1875 Trade Dollar

The 1875 mint state trade dollar from the Legend Collection of Mint State Trade Dollars.  It is graded PCGS MS68 with a population of one and none finer.   It is the finest by two grades.  This is the famous "Marc Emory" coin and is previously from the Fairfield Collection.

 

Mintage

218,200 Business strikes

 

Coinage Context

Low production: By 1875 the trade dollar was firmly established in Oriental commercial circles, particularly in certain ports in China. The Philadelphia Mint production this year was low and dipped to just 218,200 business strikes, the lowest so far from that mint in the trade dollar series. The output was sporadic. From January through March none were struck. In April 200 business strikes are reported to have been made (and are so considered in this text, but there is a strong possibility that these were Proofs; if so, the figures will have to be adjusted accordingly to a total mintage of 900 Proofs), followed by 149,000 in May, none in June or July, 69,000 in August, and none for the rest of the year.

As chopmarked coins are very scarce today, it is quite possible that much of the 1875 Philadelphia Mint trade dollar coinage was used domestically in the United States.

Copycats: As the United States trade dollar became accepted in China, the Japanese government came up with its own ideas to mount a challenge. Its own current silver yen, which weighed 416 grains, .900 fine, were being increasingly rejected. In 1874 pattern Japanese trade dollars were minted, and in 1875 Japan began to coin a copycat version of the United States trade dollar, creating a Japanese coin with this inscription in English: 420 GRAINS TRADE DOLLAR .900 FINE.

 

Numismatic Information

Type I and Type II issues: During 1875, to silence Coiner Archibald Loudon Snowden’s complaints about striking quality, Chief Engraver William Barber put a new reverse hub ("Type II") into use. Proofs and business strikes exist from old and new hubs. The old hub, Type I (1873-1876), has a berry below the eagle’s claw; the new (Type II) lacks it—a difference easily seen with the naked eye. Among 1875 trade dollars, business strikes as well as Proofs, the Type I reverse is considerably the scarcer of the two.

Type I reverse coins probably constituted all 200 business strikes made in April (if indeed these were business strikes; this is doubtful; they were probably Proofs) and a small minority of 149,000 pieces struck in May.

As noted in the introduction to the trade dollar section, beginning in the following year, 1876, there was an obverse hub change also. The Type I obverse is readily distinguished by having the ends of the ribbon (on which LIBERTY is imprinted) pointing to the left. The new Type II obverse, introduced in 1876, has the ribbon ends pointing downward. A coin with a Type I obverse and Type I reverse is referred to as Type I/I, a coin with a Type I obverse and Type II reverse is Type I/II, etc. (The obverse hub change is mentioned here because of unconfirmed rumors of 1875-dated coins with obverse Type II.)

A famous date: The business strike 1875 Philadelphia Mint trade dollar has acquired a certain halo of fame in recent decades, due no doubt to comments such as this, by John M. Willem:

Regarding the relative rarity of the trade dollars of the various mints, from the standpoint of the collector trying to assemble a complete collection, the most difficult to secure is the 1875 Philadelphia. The regular coinage of Philadelphia was the lowest that year of any of the years the Philadelphia Mint coined trade dollars. This coin is also most difficult to secure with a chop-mark stamped upon it, indicating its actual circulation in China. With a specimen of the regular coinage of 1875 at Philadelphia hard to find, collectors compete for Proof coins to satisfy their needs for a trade dollar of this date minted at Philadelphia.

Coins come out of hiding: In his Encyclopedia, p. 468, Walter H. Breen wrote that 1875 business strikes are "rare," an adjective that has been employed in a few dealers’ listings offering the date. Of course, the question can be asked: What is rare? Rare, scarce, or whatever, the 1875 is somewhat more available today than earlier believed.

Publicity given to this date seems to have brought some Mint State coins "out of the woodwork." In his 1980 study of the series, Maurice Rosen suggested that perhaps only a dozen or so Mint State pieces were known (in all Mint State preservations), although publicity given to the 1875 in the mid-1970s has brought others out of hiding. Since then, more have surfaced.

In the 1970s, one of my clients stated that it took him three years of intense searching to locate a satisfactory Mint State specimen of this year. However, since then dozens of Uncirculated coins have come on the market, including some in higher levels, with the result that today the 1875 in Mint State has lost its awesome status. To be sure, it is rarer than 1873 and 1874 Philadelphia coins, but not that much rarer. At the MS-65 level, the 1875 is actually more available than the other two dates. (Also see under Additional Information below for "Marc Emory’s Special Coin.")

Circulated grades: Worn unchopmarked specimens are scarcer than any other Philadelphia Mint business strike trade dollar. Still, somewhere between 750 and 1,500 coins are believed to exist in grades from VF-20 to AU-58. The vast majority are of the Type II reverse. In Henry Christensen’s sale catalogue for the John M. Willem Collection, 1980, Willem’s best coin of this variety was "AU-Unc." and was accompanied by this notatation: "Type I is rare in any condition. It took Mr. Willem many years to find this piece."

Among chopmarked 1875 trade dollars, those of Type I/I are very scarce, and those of Type I/II are believed to be extremely rare. This ratio needs further study; it indicates a reversal of the proportion of non-chopmarked pieces.

Mint State grades: Today, I estimate that 10 to 20 1875 trade dollars exist at the MS-65 level, 25 to 50 in MS-64, 55 to 90 in MS-63, and 100 to 175 in ranges from MS-60 to 62. I suspect that I may be a bit conservative at the lower level, and more MS-60 or so coins may survive. Nearly all Mint State coins seen have been of the I/II type.

