Trade Dollars, 1873-1885
Issued Date: 1873-1885
Composition: 0.900 parts silver, 0.100-part copper
Diameter: 38.1 mm
Weight: 420 grains
Total Business strike mintage: 35,954,535
Total Proof strike mintage: 11,404
The Trade Dollar, designed by William Barber, is the only U.S. coin ever demonetized by the Government. Originally proposed as a trade coin to be used in the Orient, the Trade Dollar was given legal tender status. Whether this was due to an oversight or to the contrivance of western silver interests is not clear, but as the price of silver plummeted, it became very profitable to have it coined into Trade Dollars. On June 22, 1876, the legal tender status of these coins was revoked and in February of 1878, production of Trade Dollars for circulation was suspended altogether.
While the 1875 and 1878-CC are the scarcest regular issue Trade Dollars, the proof issues of 1884 and 1885 are the most highly priced Trade Dollars. Only ten (10) were struck in 1884 and a mere five (5) in 1885. These later date proofs were unknown to collectors until 1908, and there is no corresponding Mint records of any bullion or dies used to make them. Most numismatists classify the 1884 and 1885 Trade Dollars as simulated series coins, yet they are often viewed as part of the regular series and collected by the lucky few who have both the opportunity and the financial wherewithal to acquire them.
The obverse depicts Miss Liberty seated on a bale of merchandise, her right hand holding a branch, her left hand holding a ribbon inscribed LIBERTY, a sheaf of wheat behind and the sea in front. IN GOD WE TRUST appears at the bottom just above the date. Stars surround the upper portion. The reverse depicts an eagle holding three arrows and a branch, with E PLURIBUS UNUM on a ribbon above, 420 GRAINS, 900 FINE. below. The inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TRADE DOLLAR surrounds.