1883 Proof Trade Dollar

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The 1883 proof trade dollar from the Legend Collection of Proof Trade Dollars.  This coin is graded PCGS PF66 and has a population of fifteen with only four higher.

 

Mintage

979 Proofs

 

Coinage Context

Production limited to Proofs: In this final year of public sales of trade dollars, only Proofs were made. The figure of 979 Proof trade dollars fell short of the 1,039 Proofs made of other silver denominations.

 

Director recommends abolition: Horatio Burchard, who had been director of the Mint since February 1879 and who had replaced Dr. Henry R. Linderman in the post, considered the trade dollar to be a nuisance and aggravation, even though business strikes were no longer being coined. In his annual report Burchard noted in part: "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."

Burchard recommended that the denomination be abolished. Evidently, the small demand for Proofs did not yield enough profit to offset the costs of planchets, dies, and striking. He also urged that the government set up a redemption program to give out subsidiary silver coins in exchange for trade dollars. (The text is quoted below under Additional Information.) While abolition followed quickly, redemption had to wait until 1887.

 

The President dislikes trade dollars: In his annual message to Congress on December 3, 1883, President Chester A. Arthur noted that trade dollars had become a disturbing element in domestic trade, they no longer circulated actively, and "they should no longer be permitted to embarrass our currency system." He recommended they be redeemed by the Treasury and Mint "as bullion in small percentage above the current market price of silver of like fineness."

This would not have protected the miners, factory workers, and others who were receiving trade dollars in their pay envelopes at face value.

By year’s end, the trade dollar had hardly any friends. As John M. Willem has written, it was truly dishonored and unwanted.

 

 

Numismatic Information

Proof mintages: During the year Proof coinage amounted to 979 pieces, some of which are believed to have been melted or spent in early 1884. Those melted or spent were probably part of the December mintage (see monthly delivery totals below).

 

Availability of Proofs today: 1883 Proof trade dollars are somewhat scarcer than the mintage, even allowing for some melting, would indicate. This date seems to have an unusually high number of impaired survivors; perhaps as many as 25 to 50 lightly worn ones exist.

Bruce Amspacher comments concerning this date: "Scarce in gem condition.… Slightly sub-par in overall quality (strike, depth of mirror, eye appeal) compared to issues of 1879-82."

 

 

Varieties:

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

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

 

Proofs:

1. Normal issue: Breen-5829. Somewhat scarcer than the mintage would indicate. One in the Katen Sale, June 1992, Lot 132, had Proof surface between eagle’s claw and branch; arrow feathers incomplete and with Proof surface between fragments; this die was also used in 1879 (and possibly in other years). Often seen flatly struck on head and stars.

 

1a. Some specimens seen by the author have pronounced die doubling at the bases of some of the letters in the inscription 420 GRAINS, 900 FINE, particularly evident at FI and E of FINE. This die was also used in 1882.

 

 

1883 TRADE DOLLAR: MARKET VALUES

 

Click Here for Current Values

 

Year

Imp. P.

Proof

1883

---

$1.25

1885

---

1.50

1890

$1.10

1.25

1895

1.10

1.25

1900

1.10

1.25

1905

1.10

1.25

1910

1.25

1.50

1915

1.25

1.50

1920

1.50

1.85

1925

1.75

2.00

1930

2.00

2.25

1935

2.50

3.00

1940

3.00

5.00

1945

7.00

15.00

1950

9.00

20.00

1955

18.00

35.00

1960

32.50

75.00

1965

140.00

300.00

1970

225.00

420.00

1975

550.00

1400.00

1980

1000.00

2700.00

1985

1350.00

3400.00

 

 

Year

Imp. P.

P-60

P-63

P-64

P-65

1986

1050

$1300

$2500

$5300

$9350

1987

1000

1175

2800

3800

9650

1988

1000

1190

3200

5500

10400

1989

1100

1550

3300

6500

14350

1990

1000

1450

2700

5250

10000

1991

975

1350

1900

2900

7850

1992

950

1300

2100

3350

7000

1993

         

1994

         

1995

         

 

 

 

SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS

1883

PROOFS:

Enabling legislation: Act of February 12, 1873

 

Business strike mintage: None

 

Designer: William Barber

 

Weight: 420 grains

 

Composition: .900 silver, .100 copper

 

Melt-down (silver value) in year minted: $0.8734

 

Dies prepared: Obverse: Unknown; Reverse: 2 or more (including one leftover from 1882)

 

Proof mintage: 979; some melted, others spent; Delivery figures by month: January: 30; February: 247; March: 298; April: 110; May: 30; June: 12; July: 10; August: 39; September: 25; October: 60; November: 8; December: 110.

 

Characteristics of striking: Often seen flatly struck on the head and stars.

 

Approximate population Proof-65 or better: 110+/- (URS-8)

 

Approximate population Proof-64: 220+/- (URS-9)

 

Approximate population Proof-63: 180+/- (URS-9)

 

Approximate population Proof-60 to 62: 207+/- (URS-9)

 

 

COMMENTARY: This was a Proof-only issue made for collectors. No business strikes were produced. It is the scarcest of the 1878-1883 Proof trade dollar issues.