Maurice Rosen commented as follows:

Finest known is the piece graded MS-68 by PCGS. I bought this coin at a Long Beach Convention in 1973 for $1,900. It later appeared in a Pine Tree auction (First Coinvestors) in November 1975, realizing $3,100 and going later to the famous Fairfield Collection, later auctioned by Bowers and Ruddy Galleries in October 1977 at $7,250. Reportedly, it changed hands near the $25,000 level during the 1980 market peak. I dare say, the coin was worth well into the six figures at the 1989 market peak and would likely still fetch a six-figure price today. I can still recall the hypnotic, dazed feeling I had back in 1973 when I first held the coin in my quivering hand. To quote a new popular saying, "It doesn’t get much better than that!"

 

Varieties:

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

REVERSE TYPE I: BERRY BELOW CLAW, 1873-1876

 

Business Strikes:

1. Breen-5788. Comprises part of the 149,000 delivered in May. Walter H. Breen examined under 20 Type I/I coins from 1988 to date. Very rare; possibly rarer in all grades than the 1878-CC trade dollar. Trade dollar specialist Joseph Rust examined three certified MS-64 1875 trade dollars and found that none was of the I/I type (all were I/II). Accurate population studies remain to be conducted for I/I, although for starters it seems to the author that I/I is at least 5 to 10 times rarer unchopmarked than I/II. Unfortunately, the leading certification services do not distinguish the types when they certify trade dollars. Believed to be more available chopmarked (but still very scarce) than unmarked. Presumably, most of the mintage went to China; only a small number of I/I coins circulated domestically.

 

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

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

 

Business strikes:

1. Breen-5789. Type I/II probably comprises all of the 69,000 delivered later in the year, and possibly part of the 149,000 made earlier. Much less rare than Type I/I; since 1988 Walter H. Breen has examined over 100 in all grades. This is a change from the information presented in his Encyclopedia, p. 468, which stated this: "Type II [reverse] business strikes are rarer than 1878-CC." Cf. Auction ’87:1835, Uncirculated. However, chopmarked pieces may be very rare; as of 1991, Walter H. Breen knew of only one.

 

1875 TRADE DOLLAR: MARKET VALUES

 

Click Here for Current Values

 

Year

VF

EF

AU

Unc.

 

1875

---

---

---

$1.00

 

1880

---

$0.90

$0.90

1.00

 

1885

$1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 

1890

.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1895

.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1900

.90

.90

.90

1.00

 

1905

.90

1.00

1.10

1.25

 

1910

1.00

1.10

1.10

1.30

 

1915

1.10

1.10

1.20

1.40

 

1920

1.10

1.15

1.25

1.50

 

1925

1.25

1.30

1.40

1.75

 

1930

1.25

1.30

1.40

1.75

 

1935

1.50

1.75

2.00

2.50

 

1940

1.50

1.75

2.00

2.50

 

1945

3.00

3.50

4.00

5.00

 

1950

4.00

4.50

5.00

7.00

 

1955

12.50

14.00

16.00

25.00

 

1960

15.00

21.00

30.00

45.00

 

1965

22.50

27.50

37.50

75.00

 

1970

55.00

75.00

90.00

175.00

 

1975

125.00

150.00

200.00

600.00

 

1980

125.00

150.00

280.00

1100.00

 

1985

275.00

475.00

550.00

1250.00

 

 

 

Year

VF-20

EF-40

AU-50

MS-60

MS-63

MS-64

MS-65

1986

$325

550

$625

$1400

$2100

$3400

$7500

1987

300

550

635

1400

2250

4000

8300

1988

340

525

655

1450

2400

5100

10500

1989

340

525

675

1450

1900

5600

17000

1990

340

525

650

1450

4500

5600

18000

1991

340

475

550

1450

2500

4000

12000

1992

340

450

550

1250

2000

4250

13500

1993

             

1994

             

1995

             

 

 

 

SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS

1875

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: $0.9814

 

Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: Unknown. (On January 3, 1876, 6 obverse and 7 reverse dies were destroyed.)

 

Business strike mintage: 218,200; Delivery figures by month: January-March: none; April: 200; May: 149,000; June: none; July: none; August: 69,000; September-December: none. This averages out to 36,366 per die-pair, if the dies destroyed were all actually used for 1875 business strikes; or 43,640 if one obverse was a Proof die. In either event, this was far below average.

 

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

 

Approximate population MS-65 or better: 10 to 20 (URS-5). Most are Type I/II.

 

Approximate population MS-64: 25 to 50 (URS-6). Most are Type I/II

 

Approximate population MS-63: 30 to 50 (URS-6). Most are Type I/II

 

Approximate population MS-60 to 62: 50 to 100 (URS-7). Most are Type I/II

 

Approximate population VF-20 to AU-58: 750-1,500. (URS-11). Most are Type I/II.

 

Characteristics of striking: Usually seen well struck. Mint State coins are often very lustrous.

 

Known hoards of Mint State coins: None

 

Rarity with original Chinese chopmark(s): Type I/I. Very scarce; 1875 Type I/II. Exceedingly rare.

 

COMMENTARY: In business strike form, especially in Mint State, this is the most famous Philadelphia Mint issue. The 1875 has the lowest business strike mintage of any trade dollar from this mint.