express, with the bale of goods, the combined agricultural and commercial character of the coin, while her right hand, extended toward the open sea, bears aloft the olive branch, to express the peace invitation and a cordial greeting to all the distant nations of the earth, which ever accompany the mutual interests of commerce. On a scroll immediately beneath the bale of goods are the words IN GOD WE TRUST.

The reverse has around the outer circle the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA—TRADE DOLLAR. In the centre is an eagle bearing in its claws three arrows and a sprig of olive. In a scroll directly over the eagle are the words E PLURIBUS UNUM. Immediately underneath is the indication of its value: 420 GRAINS, 900 FINE.

The coining of these new pieces commenced this morning, but it will be some days before a sufficient number of the dies are finished, to enable the mint to fill all the orders which are already on hand.

 

Distribution of business strikes: On July 14, 40,000 coins were released. Ensuing months saw strong business strike production, except for October when none was coined. The record output for the year was achieved in September, when 103,500 were struck. Trade dollars first reached China in October 1873 where they met a good reception. Nearly all of the 1873 trade dollars went to that country.

 

 

Numismatic Information

Circulated grades: In worn grades the 1873 trade dollar is quite scarce. It is estimated that only about 1,250 to 2,000 exist, making it second only to the 1875 among Philadelphia Mint coins at this grade level.

 

Mint State grades: Nearly all business strikes were shipped to China. At the time there was virtually no numismatic interest in business strikes of either Philadelphia Mint or branch mint issues, as nearly all collectors acquired pieces by date sequence only. It was not until the publication of Mint Marks in 1893, by Augustus G. Heaton, that the collecting of mintmarks became popular, and even then it did not extend to the trade dollar denomination. Business strike trade dollars were not widely collected until well into the twentieth century.

Until relatively recent times—the decade of the 1970s—business strikes of Philadelphia Mint coins were ignored in favor of Proofs, which were considered to be a better quality. Today, the Proof finish is rightly viewed as a different quality; a different method of finish. To give credit where credit is due, the New Netherlands Coin Company in its catalogues of the 1950s and 1960s, and Walter H. Breen in his various writings, are responsible for the increase in awareness of the desirability and rarity of business strike Philadelphia Mint coins.

The survival of Mint State coins at or near the time of issue was strictly a matter of chance. As was the case with the 1840 Liberty Seated silver, there was no "first year of issue saving syndrome" with the 1873 trade dollar.

Probably fewer than 150 to 250 MS-60 to 62 coins exist. There seems to be a concentration of somewhere between 50 and 100 each at the MS-63 and MS-64 levels, after which the population drops off precipitately to perhaps 10 to 15 MS-65 coins. Some specimens show lightness of striking at the top of the obverse or the bottom of the obverse and/or on the eagle’s sinister leg.

 

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

 

Business Strikes:

 

1. Normal serifs: Breen-5778. Reverse with normal serifs. Most specimens known today are chopmarked.

 

2. Broken serifs: Breen-5779. Reverse with broken serifs at E (of STATES) and F (of OF) from hub damage. Others may exist with additional broken letters. Most specimens known today are chopmarked. This same hub was used to create Proof dies (see Proof No. 2 below).

 

 

1873 TRADE DOLLAR: MARKET VALUES

 

Click Here for Current Values

 

Year

VF

EF

AU

Unc.

 

1873

---

---

---

$1.00

 

1875

---

---

$0.90

1.00

 

1880

---

$0.90

.90

1.00

 

1885

$0.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1890

.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1895

.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1900

.90

.90

.90

1.25

 

1905

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.25

 

1910

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.35

 

1915

1.10

1.10

1.10

1.40

 

1920

1.10

1.10

1.20

1.40

 

1925

1.25

1.30

1.40

1.50

 

1930

1.25

1.30

1.40

1.75

 

1935

1.25

1.35

1.50

2.50

 

1940

1.25

1.35

1.50

2.50

 

1945

3.00

3.25

4.00

5.00

 

1950

4.00

5.00

6.00

7.00

 

1955

6.00

7.00

10.00

15.00

 

1960

12.00

15.00

20.00

40.00

 

1965

25.00

30.00

40.00

80.00

 

1970

35.00

52.00

75.00

175.00

 

1975

65.00

125.00

175.00

525.00

 

1980

85.00

130.00

260.00

850.00

 

1985

100.00

185.00

310.00

1100.00

 

 

 

Year

VF-20

EF-40

AU-50

MS-60

MS-63

MS-64

MS-65

1986

$100

$185

$280

$600

$1750

$3100

$6750

1987

100

185

275

550

1750

3200

7500

1988

100

200

300

550

1750

3600

9600

1989

150

210

300

600

1800

5400

17000

1990

150

200

260

525

1400

5200

12000

1991

145

195

250

475

1400

4750

8400

1992

135

175

235

475

1400

4000

7800

1993

             

1994

             

1995

             

 

 

SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS

1873

BUSINESS STRIKES:

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: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown

 

Business strike mintage: 396,900; Delivery figures by month: July: 99,000; August: 94,000; September: 103,500; October: none; November: 16,400; December: 84,000.

 

Additional business strike mintage data: Delivery figures by day: July 14: 40,000; July 18: 21,000; July 21: 11,000; July 23: 19,000; July 31: 8,000; August 8: 21,000; August 15: 12,000; August 18: 12,000; August 21: 13,000; August 27: 8,000; August 30: 19,000; September 2: 12,000; September 3: 16,000; September 11: 20,000; September 14: 20,000; September 18: 14,000; September 23: 9,500; November 4: 13,000; November 25: 3,400; December 9: 7,000; December 10: 13,000; December 16: 13,000; December 19: 15,000; December 20: 15,000; December 23: 15,000; December 26: 6,000.

 

Approximate population MS-66 or better: 4 to 6 (URS-3)

 

Approximate population MS-65 or better: 10 to 15 (URS-5)

 

Approximate population MS-64: 40 to 60 (URS-6)

 

Approximate population MS-63: 40 to 80 (URS-7)

 

Approximate population MS-60 to 62: 100 to 200 (URS-9)

 

Approximate population VF-20 to AU-58: 1,250-2,000. (URS-12)

 

Characteristics of striking: Many are well struck; however, some have light definition on Miss Liberty’s head and on the eagle’s sinister leg and talons. Some have slight lightness of striking near the bottom of the obverse—an unusual situation among trade dollars. The lustre on Mint State often is more of a satiny or "greasy" appearance than deeply frosty.

 

Known hoards of Mint State coins: None

 

Rarity with original Chinese chopmark(s): Very scarce

 

COMMENTARY: The first business strikes were released on July 14, 1873; nearly all were shipped to China; most business strikes known today are chopmarked.