Trade Dollar (United States coin)

Trade Dollar (United States coin)

Infobox Coin
Country = United States
Denomination = Dollar
Value = 1.00
Unit = U.S. dollars
Mass = 27.2
Diameter = 38.1
Thickness = 3.1
Edge = Reeded
Composition = 90% Ag10% Cu
Years of Minting = 1873-1885
Catalog Number = -
Obverse = Trade dollar obverse.png Obverse Design = Lady Liberty seated holding an olive branch towards the west
Obverse Designer = William Barber
Obverse Design Date = 1873
Reverse = Trade dollar reverse.png Reverse Design = A Bald Eagle holding arrows and an olive branch in its talons. Coin specifications minted below. 420 GRAINS, .900 FINE
Reverse Designer = William Barber
Reverse Design Date = 1873

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, composed of 90% silver and 10% copper, as opposed to the 412 grains of a standard US silver dollar of the time period.


The Trade Dollar was produced in response to other Western powers, such as Great Britain, Spain, France, and particularly Mexico, 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. Many of them exhibit chopmarks which are counterstamps from Asian merchants to verify the authenticity of the coins. 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.

Production of the Trade Dollar was officially halted for business strikes in 1878, and thereafter from 1879-1885, produced only as proof examples of the coin. 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.

Collectors are warned that a large number of perfect copies, apparently made in China, have been made. Buying only from known dealers, or certified specimens, is highly recommended.


The majority of Trade Dollars were minted at the mints in San Francisco and Carson City, as these mints obviously had easier access to Asia at the time. Many dollars were also minted in Philadelphia including all proofs. The mint mark is located on the reverse above the letter "D" in DOLLAR.
*Blank (P - Philadelphia Mint in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
*CC (Carson City Mint in Carson City, Nevada)
*S (San Francisco Mint in San Francisco, California)


In the series of Trade Dollars, all examples are fairly valuable, even chopmarked examples. The dates with the most value are the last seven years, 1879-1885. These coins were minted only as proofs and in much smaller quantities than other dates:
*1879: 1,541
*1880: 1,987
*1881: 960
*1882: 1,097
*1883: 979
*1884: 10
*1885: 5

The proof only issues of 1884 and 1885 were unknown until 1908, although there were hints and rumors of their existence as far back as March, 1884. The 1879-1883 proofs all have circulated examples in existence.


*Yeoman, R.S. "A Guide Book of United States Coins" Atlanta: Whitman Publishing, 2004
*Edler, Joel and Harper, Dave "U.S. Coin Digest" Iola: Krause Publications, 2004

External links

* [ PCGS Price Guide for Trade Dollars]
* [ Trade Dollar Mintages at]
* [ ANACS warns of counterfeit Trade dollars.]

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