Trade dollar, 1873-1885


Mintage: Circulation strikes: 455.000 / Proofs:1150.
Designer: William Barber.
Diameter: 38.1 mm.
Composition: Silver (90%) and Copper (10%).
Weight: 27.2 grams.
Edge: Reeded.
Mintmark: Above the D from Dollar. (None for Philadelphia)

The Trade dollars were first struck in 1873, and most of the production was sent to China. Eventually, bullion producers began converting large amounts of silver into trade dollars, causing the coins to make their way into American commercial channels. This caused frustration among those to whom they were given in payment, as the coins were largely maligned and traded for less than one dollar each. In response to their wide distribution in American commerce, the coins were officially demonetized in 1876, but continued to circulate. Production of business strikes ended in 1878, though the mintage of proof coins continued until 1883.

The Trade Dollar was designed by William Barber and was loosely based on the design of contemporary silver coins in circulation designed by Christian Gobrecht. The obverse features an image of Liberty, seated on bales of merchandise in what appears to be a harbor or beach by the sea. Her right hand extends an olive branch, and her left holds a scroll inscribed LIBERTY. The motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears at the base, with the date below and thirteen stars surrounding.

On the reverse, a bald eagle is pictured with its wings spread and a bundle of arrows and a branch in its talons. Under the eagle is the weight and fineness of the coin, appearing as 420 GRAINS, 900 FINE. The inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and TRADE DOLLAR appear above and below, with E PLURIBUS UNUM appearing on a banner directly above the eagle. Except for some minor modifications, this design would remain the same until the last coins of the series were struck.

Counterfeit Trade Dollars

Despite the poor quality of the image, the above 1874 Counterfeit Trade Dollar is a pretty close match to the authentic 1873 Trade Silver Dollar. However, if you look closer you can see some inconsistencies in the strike. On the reverse you can see an overall weakness and depth of the design features, letters, etc.

Also, the letters and numbers are not as “crisp” or cut as sharply as the authentic Trade Dollar. Another common theme among counterfeit silver dollars is their “dirty” appearance, but don’t think they all have these problems or appearances.

The above image is an example of an 1872 Trade Dollar, and I could point out many features that make this coin fake, but the bottom line is that NO Trade Dollars where produced in 1872! If you don’t know this fact already than please look over our website, for this info, or buy an authoritative coin book.

How to Detect Counterfeit Trade Dollars

1. You can find a hole behind the ladies head where the ribbon curls, where the metal is chipped out manually.
2. The eagle’s eye will be full. On a real coin the eagle’s eye is half shut.
3. The true way to identify fake coins is through their weight, fake coins are silver washed over copper, and weigh around 18 grams whereas a real Trade Dollar will weigh 27.22 grams.
4. Check for the price at which the trade coins are being offered. Real Trade Dollars coins sell for around US$ 20 for an average conditioned coin. If you are being offered for a lower price, then we would probably have to check out why the sellers offer them at this price.
5. Check the coin’s numbers and letters for the same design or font of other like coins.
6. Check whether the size of the coin appears in the same size as other like coins
7. Examine the metal texture and compare it to authentic coins of the same type.
8. You could also identify fake ones through coin turn. Most of the fake coins does not have a coin turn, in other words when you flip the coin normally the reverse is almost upside down.

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