PCGS 7052 - Trade Dollar (1873-1885)
Under a long- standing law, silver could be deposited with the Mint for conversion into silver coins, for which it could then be exchanged. Having no other ready outlet, miners took advantage of this one. Invariably, they chose silver dollars, the one denomination that hadn't been changed when silver coins were reduced in weight (and precious-metal content) in 1853. As a direct result, silver dollar mintages soared above one million in both 1871 and 1872.
But with the Coinage Act of 1873, Congress closed this loophole by suspending further production of silver dollars. And that's where the trade dollar came in: Flexing their muscle, the mining interests won approval for this new silver coin-one that would, in theory at least, not only provide an outlet for the metal, but also open a whole new market for it in an area that was already receiving Congressional attention.
The Trade Dollar was produced in response to other Western powers, such as Great Britain, Spain, France, and particularly Mexico to negate the peso's advantage and promote American commerce overseas at the same time, circulating large, crown size silver coins in Asia. Trade Dollars had a slightly higher silver content than the regular circulation Seated Liberty Dollars and Morgan Dollars, to compete with these foreign trade coins. Most Trade Dollars ended up in Asia during their first two years of production, where they were very successful.
Chopmarks, which consist of Chinese characters and/or designs, were imprinted (with ink) or stamped with punches on the surfaces of various silver (primarily) and gold coins to indicate that the stamper considered them to be genuine and of full weight. Many trade coins of the western powers and large silver coins from China, Korea, and Japan also bear these chopmarks. While most chopmarked coins are generally worth less than those without, some of the more fascinating chopmarks can actually give the coin a modest premium.
Trade Dollars did not circulate in the United States initially, but were legal tender for up to $5. Things changed, however, in 1876, when the price of silver spiraled downward as western producers dumped silver on the market, making the Trade Dollar worth more at face value than its silver content. That resulted in Trade Dollars pouring back into the United States, as they were bought for as little as the equivalent of 80 US cents in Asia, and were then spent at $1 in the United States. This prompted Congress to revoke their legal tender status, and restrict their coinage to exportation demand only. However, this didn't stop unscrupulous persons from buying Trade Dollars at bullion value, and using them for payment as $1 to unsuspecting workers and merchants.
Treasury Secretary John Sherman halted commercial production of the coin in 1878. From 1879 onward, Trade Dollar production was limited to Proof strikes for collectors. The issues of 1884 and 1885 were produced surreptitiously, and were unknown to the collecting public until 1908.
In February 1887, all non-mutilated outstanding Trade Dollars were made redeemable to the United States Treasury, and approximately 8 million of them were turned in.
Lady Liberty, resting on a cotton bale by the seashore. To her back stands a shock of grain. In her right hand she extends an olive branch, a friendly gesture meant for those on the other side of the Pacific. Designer William Barber.
A Bald Eagle holding arrows and an olive branch in its talons. Below the eagle are the inscriptions “420 GRAINS .900 FINE” and “TRADE DOLLAR”. By William Barber.
- Weight: 420 grains/27.22 grams
- Net weight: 0.7874 oz pure silver
- Diameter: 38.1 mm
- Thickness: 3.1 mm
- Composition: 90% Ag 10% Cu
- Rim: Reeded
- Mint mark: On reverse below eagle and above the 'D' in the word 'dollar.'
Note: The Trade Dollar was a silver dollar coin issued by the United States solely for trade in the Orient with China, Korea, and Japan. It is 420 grains in weight, as opposed to the 412 grains of a standard US silver dollar of the time period.
Prices realized from past auction lots. (PCGS Holder)
PCGS Price Guide 
- Breen, Walter H., Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U. S. and Colonial Coins, New York: Doubleday, 1987.
- Yeoman, R. S., and Kenneth Bressett (ed.), A Guide Book of United States Coins, 59th Ed., Atlanta, GA: Whitman Publishing, 2005.
- U.S. Mint